1. The First Drink of the Day
LJ: I hate coffee. In my opinion, nothing about it is good. Sometimes people assume that because I’m into wine I must identify as some sort of coffee-gourmand but the only coffee I have time for is the lowest-brow coffee that exists. I like my coffee weak, black, iced, and full of sugar. I drink iced coffee as far into the winter as I can make it without my fingers falling off; if it’s too cold for iced coffee, my favourite kind of coffee is the kind they give you at a diner, that comes in a clear pot. That is nice coffee.
I don’t like warm beverages in general, or soup even. I don’t like the feeling of warm liquid dribbling down my esophagus, I am offended by its invasive little journey through my body. But the grossest thing of all is coffee with milk in it, mixing milk and water— I just can’t. I can’t understand why people like mixing their bitter acid bean-water with dairy fat. I can’t.
I drink one coffee a day, and I drink it in the morning, and I don’t enjoy it. I do it because I’m addicted to caffeine and I have to, and also I do it to get it over with. If I drink a coffee past noon, my life is over. I have a creepy panic attack and get really sweaty, and then I burn out. I am so excited to reach the point in my life where circumstances are chill enough for me to endure a couple weeks of caffeine withdrawal and never drink a coffee again, but that seems too far away for me to even dream about, so for my first drink of the day I will go with a nice big iced coffee, in a big clear cup, flavoured if possible— ideally vanilla, but hazelnut is fine too— the kind you get from a bodega in New York City, where they kindly put the straw in the hole for you, but then leave a little inch-and-a-half of paper around the top of a straw. Sometimes they even put your coffee in a bag! A cute paper bag. That always blows my mind, as a Canadian, where we’re so hyper-conscious of waste— I’m like, “No no no! No bag, no bag! I don’t need the bag! For this coffee that I’m immediately going to start drinking in one second.” But then, I kind of want the bag, because it’s so cute. I like that the option is there for me. Anyway, then I would dump like seven Splendas in it. It's really hot outside.
LIZ: A single-serving can of Dole's pineapple juice and one of those airplane bottles of champagne, on a flight to some city I'm in love with, like New York or Seattle. You pour the pineapple juice into the plastic cup of ice (in this case, CRUSHED), then you drink the iced pineapple juice and when it's all gone you pour the champagne into the cup. So it's like champagne with essence of pineapple, a little bit of pineapple flash. The plane is blessedly wi-fi-free as all airplanes should be, because airplanes are for reading novels and crying at movies you would ordinarily never even want to watch. On my dream flight I would read some sprawling trashy heartbreaking novel featuring a finely wired character I could picture to look like mid-'80s James Spader, or maybe play solitaire on my tray table: the most elegant thing a woman could ever do while drinking champagne on a solo flight.
JEN: Matcha latte with cashew milk from Commissary in New Paltz, NY, in their handle-less ceramic mugs on a saucer but in my apartment.
LJ: The first thing is a soft-boiled egg, soft-to-medium, just a perfect stinky glistening little orb on the plate there. I would cut in half with the side of a fork, then leave it for a moment, to be admired.
The second thing would be a wee pyramid of arugula salad, demurely dressed with lemon and olive oil. It could have some nice tomatoes in it, if tomatoes were in season: cherry tomatoes, cut in half. I am weird about tomatoes, but when they’re good, they’re good. But with very few seeds. If there are seeds, I have to take them away. I have to put them in a napkin and then throw the napkin away in another room. They have to be very far away from me.
The third thing is the most complicated, and the least realistic component that I would ever, like, chilling in my fridge: sticky rice, the kind you get at dim sum, in a lotus leaf, with stuff in it. But no chicken! That’s my new thing, not being able to eat chicken. I’ve had a recent string of extremely disturbing run-ins with gross chicken, and now I just CAN’T. I can eat a boneless chicken breast, and potentially a high-quality chicken finger, and that’s where my relationship with chicken begins and ends. I can’t eat a nugget, I can’t eat a thigh, I can’t eat a wing.
So, no chicken. This is my dream sticky rice fantasy, so it can have anything I want. Some mushrooms, enoki mushrooms— little cuties! Definitely some shrimp vibes, a little squid perhaps. No, dream bigger Laura- lobster. Can I put truffle oil in it too? You bet I can! And lots of scallion. There would be a little dish on the side, too, with extra chopped raw scallion for me to sprinkle on top.
Then I’d put tons of salt and pepper all over the salad and egg, insane amounts of salt and pepper, which is how I roll when I’m alone but I’m too ashamed to share that part of myself with another person, and in my opinion breakfast should always be eaten alone. Breakfast-time is for realigning your brain and body and you can’t include another person in that process, even if you love them, you have to shoo them away during breakfast, into the other room, with the tomato seeds.
