Maniocs!

Contemplating morality, and the yuca at Nicaragua Restaurant

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le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS I've got to get my head out of my ass. I don't know if bars are where this happens, but the music is better. At the Dovre Club, they were playing the Cars, then the Clash, and Kayday was trying to think what comes next — the Dead Kennedys, or Devo — when a cockroach peeked out from under a coaster, then scampered between our drinks.

An interesting thing is that I was having a gin and tonic for probably the first time since I was in high school, listening to the Cars, the Clash, and then-what. This cockroach had probably only been alive for six days, week-and-a-half tops. It was pretty scrawny.

Kayday, who is a way, way more classy woman than I can ever dream of being, sort of lifted her glass (without spilling!) and scooted the little no-no over toward the bartender, who unceremoniously dealt with it.

And that was a life.

Mine is different. The Dovre Club has always been good to me, ever since it was in the downstairs corner of the Women's Building. It was there, 15 years ago, in front of a pint of something-or-other, that I made an important, life-altering decision: to go to El Rio.

Where I met Crawdad de la Cooter, my most significant ex-other ever, whose children are the strongest argument for getting out of bed in the morning that I have ever heard. Especially the past couple mornings, when the argument was made in person and accompanied by pulls and tugs and demands for oatmeal.

With kids it's automatic: your head can't be up your ass because it has to be up theirs. And this is why my No. 1 goal in life is to become a grandmother. Somehow. Against all odds — every single one of them, given my own personal lack of children. But if I can only have a grandchild! Then I can die, when I do, with my head out of my ass.

And with a big pot of sauce on the stove.

I was talking with my hairdresser last night about mortality, and our problems with it — which are for the most part, at this point, conceptual. When I left the house, the kids were sleeping. Their father was home from work, eating ice cream, being the dad of their dreams, and just generally practicing the sousaphone. Their mom was in Bellingham, Wash., memorializing a friend of ours who was too young to die but did.

So I got my hair done. And when I came back, he didn't even look up from his ice cream. "Nice haircut," he said.

"Crawdad is a lucky woman," I said, and went to bed.

But before any of this, before even the cockroach that came after the Cars and the Clash and between our drinks, my long-lost bestie Kayday and me were seeing to some Nicaraguan food at Nicaragua Restaurant on Mission Street.

There was ceviche, which I loved, and a tamale, which I didn't, and the great Nicaraguan dish called chancho con yuca, which means, in no uncertain terms, pig with yuca.

As you know if you've ever been to Limon Rotisserie and ordered right (i.e. fried), yuca can be so good. Or ... not.

Not that it was bad at Nicaragua. It just was, you know, a starch. Like a boiled potato, it needed work. If you scoop a bunch of the tangy ceviche juices onto it, hot sauce, salsa, and mash it up with your fork: OK. Yum. Otherwise, you know, ho fuckin' hum.

Kayday started waxing poetic on the nature of starches, such troopers! How resilient and accommodating they are. Up for anything. Then the next thing I knew, she was speaking from the point of view of our plate-loads of underseasoned yuca. She's from Indiana and therefore does great impersonations of starches.

Anyway, it was better than the music. For some strange reason, by way of atmosphere, they were playing Juice Newton and Laura Branigan. Which is why the Cars and Clash songs after were such a treat, like a chiropractic adjustment.

Or something.

NICARAGUA RESTAURANT