War and pensi

Delicious butter, Italian adventure, and Pakwan



CHEAP EATS Dear Earl Butter,

I'm not mad at you for writing to me about German food. Nothing, not even the shit that I am in, can change the way I feel about sausage. In fact, I ate at Schmidt's before I left, for practice, and ordered the same thing you did, and felt similarly, which is to say: happy.

Those were the days!

These are something else. I changed my return ticket to leave from Rome so as not to have to set foot on German soil, or even fly through German air space, ever again. Of course, it's not their air or soil, per se, that I object to. I have no problem with German things, or even the things that German people do.

It's the people themselves I hate — although, technically, I suppose, I don't hate all of them. Or even most of them. I hate less than 10 German people. I hate two. Well, really, one.

But Earl, I have enough hatred for that one German person to probably qualify as a racist, or at any rate go to war. In Paris — did I tell you? — I stayed a half a block away from the Palais de l'Élysée. Baked Nicolas Sarkozy some cookies, just to let him know I was in the 'hood, in case if he ever needed to borrow anything.

"I love your butter," I said. I said if the Germans ever invaded his country again, not to bother with the White House — contact me directly. I would defend his cows with the passion and recklessness of a heart-broked chicken farmer from hell, which equals about 40,000 troops.

In Rome my cousin Stefano said, over homemade carbonara, "Non pensi, mia cugina. Non pensi. Ti voglio bene. No go into depression. You get strong, like me. Very important, no depression. No pensi."

I'll tell you a secret, Earl: Pensi means "think," but I accidentally typed "penis" that last time, which made me laugh. Out loud. On the airplane. I'm on an airplane, trying not to penis. Cousin Stefano spent two months in a mental hospital after his wife cheated on him.

His mom, my Zia Carmella, is in the hospital dying. I stood by her bedside and watched her move her lips. Sometimes she was trying to eat, and sometimes she was trying to talk. My Italian's not great. Her voice is almost gone. Her body too.

Italy's a little warmer than France, and a lot warmer, in both senses of the word, than Germany. The people here actually want to talk to you, even if your Italian's not so good. They are open-hearted, expressive, humorfully passionate people, and eaters, and they don't care if you use your hands. An elegant, classy waitress in a nice restaurant laughed at me for eating the way they taught me to in Germany.

I hate to hate, Earl, but I have to at least try. I loved so much, it would be the end of me not to something. I would blow away. A German psychologist whose ex-ex never in eight years said "I love you" mistakes my passion for mental instability. I'll take it.

"Ti voglio bene."

My mentally unstable cousin, who met me twice, can say it. With tears in her eyes, my aunt, who can't of course remember me, moves her lips.

Dearest Daniest,

That is great. I went to Pakwan in the Mission on 16th Street, between Valencia and Guerrero with Joel and Chris, who is your brother, and Mike, who is your cousin-in-law. Joel was getting used to being 42 that very day. And Mike, well, you know Mike, he lives in a house in Glen Park.

We enjoyed the saag gosht ($7.99), which is the delicious, spicy lamb with the spinach, the saag daal ($5.50), which is the lentils and spinach, the saag paneer ($6.99), which is the cheese balls and the spinach, the chicken tikka masala ($6.99), which is Joel's favorite, and the fish curry ($6.99) which is the special, and very, very spicy. And by that I mean great. Plus the naan, Daani, the naan. We also enjoyed each other, very much.


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