I would mix the salad into the rice, and savour the egg. I would save my perfect bite for last, and it would be the yolk with a chunk of lobster.
LIZ: These banana-cinnamon pancakes I ate at Duke's Coffee Shop on Sunset Strip in March 2003, on my second-ever trip to L.A. I'd gotten flown to Orange County for a work thing and afterward I took the bus up to Hollywood and stayed at the Best Western near the Hollywood Bowl, and the next morning I insanely walked from there to the Strip. Duke's is dead now; it was right next to the Whisky a Go-Go, it was a "rock & roll coffee shop." I barely even remember the pancakes - at this point I've gotten them mixed up with every banana-cinnamon pancake I've ever made for myself, like a few years ago when I won a pot of weed butter in a Yankee swap, after stealing it from a famous musician guy who ended up with a sweater with a cat on it, and then went through a phase of making weed butter banana-cinnamon pancakes. All I really remember of my Duke's pancakes is the banana was so melty and gooey, and there was a ripped poster for River's Edge above my table. I believed the poster meant something about me and Los Angeles and fate and love, and I absolutely still believe that.
(P.S. I want to give a shout-out to some of the other great pancakes of my life, including: the dulce de leche panqueques I ate with my brother and sister in Buenos Aires in February 2012, the Snickers pancakes at Snooze in Denver, whatever the hell those pancakes were that I ate at Pancake Pantry when Alissa and I went to Nashville in 2013, the White Russian pancakes from the Black Dog on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts <3)
JEN: Miso soup with greens, seaweed, and mushrooms topped with a decent amount of shichimi togarashi and a tiny bit of tamari. Alternatively, a whole-wheat everything bagel toasted with tofu sun-dried cream cheese from Bergen Bagels. A life of balance.
LJ: Even on a perfect holiday-day when I’m like “Fuck it, I can eat whatever I want,” it sounds gross and lumpy to spoil my lunch-appetite by eating a snack too soon after my sticky rice breakfast, so I’m going to be a more realistically me-style decadent for my eleven AM snack and have a glass of champagne. I don’t want it to be too weird or old, I want it to be stylish and lithe, and the first sip of it tastes like opening up your eyes. It’s a non-vintage Blanc de Blancs, citric and mineral, a tad severe but fuck it that’s what I’m in the mood for, and it makes me want a couple of oysters, but I already made the stupid decision to not eat at this fake meal, so I don’t have any, but I’m sitting out on a balcony and there’s an ocean nearby, so I can smell the ocean and pretend I’m eating an oyster, and it’s a little bit cold out, and I’m alone still. Just me and my champagne. I write a wine_child about it.
LIZ: A pot of this cinnamon tea they used to sell at Super King but it's gone now. It was a black tea spiced with cinnamon and it was the exact flavor of "Cinnamon Girl" by Neil Young: slightly cinnamon-bear-y but earthier, more subtle. It'd be served in one of those nice utilitarian silver pots from the Chinese restaurant, which are always the best teapots in town. The tea would happen with a splash of cream and spoonful of white sugar, in a big clunky mug.
JEN: A slice of vaguely healthy but still delicious spelt banana bread with dark chocolate chunks and pecans and a lil peanut butter spread on it with a cup of genmaicha.
4 & 5. Lunch & Dessert
LJ: I am still alone. Lunch, too, should be eaten alone, and never at home. Lunch is the best and worst meal: worst when in, best when out. Home-lunches are an abomination, slack bowlsful of thrown-together odds & ends, consumed, like slop, without fanfare. I like fanfare. I like a long, lazy French lunch; all the best lunches I’ve eaten I’ve eaten either in France or while pretending I’m in France. I’m picturing a cozy-gloomy little bistro with lots of wood, a piano shoved in the back somewhere, and unlit candles (they’ll be lit in time for dinner), framed old newspapers on the wall. I’m shoved in the back somewhere, close to the piano, in a wooden booth with wooden benches; it calls a confession booth to mind. I have a large glass bottle of sparkling water, a brand I’ve never heard of, and a half-carafe of Anjou Rouge. My sweet darling Cab Franc. I can’t decide if I would prefer for it to be chilled to the proper temperature, or a little warmer than it should be, because the people who run the place don’t care.
I’m having steak tartare for lunch, and it’s plated inelegantly: no ring mold. No gaufrette potatoes, no French fries, just a basket of ripped up baguette hunks. No butter. I changed my mind: I want the wine to be chilled. I barely want to touch the bread, it won’t have much to do with the meat, I’ll just use it as a vessel for some egg yolk—that’ll be my first bite— and to mop up the ends of the steak-flav— that’ll be my last. I’ll be doing a crossword while I eat, and then I’ll run into a person I know, someone I like and respect but haven’t seen in awhile, and they’ll think, “That’s some life she leads! Eating steak tartare and doing a crossword in the middle of the day.” I will be so happy and peaceful, I’ll smile warmly and say nothing bad about nobody. Only nice news— “My streak of bad hair days is over,” or, “I got a dog!” “Strawberry Lacroix exists now!”
