WORDS BY LJ & LIZ, ILLUSTRATION BY JEN
Monday, February 2nd
LJ: I woke up at 9:30 AM and made coffee in the crappy inconvenient way living in my craphole apartment necessitates. Sorry about getting this thing off to such a negative start and also using the hideous word “craphole.” There is truly no other word.
I have a French press. I awkwardly cleaned out the French press in my tiny bathroom sink. There is a communal kitchen on the ground floor of this house but it has been overrun by a gang of sassy (not that sassy) nineteen-year-old Australian girls who live to bitch to Mark and I about our landlord, who is a perfectly nice man. I don’t want to risk having to talk to one of them before I’ve had my coffee or ever really. So I made my coffee in the bedroom, using a cutting board resting precariously atop the lid of a garbage can as a “kitchen counter,” and then made myself a bowl of cereal. Right now my cereal is called Strawberry & Almond Crunch, from Marks & Spencer. I give it the rating “acceptable.” I had a little packet of fruit & nut mix that I bought at Starbucks yesterday morning to eat as a healthy snack at the end of work but then the kitchen made a much-more-exciting-than-a-bag-of-nuts pear & pecan crumble for staff meal so after service I had a second helping of that instead. I got my bang for my buck by dumping the fruit & nut mix into my bowl of cereal today.
A recent development in the evolution of my cereal-eating practices is that I now eat cereal with almond milk instead of yogurt. I always thought I hated eating cereal with a liquid but I think I just hate milk. Milk that isn’t made out of almonds, I mean. Milk made out of almonds is such a cute idea. I’m surprised I didn’t invent it.
I took a multi-vitamin because I was reading back my Strawberry Fields Whatever Diet from last May and I took tons of vitamins last May and it made me feel competitive with my May self. After the gym I had another bowl of the same cereal I had for breakfast, only without the nuts. That was a one-time only deal. A once in a lifetime opportunity.
I drank half a grande coffee before a job interview. I threw it in the bin on Regent Street and thought about how many garbageperson’s days I have ruined by throwing out half-full cups of coffee and probably making the garbage bag so gross and annoying to deal with. But what else can we, as humans, really do?
I had a very indulgent night. I met all of my co-workers at a wine bar around the corner from my work. I am not going to say the name of the wine bar because it is so close to work and I don’t believe in mixing business with pleasure. Just kidding— I only believe in mixing business with pleasure. But I don’t believe in mixing blogs with jobs.
We started out with a bottle of pink champagne which was obviously great because when in human history has pink champagne ever not been great? I truly doubt that that has happened. Next up I insisted on a bottle of ’98 Savennieres. I am writing a novel that is partially set in Savennieres so it is my responsibility to drink as much Savennieres as I can. It is important that I write about Savennieres with authority. This vintage was heavy and warm like the feeling of much-needed sleep washing over you. It made me think of watercolor and the words “color wash.” Also “flush” and “blush.” It tasted like water, not to say that it was watery or bad, but rather that it tasted like the quiet taste of water, amplified. My sommelier ordered a Beaujolais from Julienas that I mostly skipped so I could drink more Savennieres and a Burgundian Pinot Noir, “Esus,” that tasted like cherry chapstick. We finished our savoury courses with a round of baked Camemberts and I asked my sommelier what he thought would be the ideal pairing for the Camembert and he ordered a bottle of 1990 Saint-Julien in response, which I have to admit was a pretty baller move. But I still think it would have been better with a sweet wine. It’s an unpopular statement but I think that BORE-deaux are some of the dullest wines I regularly try. With dessert we had a sweet Jurancon that I mostly ignored since I was really taken by that Pinot Noir and wanted to spend more time hanging out with it. If that Pinot Noir were a boy, it would have been a very good kisser.
Food-wise we started out with a charcuterie plate that disappeared in about twenty-five seconds. We had a nice sweetish ratatouille with poached egg on top and beetroot carpaccio, girolles on toast, onglet and aioli, green salad, a chicken dish that maybe involved shallots, maybe mushrooms, tarragon, in a cream sauce, and then those psychotic Camemberts that stunk up the entire restaurant. To tell you the truth I was pretty drunk the whole night and mostly just picking at things here and there. I can’t remember much about what the food actually tasted like, only that it existed. For dessert we had chocolate mousse, which I am consistently indifferent about, and then a really lovely white chocolate entremets that looked like something a princess from the 1820s would eat.
