CHEAP EATS I know I'm not the only one. December rubs a lot of people the wrong way. This year, to combat my usual seasonal depression, I am moving to Norway. Oh, I'm sure I'll be back to the Bay Area to visit, now and agin, but just in case I'm underestimating the inherent cheerfulness of Oslo and wind up coming back to live, I will of course continue to write Cheap Eats from abroad, no worries.
Then when I have finished unlocking the secrets of Norwegian cuisine, in general, and of Oslo's burgeoning restaurant scene, in particular, I will write letters to Earl Butter again, or Cheap-Eats-length poems about how happy I am, whaling, playing Scrabble on the beach, eating lutefisk until the wee hours, and running with the moose, or whatever it is that people in Norway do for happiness.
I'm kidding of course. I would never in a million years go whaling! Didn't you ever read Moby Dick? I did! There's a guy in it named Queemquack, or something like that, and in the end they all get eaten to death by a whale.
Oy, my poor father, a Melville scholar, would be rolling over in his grave right now if he were 1) still reading my column and 2) dead, but he is neither, that I know of. Why, I just talked to him on the phone a little bit ago and he didn't mention anything at all about Cheap Eats or having died.
Man, I love my dad! Happy birthday to him. When I was eight, I helped him write his dissertation. No lie, he had underlined all the participial phrases in Melville's major works, and it was my job to tally them up — my first quantitative analysis of a major literary figure, give or take Dr. Seuss.
It's uncanny. First I became a writer like my dad, then I became a musician like my dad, and don't look now but I believe a couple paragraphs ago I may have established myself as a Melville scholar in my own right. Anyway, I read Moby Dick twice. Twice! (Technically I read it once as a literate adult, and leafed through it the other time, as a literary scholar who also pretty much knew how to count.)
From my mother I inherited my athleticism (which is no less dear to me than all-of-the above) and my peculiar knack for migrating north in winter and living in the woods, literally and figuratively.
You have to have good, strong legs, like mine and mom's, to run with moose, don't you know. And you have to be at least a little bit crazy, as I understand it, to eat lutefisk. Especially when you can just stay here and have burritos.
Or, actually, I'm kind of stuck on duck noodle soup now. Again. It being cold season. And I was house- and dog-sitting for Crawdad for a while in Berkeley, where there are a lot more duck soups to be had than here in the Mission. Not to mention Oslo.
All kidding aside, although I did briefly consider going home for the holidays this year, I've decided to weather them here where my turntable is. I don't have any records anymore, but I do have my kitten, Stoplight. And if I turn my turntable on, with Stoplight on top of it, the result is more entertaining than Merle Haggard or anything.
It should be enough to get me through the darkest time of year.
But I wonder if old Merle ever had duck noodle soup with three scoops of hot sauce in it, or hung around with lesbians. For the former, my current recommendation is Your Place on University Avenue.
It's on the lunch menu, for like $7, but probably they'll give it to you any time of day. And it's a big bowl, with rice noodles, no-bone roast duck, celery, green onions, cilantro, and maybe even a few spinach leaves.
Very very very good. Nice place, friendly service.
Then you can always go to last week's new favorite restaurant, Lao Thai, for a bowl of sweet duck soup for dessert. In this very way, I will hop, skip, and waddle my way to March, and warmth, and happiness, and hopefully I hope a li'l love.
If we make it through December ...
YOUR PLACE THAI CUISINE
Daily 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m.
1267–71 University, Berk.
Beer and wine