Carpe Eat ‘Em

Yep, that’s an In-N-Out burger. Yep, I made it at home.

My greatest influence as a writer? Calvin & Hobbes. Like them, my cheeky goal is to make language “a complete impediment to understanding.”

You know, like Twitter.

That’s why I continue to verb some nouns and noun some verbs. Soon, I also hope to introduce the Oxford semi-colon.

As you know, the validity of the Oxford comma is a topic of endless debate. Talk about cheeky, my pal Risa put it in her dating profile. Risa’s mindset: It’s a great way to meet horny grammarians.

When I introduce the Oxford semi-colon, my aim is to put the world of grammarians and other fuss-buckets into a complete tailspin.

I’ll call it fuss-bucketing.

Listen, I’m on some medication — maybe you can tell? I woke up the other day with a bum knee. Not sure what caused it, probably 50 years of jogging not too fast. Probably 50 years of being the kind of goof who knocks his knee against coffee tables after a half glass of wine.

Might’ve also been my sidekick Smartacus. He and I invented that roller-coaster game for the new granddaughter I might’ve mentioned recently.

The rules: Smartacus sits on my knee and pretends he’s on a roller coaster, going clickety-click-click up the rails, then plunging until the imaginary roller coaster collapses from termite damage and we both fall to the floor laughing.

So that may be how I hurt my knee: Laughing.

Laughing is the cause of many contemporary maladies. Avoid it when you can. Remember when you laughed so hard as a kid you got the hiccups? That should’ve been your first clue.

Laughter is gin. Guzzle it carefully.

The twist is that — to give my bum knee a rest — I have been forced to quit jogging. And since I quit jogging, I think my writing has gotten like maybe 3% better.

The only conclusion I can make from that: In tiny ways, writing ruins your health and eventually kills you. I mean, look at all the dead poets: Shakespeare, Whitman, Frost. The better the writer, the deader they seem to be.

Meds help of course. I self-medicate with the usual over-the-counter stuff: gin, cheeseburgers, lots of stupid TV.

My personal motto: “Never stop improving.”

Really, it’s more of a lifestyle statement than an actual motto.

Many consider me the male Gwyneth Paltrow — a long willowy type with hair that changes color and a Hollywood career that is a total mystery.

“Wellness” is our trademark.

Wait till you see my latest screenplay. It’s about a man and his dog, both limpers. It’s all I got so far, but Netflix bought it the other day. Joaquin Phoenix will play the limping dog.

The movie is based on actual events. The other day, White Fang and I went for a walk. I was limping, she was limping. I told her: “This is how it happens…this is how couples grow old together and limp down the boulevard, propping each other up, tending to Medicare guidelines and vet appointments.”

This screenplay is a love story, obviously. In the last scene, we both drink hemlock, mistaking it for Dr Pepper. So, yeah, it’s mostly a comedy.

White Fang, soon to be played by Joaquin Phoenix.

Speaking of comedies: The other day, Smartacus and I had one of those get-rich-quick moments, like on the old Lucy show, where we decided that if we could replicate the sauce they splash on In-N-Out burgers, we might get rich.


After all, quick wealth is the best wealth. I mean, who wants to put decades into something so shallow?

Obviously, I never stop improving.

So, Smartacus and I opened up “God’s Cookbook” (the internet) and looked up tips for In-N-Out’s secret sauce, which are everywhere, along with your home address and virtually any piece of personal info you own. That’s why I know it’s  “God’s Cookbook.”

Then Smartacus and I added our own flourishes: a scoop of sour cream, a few flakes of red pepper.

What we had when we were done was a very respectable version of Thousand Island dressing, which is all the In-N-Out secret sauce really is.

Think of that: An entire generation of diners — ages 3 to 103 — infatuated with a burger topped by the stuff your dad used to glop on his salad in 1973.

I think that could be a Netflix series too.

Here’s the deal: As I improve, you improve. As I excel, you excel. When I go broke, you’ll go broke too.

You know, I’ll never forget when I realized in college that, no matter how hard I studied, I’d never get higher than a B in political science, which was the easiest major I could find.  And that if the B’s continued, I’d probably never get into Harvard Law, to meet my legal hero at the time, Lindsay Wagner.

My legal hero Lindsay Wagner, as seen in “The Paper Chase.”

My study habits had to change — and quickly. So, I took some drastic steps. I quit drinking on Monday nights, and Tuesday nights too.

Know what happened? I switched my major to journalism, which turned out to be the easiest major of all.

See? Life is loaded with adjustments and tradeoffs and roller-coaster crashes.

Just remember: This is what your own life has become. You’re about to take cooking tips from a man who thinks ketchup is a beverage and popcorn is a vegetable.