My evening of excess did not stop there. Next up we went to The Cow for pints of Guinness. They gave us a few bags of Taytos, a quintessentially Irish brand of crisp, because it was Katie’s going away party and Katie is Irish. I had a couple of cheese and onion Taytos. They made no impression on me. The pub closed and I left the pub still holding my pint of Guinness. I was like “I’ll bring back the glass tomorrow!” and the staff were for some reason okay with that.
Katie and I went back to my boss’ flat, where we drank Gavi and, when we grew desperate, the dregs of the pint of Guinness.
LIZ: For breakfast I had a nice open-faced egg sandwich: fried an egg and grilled a whole-grain bagel (both in the ol' cast iron skillet), draped the egg over the bagel halves and doused it all in Cholula and sea salt. Usually I make myself a big vegetable-y egg thing for breakfast, but that morning I had to go meet a band I'm working for, so I had to get the show on the road. The bagel was from Vons and it was chewy and sticky and lame but also great, as bagels are inherently good. Also I had a cup of Celestial Seasonings Sweet Harvest Pumpkin tea, because we here at Strawberry Fields Whatever are #pumpkinspicepositive. I drank my tea with lots of Soy Dream and sugar.
Then I went to Tierra Mia to meet the band and they were such chill and funny and adorable people. They're called honeyhoney; here they are playing a pretty song in smoggy Los Angeles. I always feel weird saying the names of the bands I'm working with, but I'm gonna go out on a limb here and assume that Ben and Suzanne probably won't be like, "That's really fucked-up that you told everyone we're awesome." At Tierra Mia I drank a "Mojito Mint Tea Lemonade," because I wanted to write about something less boring than my old standby of iced coffee in this paragraph. The lemonade was crisp and delightful but I'm fine with never drinking another cutesy lemonade drink again: like Don Draper and staged catfights over Sugarberry Ham, I don't go in for those kinds of shenanigans.
On the way home from Tierra Mia I stopped at Ms. Donut and got a bucket of coffee for $1.40 and tried to soak up all the nice sunshiney sugary-doughy Ms. Donut air I could before going back home to work. While working I ate a banana and it was the worst banana, way too unripe and, like, crunchy. Terrible.
When I was done working I went for a gigantic walk, up to Sunset Boulevard and then up and down Sunset for a while. I stopped at House of Liquors and bought a pineapple soda and a pair of sunglasses, as you do. I didn't drink the soda. I still have not drunk the soda. Instead I went to Lassen's and spent eight hours trying to find the perfect health-food-y snack to enjoy on my walk back home. I ended up with a little treat that's like an Almond Joy, but an Almond Joy from the health-food store: maple syrup, cacao, actual coconut, etc. It tasted pretty much like an Almond Joy from the health-food store, wholesome and unfun. It was supercute though, and I do believe that cuteness counts:
On the way home I stopped into Cookbook and ended up buying a savoy cabbage, because it made me think of "Savoy Truffle" by the Beatles, and the thing LJ had recently written about picturing George Harrison writing all about nice desserts. I asked the guy at the counter, "What should I do with this anyway?" and he told me how he likes to saute his savoy cabbage in olive oil, with a bit of shaved nutmeg. "Do you have any plans for it?" he asked me. And I told him, "Not really - I just thought it was cute." Instead of taking Echo Park Ave. the rest of the way back to my house I walked through the park and stopped to photograph my savoy cabbage with the beautiful almost-full moon. It looked so good.
For dinner I made a big stir-fry with the George Harrison cabbage and red peppers and eggplant and red onion and mushrooms and cauliflower and carrots and tofu, in jalfrezi sauce. And then I stirred in a bunch of chili garlic sauce, because I'm a chili-garlic-sauce-head. Later in the night I made myself a cup of hot cocoa and finished writing this story. A cool moony Monday.
