Robert duncan.

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Center of the Universe (34)

Center of the Universe (34)

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American Feijoada

Half the time the Kangs go off-menu and order directly from one of their daughters, as only a restaurant’s matriarch and patriarch can freely do, frequently opting for the traditional Brazilian dish of rice, beans and meat (in their case, they prefer ground beef over the customary pork) known as feijoada.

Make no mistake, they enthusiastically consume what’s on-menu at Sorellas, too. Maria, whose appetite is dainty, is partial to the soup of the day, especially when it’s white bean, and often adds a slice of chicken milanese to round it out. Sometimes she has a meatball on the side instead. Other times she goes along with me and has classic spaghetti bolognese with her meatball — half-order, no sausage. Kang goes for cioppino or spaghetti with clams or, lately, pasta puttanesca — or he did. I could see him reconsidering after I told him “puta” is Italian for prostitute.

I mention it because, although this is a blog about a little restaurant in a little town, I’m itching to go off-menu myself.

that’s what I’ve been trying to do: sketch the American feijoada.

Because on the eve of the presidential inauguration, I am baffled, disappointed, and afraid, maybe like you. Baffled by how it could have happened, especially with post-election polls showing his approval far south of 50% (or is that pollsters messing with our heads again?). Disappointed that We-the-Peeps, my fellow citizens, friends and family, or just enough, in the electorally right places, would fall for that bullshit when the other bullshit had at least a 20% chance of being kinda true. Afraid that a guy more inattentive than W. will push the wrong button, blowing up the treaties, alliances and good will that have, for a century, ensured our VIP seat at the major events of civilization, not to mention the planet that, with its water, air and frolicsome squirrels, has turned out to be surprisingly useful to human existence.

But enough about that narcissistic hairball. More than enough’s been written, spoken and tweeted, with unimaginably mo’ to come when all the long-form pontificating starts rolling off presses next fall. And I know I’m preaching to the rational-humanist choir — except for that bilious buttplug who urged me to go back to Russia, where my son used to live (and I used to visit) and where I would no doubt run into the Great effin Pumpkin. Still, I couldn’t sit here and say nothing. Felt too much like consent, if not complicity. And I’m a loudmouth, like my thinly veiled novel says.

What I really wanted to do here, 12 hours before D (for Donnie) Day, was make a record of what we had, before maybe we don’t. Then I realized that’s what I’ve been trying to do for the last eight months and 33-and-1/3 chapters: sketching the American feijoada. The stew of leftovers, spices and unpretentious cuts of meat thrown together, almost willy-nilly, to nourish body and soul and enliven the plain white rice of daily life. A rambling tale of ramblers — an Italian restaurant run by Korean-Brazilians in the state of Jerry Brown and Ronald Reagan and Cesar Chavez, US of A. So let me just say that, as a grandson of the South, a native son of Wisconsin, a former resident of Michigan, a frequent visitor to Pennsylvania and a passionate admirer of Ohio’s Guided By Voices, I still love you, you cracker bastards (even if, technically, you’re not all crackers) — but not the racism and hate some of you embrace, sometimes accidentally, sometimes just the tip, let alone the fraidy-cat crap behind it (really? in the Home of the Brave?) — and I look forward, when you wake up, to kicking some billionaire ass together.

Center of the Universe (35)

Center of the Universe (35)

Center of the Universe (33)

Center of the Universe (33)