An editor for Bloomberg, Silvia Killingsworth has also been the series editor of the Best New American Food Writing anthology since 2018. She’s written about the ethics of eating octopus, and these days, she’s mostly meatless — more because of her husband than her own preferences: “I’m definitely more conflicted than I was before I met my husband.” But she does eat plenty of fake meat, and sees room for a little more innovation: “The market is ripe in the ‘deli-sliced vegetarian sandwich meat’ area,” she theorizes. This week, she worked at home in Westchester and in Bloomberg’s Manhattan offices, snacking on gummies, microwaving some banana bread, and eating one of her husband’s ancestral dishes: a Pittsburgh salad topped with French fries and ranch dressing.
Wednesday, March 31
The first thing I consume every day is two gummy vitamins and a Nespresso coffee. I worked at The New Yorker when Kelefa Sanneh was writing his profile of Aida Battle and he used to do a little pour-over lab in the dinky office kitchen. I got super into coffee as a result, got all the gear, got used to tasting blueberries in my java. Five years later, my now-husband John moved in and I needed coffee in much larger volumes, fast. I bought a Hamilton Beach drip machine and my parents gave us their spare Nespresso machine. No regrets.
Twenty minutes later, I am downstairs for a second coffee and John makes me grapefruit juice and seltzer (one-third former to two-thirds latter). Breakfast is a slice of chocolate-chip banana bread slathered in Earth Balance “frosting.” I always think of the Taffy Brodesser-Akner profile of Billy Bob Thornton in GQ where he covers oat bars in the stuff. We keep both Earth Balance and Kerrygold in our house at all times; my husband prefers the former and I concede it spreads better on things like banana bread.
It’s a gray and dreary day, and I can’t seem to wake up. “Perhaps a third coffee? What could go wrong?” I ask, gambling with my own sweat glands. This time I add a brown-sugar cube and warmed milk. It doesn’t seem to help.
Around 1 p.m., I trundle downstairs to reheat some leftover pasta: orecchiette with broccolini and Field Roast Italian Garlic & Fennel plant-based sausage sautéed with garlic, red-pepper flakes, and lots of olive oil. I drizzle some more olive oil on it right out of the microwave and shave some Pecorino over it. On the side, a mini can of Coca-Cola: seven and a half ounces and perfectly carbonated.
I won’t drink Coke in a 20-ounce bottle. Everyone talks about how the Mexican Coke is real sugar, not corn syrup, so it tastes different. But when you start to talk about cans versus bottles, you get into carbonation, and I will tell you, I think the 7.5-ounce can is much more bubbly than a 12-ounce. It’s like a shot, the espresso version of a Coke — not in strength, but in size and spirit.
For dinner, I cook fillings for burritos. I don’t yet have a preferred preparation of Mexican rice (what my Mexican American mother would call sopa), so I gamble with internet recipes. The one I’ve been using lately has you plop onions into a Vitamix full of crushed tomatoes and I’m very into the efficiency. You then mix that with chicken broth (I use Better Than Bouillon’s vegetarian no-chicken base) and simmer rice in it. We use black beans nine times out of ten since most refried beans aren’t vegetarian. I sauté some Trader Joe’s soy chorizo, which is so well spiced and oiled you basically can’t argue with it. For fixings, we have iceberg lettuce, shredded cheese, sour cream, and pickled jalapeños. Dessert is a Reese’s peanut-butter Easter egg.
Thursday, April 1
I’ve been commuting to the office Tuesdays and Thursdays for the past few weeks. Before heading to the train station I have my two Nespressos and a bowl of Kashi Heart to Heart cereal with blueberries and — I swear this is key — Organic Valley grassmilk.
Bloomberg is famous for its snacks. On the way to my desk I grab Dolcetto Wafer Rolls (basically tubes of chocolate) and Albanese Gummi Bears, which I’m sure have gelatin in them. I’m not a strictly observant vegetarian, and I will still occasionally eat meat — I just have to pick my spots. Chicken soup or a BLT? Fine. Something like a steak is a bit more of a gamble.