Tuesday, February 3rd
LJ: I woke up and had coffee and the same cereal as yesterday. I knocked my coffee all over my socks. I am still wearing them and it’s horrible.
I kept waking up in the middle of the night to drink tons of water, so I was reasonably hydrated and not super hungover. I don’t really get hangovers, which is a problem because it means I have to rely on “self-respect” as my only reason not to drink to excess.
I spoke too soon when I said “I was… not super hungover” and “I don’t really get hangovers” just then. A few minutes after writing those sentences I went to the gym and got on an elliptical machine and my head started pounding. Every time I took a step I felt it in my forehead. After the gym I ate an apple, a “Jazz” apple, and on my way to work I had a Starbucks grande green tea. I drank my tea on the tube and started to feel very queasy. I thought I was going to have to get off the tube and go barf somewhere but somehow I coached myself through not barfing.
Nights when I work in the evening are really annoying eating days for me. On a weekday we don’t eat our staff meal until around five or six so there’s a long stretch of me being starving beginning around three. Before Christmas I used to deal with it by eating an extra mini-lunch before work but the thing that happens when you incorporate an extra meal into your diet is you gain a ton of weight which I was not really okay with. So now I just eat my stupid apple and suffer through the crappy afternoon.
That being said, our staff meals are consistently amazing. I am obsessed with staff meal. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and one of the first thoughts I think is “I wonder what staff meal is going to be!”— I’ve been at my restaurant for four months and only once or twice has our staff meal been a complete dud. Today we had vichysoisse. It was the first time I’d ever eaten vichysoisse. I was expecting it to be bouillabaisse but it turns out it is nothing like a bouillabaisse. It is thick and rich and creamy and tastes like a hug from a fat grandparent. We had it with leftover sea bass, which I mashed into the soup, and then I had two slices of gorgeous bread with gorgeous butter. Obviously dunking the bread and butter into the soup was the highlight of the meal. For dessert I had a Ferrero Rocher.
During service the kitchen made an extra portion of potato gnocchi with parmesan foam because there was a girl in doing a trial shift and she had to learn how to plate it properly. I had one little gnocchi. One little pillow.
After service, around midnight, I had my favorite snack: dark chocolate rice cakes from Itsu. I always try to have them around for after service so I don’t gorge myself on bread and butter. The bread we have at my work is pretty great but it’s the butter that destroys me. “You are the living end!” I want to tell the butter. I could literally eat it by the spoonful.
LIZ: For breakfast I made the big vegetable-y egg thing: brussel sprouts, eggplant, mushroom, red peppers, red onion, purple kale, with the egg, in the cast iron skillet. My tea was a loose tea named Black Fruits, from Chado: black tea with black currants, blackberries, blueberries. It's very dreamy and whenever I say the name in my head I think of Mike Myers in So I Married an Axe Murderer going "the fru-its, of the dev-eel." Today was the day "FourFiveSeconds" came out and LJ texted and asked what I thought of it, and my only fully formed opinion at that point was that Paul looks weirdly great in the video. My opinion now is I love it, and was very cuted out by Kanye's addressing the "Promise you'll pay my bail" line to Paul during their Grammy performance.
In the afternoon I went to Starbucks to work and got an iced coffee and one of those Greek yogurt parfait things, the berry kind. The frequency with which I consume the berry variety of Starbucks Greek yogurt parfaits is worrisome to me: they're the snack of the overworked freelance writer, and one of my big aspirations for 2015 is to no longer happen on that level. I believe I will see that through.