For dessert I eat a single pristine scoop of yellow vanilla ice cream floating in a chilled tin dish of custard. There is strawberry sauce on top, with gloopy whole strawberries in it, and I eat it with a demi-tasse spoon. The end of the ice cream melts into the custard, and I leave it unfinished, for a cat to lap up.
LIZ: I agree with Ad-Rock when he says "Lunch with a dessert? I don't have dessert with lunch." I don't even eat lunch, if you want the god's honest truth. I eat an extremely late breakfast, and then I'm good till dinner. But I guess this day is happening on vacation, and lunch is for sure a vacation thing. For me the meal that most signifies a vacation-level freedom from responsibility is fish & chips - they mean Ireland and beaches, a loud and cozy pub on Good Friday when you're seven-years-old. The chips would be nice thick steak fries and the whole deal would be served on newspaper and with a side of cole slaw, from wherever this Clash photo was taken:
And dessert would be a sundae, probably the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Sundae from Friendly's, or a butterscotch sundae with Oreo ice cream, or the Madonna's Delight from the Copper Cafe at the Madonna Inn. I've never had the last one but I'm in love with the description on the menu: See how we interpret the traditional banana split. Three flavors of premium ice cream with assorted toppings and all the finishing touches. A delight for the eyes as well as the palate. Fuck me up, Madonna Inn.
JEN: Daily set lunch from Brown Rice Cafe in Tokyo which consists of brown rice (duh) + sides of simmered vegetables or seaweed and pickles + more miso soup + the daily main, which according to their Instagram was recently deep-fried tofu with grated radish sauce. A perfect meal. & a salted galapagos turtle from Lagusta's Luscious as Lunch Dessert.
LJ: I drink a can of Diet Coke on my way to wherever. At wherever I have an extremely dirty gin martini— that’s how you have to order them— not very, not even very very, only extremely gets the job done— to get them olivey enough. Once I ordered an extremely dirty gin martini and the bartender gave me a little jug of olive juice on the side. That was the nicest thing anybody ever did for me.
LIZ: Ice-cold peach + bottle of Gingerade kombucha from Windward Farms in Venice, after surfing for hours with Emily Richmond. Post-surf kombucha is the heaviest buzz.
JEN: Cape Cod Sea Salt Waffle Cut Potato Chips + celery juniper Pilot Kombucha
7, 8, 9. Three-Course Dinner
LJ: I think five oysters is the perfect amount of oysters to eat. Six is overdoing it, and three is never enough. Four is fine.
I like oysters so much that I have already included a little fantasy sequence about myself eating them in this one piece of writing that I could have left out because I knew I’d eventually feed myself oysters for dinner. But fantasizing about oyster-eating is such a big part of my life that I would be misrepresent myself not to write a bit about oyster-related-daydreaming into everything I ever write.
I like foods that come in a little home that nature already made for them. I like foods that you have to eat in a specific way because the physiology of the food demands it. I like oysters and edamame and sunflower seeds.
I like oysters that are big and gnarly and the shells look like they’re a hundred thousand years old and have barnacles growing on them. I like them briny rather than creamy and I want them to taste like olive juice and sea air and saline wine and fish fossils. If I have five I’ll have two of them with horseradish and three of them plain. I do not have time for mignonette, unless it is a pet name some French guy likes to call me.
I already drank champagne once today, but now I’m drinking champagne twice. There’s a really good Andy Warhol quote about being sweet-toothed: “I'm only kidding myself when I go through the motions of cooking protein: all I ever really want is sugar. The rest is strictly for appearances.”
That’s how I feel about champagne. Everything else is just for show.
My main course is the shrimp teriyaki I would eat in the shopping mall food court when I was a little kid, out of a styrofoam container, with no vegetables, just the shrimp and white rice and ladle after ladle of thin garlicky teriyaki sauce, which I would watch the man ladle out onto the rice for me, with heart-shaped pupils. That is the happiest eating memory I have of my entire life, the first time I ever ate that shrimp teriyaki in the shopping mall food court, everything all white, under a plastic palm tree. That was the first moment I ever understood that people don't just eat food, they like it, and that what I, I, the six-year-old semi-formed human I was, really liked. The assault of fish and salt and garlic and sugar, and the plastic fork, and the styrofoam container.
I am always happiest while eating out of a take-out container. No plate compares.
For dessert, I would grab a Snickers bar on the way to the ocean, and I'd eat it fast while listening to Queen and texting my friends about how happy I am. Then I’d swim in the ocean, and the fourth course of my dinner would be a tie between the smell of salt and sea in my hair and the Marlboro Menthol 100 I smoked on the beach in a bathing suit.