The company has been providing box lunches for people who come into the office, and there’s always a green-salad component. Thursday’s is baby mixed lettuces with artichoke hearts, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, and a side of vinaigrette. For the main course there’s always a vegetarian option, usually either tofu, mushroom, or eggplant as the meat-replacement vehicle. Today’s was herb-marinated seared tofu with green beans, carrots, peppers, and tri-colored baby potatoes.
After lunch I head out for my jab and walk ten blocks north to a CVS on Third Avenue. I’m depressed to see the number of food establishments that have gone out of business in the past year, but the two I care about most are still going: Omar’s on East 55th Street and Land of Plenty on East 58th Street. I can’t wait to get back.
Back at my desk, the aforementioned snacks power me through the rest of the afternoon. The gummy bears taste better than I remember. In the Before Times, my colleague Jim Aley would often go to Katagiri, the Japanese grocery store a few blocks from the office, and return with bags and bags of fruit gummies. He used to launch them across the desks at whoever wanted any. I miss that.
Since I work late-ish, John does the honors for dinner: Pittsburgh salad. We use a base of Wegmans Italian Escarole Blend, topped with sliced cucumbers, green bell pepper, red onion, pickled banana peppers, shredded cheese, and, yes, French fries. For the “chicken” we use Quorn’s Spicy Meatless Patties cut into strips, and the dressing is Hidden Valley Ranch. I thought my in-laws were joking about how serious ranch dressing is to life in Pittsburgh, and then I went to a Giant Eagle and saw for myself: an entire refrigerated section just for ranch dressing.
Friday, April 2
Good Friday! We both have the day off. I start with two Nespressos and a seltzer. We consume godly amounts of seltzer in this house. One of the nice things about living in the suburbs is you get to have a full-size refrigerator that can fit two 12-packs and also an enormous recycling bin in the garage. We used to be Sodastream people, but when the pandemic hit there was a CO²-cartridge shortage, so we switched to cans. Apparently now there’s also an aluminum-can shortage. You can’t win.
Normally I would have mixed the seltzer with juice, either tangerine or grapefruit, but we’re out. After a quick bowl of cereal, we head to Wegmans to restock. We also pick up ingredients for one of our latest discoveries: vegetarian turkey Reuben sandwiches. I use Quorn Meatless Turkey-Style Deli Slices, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing (Ken’s, if you must know). On the side we have Lay’s lightly salted wavy potato chips and a Claussen’s dill spear.
Fridays are pizza nights, always. When we lived in Brooklyn we had a tradition: an extra large cheese pie from Sal’s on Court Street. When we moved to Westchester we tried a bunch of different delivery places, none of them anything like Sal’s, but sometimes you just want a very regular cheese pizza. If I’m not feeling too tired, I’ll make pizza from scratch. I’m not too tired.
You may not know this about me, but I’m a classically trained pizza scholar. I went to pizza school, a.k.a. Pizza a Casa on the Lower East Side. Theirs is a quick dough; I use Saf Instant Yeast and let it rise for an hour if I can stand it. (Though I am a very confident student of the Tartine school of bread-baking, I have yet to use my starter for pizza. On the spectrum of cracker to bread, we prefer a thinner crust.) The first pizza gets green bell peppers and red onions, plus a sprinkling of banana peppers. The second pizza gets Yves Veggie pepperoni and banana peppers, plus the leftover sliced veggies. I pour some olive oil into the curled-up cups of fake pepperoni and sprinkle them with salt. It’s no cured pork, but it’s fatty and salty, which is satisfying.
For dessert we finish the last of the chocolate-chip banana bread, microwaved, topped with a scoop of vanilla-bean ice cream. In 2016, Katie Notopoulos was giving away a free Cuisinart ice-cream maker to whoever trudged to Williamsburg to get it. I started making my own ice cream and I’ve never looked back.
Saturday, April 3
I have two coffees and some flat water, and then a bowl of Kashi with blueberries and grassmilk. John eventually has leftover pizza. We fertilize the lawn, repot some plants, feed the birds and squirrels (black-oil sunflower seeds, suet cakes, corn cobs, and peanuts), and then head over to my sister-in-law’s house to hang out with our little quarantine pod.