Don’t say you weren’t forewarned.

For now, please enjoy the In-N-Out recipe below, courtesy of Smartacus and me. It may not change your life. But it’ll sure help you win the weekend.

Carpe eat ’em!


For the famed double-double, you need:

A nice bun (insert dad joke here)

2 thin quarter-pound patties

2 slices of pretty crappy and tasteless American cheese




Grilled diced onions (optional).

For the In-N-Out special sauce:

½ cup mayo

3 tablespoons ketchup

2 tablespoons sweet relish

1 tablespoon sour cream

1.5 teaspoons white vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

Red pepper, but just a little

That makes enough secret sauce to top 2-4 burgers and a big side of fries (oven-baked frozen fries work just fine).

A major part of In-N-Out’s success is the beef. I suspect they use 80-20 lean-to-fat ratio. And they are careful not to overcook the patties, so they stay a little pink on the inside.

Like a hickey, a great burger is the color of LA sunsets.

The May Newsletter is overdue, and if I can figure out the coding, it will arrive in your in-box on Monday. Or Tuesday. Possibly Wednesday. I promise plenty of grandbaby pix, if you’re into that. If you haven’t been getting the monthly newsletters, please go to, and click on the newsletter box on the right side. You’ll also find info on the Happy Hour Hiking Club and the Gin & Tonic Society of Los Angeles, of which I am the only active member. A backyard gin bash is in the works for June. Hope you can come. Cheers!

16 thoughts on “Carpe Eat ‘Em

  1. So many chuckles so early in my day. Thank you! I think I will stick with your fabulous jambalaya recipe though. I leave In N Out to the professionals. Can’t wait for that Oxford semicolon!

  2. Since I live east of the Mississippi River, I’ve always been curious about the In N Out burger. I’ve heard good things with many rave reviews. If it really is just a cheeseburger with 1000 Island dressing, I consider my curiosity satisfied to the point where I can eliminate it from my bucket list. Thanks!

  3. My Polisci major lasted exactly one week into ‘Political Science in Transitional Societies’. By the looks of our govt, I’m guessing that there aren’t many politicians that actually majored in politics.

  4. Oh I disagree with above post , when the lines around in an outs start at 10 and end when they close you have something special !
    Driving my son home from College he spotted one in Arizona
    He went nuts .
    When you can get a awesome burger animal style with peppers ? 3.06

  5. The same question my inquisitive heart favors rises once again, as dough does to yeast ( what a bubbling love affair—like Spring): when is the cookbook coming out ? Will food stains be part of the signature at book signings? Will the book signings be mostly in public parks (Covid is still much with us, after all) ? And will the smoke from sizzling meat on charcoal grills waft over the battlefields of lectures, workshops (on food writing), signings, and public appearances attendant to the book’s release ? Remember foodies, you metaphysically tasted it here first. Chris the cook marches on (albeit on a wonky knee; know that we are all just the flesh we eat; or at least some of that).

  6. You are such a sage! Many Hollywood careers are a total mystery to me, too! Not a mystery,your amazing career. Such a wonderful writer in the purest sense of the word. Love your columns and your books. Keep all your words coming.

  7. As for the comma debate,some instances require them, some do not; same with the semi-colons! There are valid arguments for both sides.But ultimately, I believe, it really depends on the clearest ,without ambiguity,comprehension of the thought being put forth. Have you ever read, “Eats,Shoots&Leaves” ? It’s hilarious,especially for writers!

  8. As a native Californian IN-N-OUT is just one the the things I miss since moving to Idaho, but there are some things I don’t miss.

  9. If you could figure out how to bottle your positive humor, I could get off Prozac… Thanks for keeping me smiling!
    Oxford comma(s) forever!

  10. My favorite of the cookbook titles previously suggested here is “Erskine Eats”. It is at least a double entendre(perhaps stretched into a triple—it’s baseball season), to go with the Oxford (really?) comma and the new Oxford Semicolon. Can a Grilled Grammerburger be far behind.? It’s smoke will be the stuff of legend whose effect may supplant that of a certain weed now in vogue. The thought of the culinary revelry at its mass cookouts in public parks messes with the mind. Those affected by its fumes have thus dubbed it “The Hammerburger”.in advance of its appearance. The “In-And-Out” burger then may be mostly out. Such is the fickle fate of food fads; and grammatical usage, even punctuation, so it would seem.

  11. That stuff about Calvin & Hobbs and making language a complete impediment to understanding?? I wrote you about that part of the strip after you mentioned “verbing words” (from the same strip) in your previous column. But do I get honorable mention? Attribution? Some vague reference to a mossy Oregon Stalker?? Hell no. Nada. I could pinch your butt. And I’m just the woman to do it.

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