After work I went to the gym and then I went to Super King and got some nutmeg and some fava beans for my George Harrison cabbage. I also bought a handful of dried jamaica flowers, which look like space creatures and sea monsters but taste just like Fruit Roll-Ups:
At home I made my savoy cabbage/fava bean/nutmeg thing (I'd read some kind of recipe that involved savoy cabbages and nutmeg and fava beans), and John impressed me by correctly identifying nutmeg by its cooking scent. (He also referenced the part in Dumb & Dumber where Jim Carrey says, "I'd like to eat her liver with some fava beans and a nice bottle of Chianti," and then that line got stuck in my head, though it wasn't entirely unpleasant.) The fava nutmeg extravaganza was very earthy and bitter but in a really satisfying way; it was both bitter and rich. After dinner I worked more (I had so much work this week! SFW Diet apparently always happens on weeks when I just work all the time) and then kicked back with that night's Mindy Project and a tall boy of Golden Road IPA. At some point I also ate a golden delicious apple. And tonight was a full moon in Leo, so now's a good time to give you my very crucial top five "people with their moons in Leo" list:
5. Kris Kristofferson
4. David Lee Roth
3. Ian Svenonius
2. David Bowie
1. Paul McCartney and myself (tie)
Speaking of Ian Svenonius and working too much and the cosmos, one way I dealt with work stress this week was to decompress by watching Ian Svenonius's scenes in the 1994 movie Half-Cocked. I don't like the movie very much, but there's a scene that starts at 13:13 where Ian Svenonius has curlers in his hair and a Rolling Stones paperback tucked into the waistband of his pants, and it's fantastic.
Wednesday, February 4th
LJ: The employees at the King’s Cross Starbucks seem to carry the weight of the world upon their shoulders. My standard procedure for ordering coffee has always been to ask the barista to add a couple of ice cubes to the cup so I can drink it right away without scalding my tongue off which I think is a pretty reasonable favour to ask of someone whose job it is to tailor your coffee order to your personal preferences. Baristas have historically been okay with it, but at King’s Cross when I ask for those couple of ice cubes they look at me like I have just asked them to hand-weave the goddamned Bayeux tapestry out of dental floss. One employee, Filip, is notably horrendous. He wears a special t-shirt advertising that he won his district’s barista championship and has a chestpiece poking out of the neckline of his district barista championship t-shirt which is really the worst accessory a district barista championship t-shirt could ever ask for. He is one of those good-for-nothing baristas who thinks it’s clever and adorable to flagrantly misspell people’s names on their Starbucks cups so that maybe they’ll post them to Instagram and those Instagrams will be deemed so important and hilarious that they’ll eventually make it to a Buzzfeed post about the Wildest Starbucks Cup Misspells of 2015 and that will be Filip’s fifteen minutes of the lamest fame ever. Once he wrote my name as “Guava.”
Another annoying thing about the King’s Cross Starbucks is that they are slack about keeping up with brewing their filter coffee. Every time I order a filter coffee they ask me “An Americano?” which is ridiculous because it’s 2015 and everyone knows what an Americano is and if they want it they order it and so I say “No, a filter coffee,” and then they give me their dental floss Bayeux tapestry look and ask me if I can wait three minutes. So I say just the plain word “No,” and then they offer to make me an Americano for the price of a filter coffee which is not that great of a deal but fine, whatever, I’ll take it.
So I had a venti black Americano with the barely-a-name “Lora” written on the cup, and a salmon and cream cheese bagel. Now these are very special bagels. They are pretty much the only reason, besides convenience, why I bother maintaining regular status at this otherwise loathsome Starbucks. For some reason, this Starbucks doesn’t sell regular Starbucks food. It serves food from another takeaway restaurant chain, called Pod. It is a very strange concept that I am fine with, since the Pod food is an upgrade.
God, these bagels! These beautiful bagels! Texturally, they are like a janky brioche, with that hardish, shiny eggshell exterior and a pouchy inside full of air pockets. I always get Filip (ew I hate him, I hate his stupid name) to heat it up for me, so some of the smoked salmon gets cooked around the edges, and the cream cheese goes all melty and saucy. Also: there are seeds in the bagel! Little pepitas.
I never would have thought in a million years that these dorky subpar bagels would become a food that I actively miss whenever I go longer than three or four days without one, but that’s just life for you, isn’t it? So full of cool Starbucks surprises.
I had a job interview in the morning. After my job interview I had a double espresso from the phony-hip coffee shop attached to the Caledonian Road Tesco. It was truly revolting.
Before the gym I ate an apple.