LIZ: Start with the bluefish pâté from the first night of my writers residency at the place on Martha's Vineyard five Aprils ago, served on some kind of cracker I'm not sure exists (Stoned Wheat Thin-esque but slimmer and saltier, ideally). That pâté was made by a guy who used to play guitar in Dire Straits and it was total heaven, so rich and smoky and attuned to the drama of the island in the early spring, how it holds onto winter in a way that's super-bitchy but you gotta kinda respect that. We all stood around the kitchen for a long time before dinner, eating the pâté and drinking wine, being awkward writers but effusive and sweet. I believe I was wearing blue jeans and a camel-colored v-neck cashmere sweater I bought specifically for the purposes of being a writer on Martha's Vineyard.
Second course: probably my favorite meal I've ever eaten in my life, which is this roast chicken thing from Delux Cafe in Boston. I don't exactly remember the setup but in my mind it was a nice shallow bowl with the chicken + Spanish rice + so many olives and capers and tomato and maybe red onion, all happening together in a very chaotic and boisterous way, like a big loud party. I recently learned the word tahdig and I feel like there must've been a serious tahdig factor there, a perfect burnt-rice situation going on. And that dish must've been a special because otherwise I would've eaten it at least a million times, when in reality I only got to have it that once.
My party chicken comes with a sweaty carafe of white wine like we used to always drink at Mae Ploy #RIP
And in lieu of adding a third course I'd like to just list off some other dream rices of mine, such as: the cherry rice at Raffi's in Glendale; homemade rice pilaf with peppers and onions; this chicken-and-rice thing my mom used to make, all baked together in a big casserole dish; veggie fried rice served in a half-pineapple shell (+ Shirley Temple); arroz con pollo from El Compadre (+ flaming banana/coconut margarita); just a boring old bold of white minute rice and a dab of butter and so much salt and pepper, all the salt and pepper in the world.
-giant pile of garlicky greens
-spicy oily hand-pulled noodles - like if Xi'an's N8 noodles were still vegan
LJ: About ten more cigarettes, another half-bottle of champagne, the taste of another person’s mouth, the taste of myself on another person’s mouth, and a glass of 1964 Pomerol while listening to I Wanna Hold Your Hand to finish off the night.
LIZ: A piece of cake and some fizzy wine. The cake would be golden supermarket cake, frosted with the most sugary frosting and decorated with droopy frosting-roses in baby-pink and hot-pink, mint-green rose stems. If you're lucky lots of frosting clings to the lid, so then you get to drag your finger along the lid's edge and get a little pre-cake frosting hit. Also - know when you're at a birthday party and someone makes a big braggy deal of scraping the frosting off their cake and leaving it to die, claiming it's too sweet? I think those people are just doing a performance of the kind of person who is so above frosting, who believes depriving yourself of frosting means that you are virtuous and evolved. It is so totally joyless, and reminds me of this passage from the book Cake: A Global History by Nicola Humble, where she talks about the significance of cake in Twelfth Night:
Cakes here stand for pleasure; they belong to a category of entertainment - like plays, circuses, recreational sex - that the Puritans are seeking outlaw.
So frosting deprivation is for Puritans and sex-haters. That's all there is to it.
Anyway I've been thinking about dream cake scenarios, and the top 5 would include cake in bed and cake on the beach, maybe a slab of fried cake. In July I ate a piece of supermarket cake off a paper plate while standing in a heated pool in the desert around midnight; that was good. And one time on a plane I was watching that Martha Stewart + Snoop Dogg show and someone served them pieces of cake in little dishes of milk and Snoop called it "Cake for Cats," which is the name of my new album.
But I think the #1 dream cake scenario would happen sometime around 1 in the morning, when you're nearing the grand finale of some low-key but perfect party - like an hour before you get to Oh how fast the evening passes, cleaning up the champagne glasses. The cake's been sitting out on the kitchen counter for hours and the party's moved to the porch; only the crème de la crème have stuck it out. And then someone goes and gets the cake and you set it on the porch floor and everyone passes a fork around, or just digs their fingers into it like beasts. The speakers play only the best porch-cake songs, like "The Back Seat of My Car" by Paul & Linda McCartney and "Fill Your Heart" by David Bowie. And you almost annihilate the whole thing but there's still a little left, enough for two or three more pieces. Leave it out all night and then eat it for breakfast, with a spoon, in a big red Solo cup.
JEN: Lagusta's Vandana Shiva chocolate and an herbal tea made from lots of flowers (I'm thinking rose, jasmine, passionflower, chamomile + cool herbs) that makes me feel deeply relaxed and instantly fall asleep