By the time we get there it’s almost 1 p.m. and I’m starving, so I reach for what’s available: my niece’s leftover mac and cheese. It’s Kraft, and unicorn shapes to boot, and has already been adulterated with extra cheddar cheese. I microwave it and shake some Frank’s Red Hot on top. My niece is having tomato soup, and the rest of the adults decide to join the 7-year-old’s menu: Trader Joe’s chicken-less crispy tenders, tater tots, and waffle fries. I have a handful of each. After lunch we all head outside to prune some hedges and shoot some hoops. Back inside, I have a Cadbury Creme Egg.
I had big plans for dinner, but I’m so tired from all the yard work. John has the brilliant idea to reheat leftovers and make burritos again. We’re out of chorizo so we decide to try the Daring “original pieces,” which I sauté in a bit of oil and then dress with lime juice and salt and pepper. They’re pretty good — they have that “slip” when you bite down on them. If you look at a cross-section you can see lots of thin layered sheets, which is what probably gives you that fleshy muscle-y bite-feel. This is probably horrifying to some vegetarians. There is no one true meat replacement for everyone, and many vegetarians don’t actually want a realistic imitation of meat.
Sunday, April 4
I sleep in until about 8:30, so by the time I wake up John has already had his coffees and seltzer-juices. I make myself a tangerine juice with mandarin orange seltzer and prepare a pot of coffee.
For the past two years or so, we’ve been buying Starbucks Veranda Blend whole-bean coffee and making a big pot on weekend mornings. (We like the “blonde” roast, given Starbucks’s propensity for burning the hell out of its beans.) But a few months ago I was mindlessly scrolling my Promotions tab in Gmail and came across this Rolling Stone piece by Tom Petty’s biographer, Warren Zanes, resurfaced by Pocket. I sent it to my husband, who looks like if Tom Petty and Frances McDormand had a boy child together who then went on to play in metal bands for 20 years. He also happens to love Tom Petty. In the piece, Zanes reveals that Petty became single-minded about replicating the perfect cup of diner coffee: Maxwell House, brewed in a Bunn Automatic coffeemaker. We bought some Maxwell House immediately. I’m sure there’s a Bunn in our future, if we ever move into a bigger house with one of those butler’s pantries.
On Sundays, we have a ritual: homemade sausage, egg, and cheese sandwiches. For the biscuit, I use Asha Gomez’s tellicherry buttermilk biscuits, which I make in double batches and store in the freezer. The sausage used to be Morningstar’s Hot & Spicy patties, which have become impossible to find, so we just use the regular ones now. After years of futzing with egg rings both metal and silicone, the tool that works for me to make the perfect puck-shaped egg is a seven-dollar miniature (we’re talking three inches) frying pan I found in the aisle of Stop & Shop. I curse myself every weekend for not buying two. After defrosting and sautéeing, the sausage disc gets two quarter-squares of sliced cheddar cheese. Put it all together and you have one of the most satisfying sandwiches ever invented. Hats off to McDonald’s.
For Easter Sunday, we head to my sister-in-law’s house for a socially distanced outdoor hang with my niece and her cousins. (The aforementioned Katie Notopoulos is actually my sister-in-law’s sister-in-law. Full circle.) With three young kids it’s total chaos, so over the course of six hours I consume a half a bagel with cream cheese, one Captain Lawrence Freschester Pale Ale, one glass of Gruet Brut, at least four seltzers, a homemade Big Mac with a Boca Burger, a few bites of a Lightlife Smart Dog with mustard and onions, and a vanilla cupcake.
By the time we get home around 5 p.m. I feel that, though I’ve been grazing all day, I’m not quite satisfied. I put together something I’ll hesitate to call an Alfredo sauce. It contains butter, olive oil, garlic, a splash of milk, Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper. I throw in some steamed broccoli, cut-up chunks of Quorn “Naked” (ew) Chik’n Cutlets, and some rotini. A few hours later, I have some dark-chocolate nonpareils and a couple of Girl Scout Trefoils. I think that’s my type kind of dessert: less of a final course and more of a punctuation mark.