Talavera Taqueria in Berkeley
CHEAP EATS We had a slab of smoked salmon from Grocery Outlet, Ritz crackers, and a bottle of Crystal hot sauce. These things were on the coffee table. The Mrs. was in the bedroom, cracking up over something funny on television. She has a beautiful, booming laugh and a bad right shoulder. There's a TV in the living room, too, but her Mr. and me were swapping crazy mom stories on the couch, and she likes to give us space when that happens.
"My mom believes in angels and space aliens," the Mountain said.
"My mom thinks people can live for 500 years," I said.
"My mom started a cult," the Mountain said.
"My mom's been to jail," I said.
It wasn't a competition. Now that I'm writing it down, though, I see we sound like school kids, instead of 40- and 50-something kooks-in-our-own-right. But it wasn't a competition.
"My mom has visions, and students, and hears voices," the Mountain said. "An angel told her to move to Scandinavia."
"My mom calls late-night talk shows and the White House, and sends love letters to Garrison Keillor," I said. "She lives in Snow Belt, Ohio, without running water or electricity. Her phone's tapped."
The Mountain pulled off a big chunk of fish with his fingers and hot sauced it and it wasn't a competition but here's where, if it was a competition, he played his trump card: "My mom has a beard," he said.
"My mom shits in a bucket," I said, playing mine.
And we sat there and shook our heads, chewing on smoked salmon with Crystal and Ritz.
"Do you want anything to drink?" the Mountain said.
I was already drinking a big glass of tomato juice with hot sauce in it, and as the glass got emptier and emptier, I kept pouring more and more hot sauce in so that now it was basically hot sauce, with a dash of tomato juice.
The Mountain was sipping red wine out of a beaker. I finished my juice and said I'd try some, and as he poured it he said it was leftover from Thanksgiving.
Oxidation builds character, but I realized, upon first sip, he meant Thanksgiving '07.
"I ought to sue my mom," he said.
"I used to fantasize about killing mine," I said, swirling my swill.
"Here," he said. "Let me find a picture." And while he was rooting through his closet, I visited the kitchen sink and brought a bag of potato chips back to the coffee table. I noticed that our bottle of Crystal, which we'd just started, was already half empty.
Oh, and it's great on potato chips too.
Funny, my case of fucking Floyd's and fucking Fred's hasn't even fucking arrived yet, and already I have a new favorite hot sauce! Crystal is just cayenne peppers, vinegar, and salt. Floyd & Fred's is lime juice, habaneros, salt, and xanthan gum. They both taste great, and are addictive, so now I'm going to have to start carrying two bottles of hot sauce in my purse, and pretty soon I'll have a bad shoulder too, just like my mountainous seester.
But what's nice about my new favorite hot sauce, compared to my old one, is that Crystal doesn't break their bottle on a rock and then jam it shard-side first up your ass. My meaning here is figurative, and financial. See, Crystal is 79 cents for a 6 oz. bottle, compared to $5 for a 5 oz. bottle of F-ing F & F's. You can get a case of 24 6-oz. bottles of Crystal for $18.93. Fuck and Fuck's 12-pack of 5-oz. bottles? Fifty bucks. Um, that's more than twice the price for less than half the goods. And, best of all, you don't have to go to Whole Paycheck to get a bottle.
Now that that's settled, I wish I could print a picture here of Mama Mountain, because she's round, as advertised, and bearded and beautiful, in addition to insane. I'd sue her too, if I was her kid.
My new favorite restaurant is Talavera Taqueria in Berkeley. Two great green salsas, a tomatillo-based and an avocado-based. And the chips are good and fresh. It's a nice place to sit and eat an al pastor burrito, or probably any other kind as well.
Daily: 9 a.m.9:30 p.m.
1561 Solano Ave., Berkeley
L.E. Leone's new book is Big Bend (Sparkle Street Books), a collection of short fiction.