Inbetween: since the Pi uses an ARM processor, not x86, you can't use an x86 OS.
But, the Pi's ARM architecture is supported by Debian, and the Pi specifically is supported too with a Pi-specific variant.
So you don't have to compile a specific kernel's just use either
- Debian's standard one and tack your own Pi tweaks to it,
- or use the Debian/Pi distro, which should run out of the box. As far as I know, Debian/Pi isn't Quite There Yet, but then, neither is the Pi ^^
There's a list of arm-debian packages in my sig, too.