For lunch or dinner or whatever you want to call the meal I had around four PM, I ate a bag of cut-up raw broccoli and cauliflower with taramasalata. Taramasalata is all over the damn place in England but it is not even a thing in North America. I feel like it’s too gross for a North American audience. One thing I’ve noticed about the United Kingdom is that they’re way more relaxed about eating food that tastes aggressively of fish, which is perfect for me. I love aggressive fish.
Taramasalata is basically fish-flavoured hummus. It is a sort of unsettling and bodily shade of pale, pale pink. The Tesco taramasalata is the best. It’s salty and has a chive-y-ness to it, which keeps the fish taste in balance. The Waitrose taramasalata is NEXT LEVEL fishy. Every time I eat it I feel like barfing and swear I’m never going to eat it again but then I eat it again, like, three days later. Even though I know that specific brand disgusts me my body craves it in particular. It’s very weird. It’s like the Waitrose taramasalata is my heroin and then the Tesco brand is my Methadone.
That night I had a trial shift at a restaurant where I proved to the people at the restaurant that I am really good at spacing out. After it was over I stopped into this vegetarian restaurant on Neal Street called Food For Thought: this really old school, hippie, lentils and brown rice 1970s vegetarian place. Like, you know in the sixties when John and Yoko got really into macrobiotics for a bit? I feel like the Food For Thought style of food is what they ate. I go there sometimes because they sell cheap vegan baked goods and God knows I love a good, like, square with dates in it. I bought some sort of square with dates in it, and oats, and probably honey. It was amazing.
I spent a really long time wandering around in the freezing cold looking for a place that served wine and had a table available for me to sit and write at but no bar or restaurant in the entire city of London seemed to fulfill both of those requirements. So I stopped into the Piccadilly Circus Whole Foods and bought a bottle of Brouilly and a bottle of a different vintage of the same Savennieres I had on Monday, the latter of which I will save for a rainy day. I came home, worked on my nov, and drank two generous glasses of the Beauj, which was merely average.
LIZ: I had the same breakfast I had yesterday, only this time with my "Raspberry Indulgence" tea (black tea with raspberry flavor, truly not all that indulgent). In the early afternoon I went to a singer/songwriter girl's house for another interview; we drank jars of water and sat in her backyard which was all fountains and chirping birds and red lanterns and flowering trees and flowers, plus her adorable big white fluffy dog. She's a teenager and I keep referring to her as a "magical Stevie Nicks princess": a lazy description, but it's okay. We talked about old movies for a bit and I told her to watch Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, which was a smart move on my part and made me realize I should start telling teenagers what to do all the time. Help the kids out a little.
After the interview I drove to West Hollywood to see the gorgeous Goats Head Soup murals that went up a little while ago. I wish there were murals of most Rolling Stones album covers, all over the city:
After that I went to Farmers Market and got a Diet Coke from the ice cream stand and a salad from the Singaporean place. The salad's called rojak, which is not a pretty word, but it's got chunks of pineapple and apple and bean sprouts and fried tofu puffs and peanut sauce and chili garlic sauce, all served on a banana leaf. Why don't we put pineapple in salads all the time? Why don't we just constantly eat pineapple? Every day a luau.
At Farmers Market I went to the nice quiet upstairs area that most people don't know about and worked and wrote and worked, then I went across the street to Whole Foods to buy I-forget-what. I also impulse-bought a Kitchen Sink cookie, which had chocolate chips and nuts and fruits and...coconut shreds, maybe? Oats? Also I want to say that I really support the "bulk cookie" section of Whole Foods - such a great alternative to buying an entire package of normal-sized cookies or going to the bakery and getting one giant cookie. Sometimes you just need one, normal-sized cookie and that's it, you're good to go. Whole Foods knows what time it is, at least on the cookie spectrum of things.
I went to the gym and went home and ate the cabbage/fava/nutmeg things again. Then I had some more raspberry tea, and then it was time for a Skype date with Emily Richmond who is writing a book about sailing around the world and you can help her make that happen. During our Skype date I drank a lavender soda that I bought from Galco's a little while ago. I also wore my Clash sweatshirt, which I recently started wearing every time I do a Skype interview with a band: I just really like looking into that little video image of myself in the bottom corner of the screen and seeing the Clash. Plus I just want all these band dudes/babes to know who they're dealing with here.