[Headnote: In another life, I will have a Smeg fridge (seen above), and the kind of aesthetic that permits said Smeg to live, happily and peacably, in my kitchen. For now, this will have to satisfy my craving for that retro-cool kitchen vibe. In that other life, I will also have open shelving artfully displaying white serve-wear that curiously never suffers from dust or cooking splatters or the very real clutter that comes with living a very real life.]
I recently wrote about how telling your Amazon Prime orders can be, and I love the intimate look into the personal lives of celebrities that Grubstreet Diet (a series that tracks what people eat over the course of a week) and Into the Gloss (a series that tracks the beauty habits of said celebrities) afford — but it dawned on me the other day that looking into someone’s refrigerator can tell you an awful lot about who she is and what her lifestyle is actually like. One of my friends has only smartwater bottles, alcohol, and maybe a block of cheese at any given time. (She orders out all the time.) Another’s is organized like a Kardashian’s — full of mounds of pre-washed fruit, rows and rows of sparkling water and juice and soda, and stacks of Siggis yogurt. Another’s is a gridlock of take-out containers.
Ours is…well, crowded, for one. And both boring and diverse on the other, showcasing our wide culinary interests at dinner and the unvarying routine of breakfast and lunch.
There are always at least three or four bowls or plates with Saran wrap over them — right now, a bowl of leftover spicy pork ragu (from this recipe, which we tested after our order of delivery ramen accidentally arrived with a ton of extra noodles and we had no idea what to do with them); a plate of pancakes for mini’s breakfasts; and a bowl of buttered cavatappi noodles, the antidote to the stomach bug I’ve been battling the last week.
Our condiment collection is unwieldy, full of the usual suspects — ketchup, Sir Kensington’s mayo, three mustards, pickles, hot sauce — but also less common ingredients from recent cooking forays, like red miso paste and chili bean sauce and a tube of tomato paste.
There is always a squeeze bottle of simple syrup on hand, for Mr. Magpie’s occasional post-prandial old-fashioneds, and usually a mason jar of bacon grease, which Mr. Magpie collects over time to use in dishes like collard greens and cornbread. Back in Chicago, when we had the space and time, the first shelf was always an assortment of science experiments: beets and carrots, cultivated from his rooftop garden and pickled; a questionable-looking baggy of homemade yeast; a plate loosely covered by a kitchen towel, under which a thick, well-marbled ribeye or petite chicken might be dry-brining with a heavy handed application of salt.
And then, there is the expansive collection of drinks — LaCroix, usually in two flavors; Coke Zero Sugar, which Mr. Magpie likes to pair with his weekend lunches, but only his weekend lunches — he’s Spartan about these kinds of things; a large jug of Bolthouse mango smoothie; sparkling grapefruit soda; club soda for my very occasional Tom Collins; sparkling wine (almost always a cava, which tends to be drier than prosecco and less expensive than champagne); sauvignon blanc; a six-pack or two of craft beer — usually Bronx label these days.
There is always fruit, which we eat for breakfast, and which mini loves at any time of day — berries (berries will bankrupt us! — mini could eat an entire carton of $5 raspberries in one sitting if we let her!), Fuji or Pink Lady apples, an orange with bits of the rind peeled off from recently-made cocktails, a bowl of lemons and limes, grapes, melon or pineapple cut into chunks, kiwi pre-diced for mini’s next meal. And, next to the fruit, an eyesore: a mound of baggies with half-used vegetables–right now, two different kinds of onions, parsley, zucchini, cucumber, and a few loose carrots.
And then there are the staples: unsalted Plugra butter, eggs, peanut butter, yogurt (Noosa or Liberte), Bonne Maman jam, whole milk, half and half, shredded cheese, jarred tomato sauce for easy pasta dinners for mini, tortillas, a block of good cheese for snacking (right now, a wedge of nutty Midnight Moon gouda), rye bread, wheat bread.
We’ll usually buy our protein the day-of — right now, there’s a package of chicken breasts waiting to be pounded out, dredged in flour, dipped into egg wash, and then battered in Panko crumbs, which Mr. Magpie will in turn pan-fry in butter and douse with a lemon shallot sauce and serve with angel hair pasta and steamed broccoli. It’s a pain in the ass to make, but we love it, and call it “mmm chicken,” as in: “What do you want to eat tonight? Fajitas? Pasta? Mmm chicken?” Then we heave an enormous sigh as we scan our eyes across the kitchen: this meal dirties about 34 different pots and pans, and every square inch of our admittedly limited counter space.
It’s a good day when I find Thomas English muffins in there — my preferred breakfast, smeared with butter and sprinkled with Zaatar seasoning or a slick of jam — but it’s hard to find a package for under $5 in Manhattan, and I am outraged at this, as they were $2.50 back in Chicago, and nearly always on a buy-one- get-one-free promo to boot. I have no problem spending $5 on a carton of strawberries, but gouge my eyes out if I need to spend the same on muffins for some reason — an odd eccentricity that reminds me of the sudden, strange new outgrowths of stubbornness on certain topics as I age.
And then there is the possibly embarrassing presence of a small container of Fairway’s chicken salad, which I think I eat three out of five days of the week for lunch, on a slice of toasted rye, with Trader Joe’s everything seasoning and a sliver of swiss cheese on top. What can I say? I’ve never been the picture of healthy eating, and it is so good. I eat this with pickles on the side — how unglamorous and passe — usually while on hold for some technician or other to get back to me. Next thing I know, I’ll be eating cottage cheese out of a scooped-out melon half, but that’s at least a few years out, right?
What’s always in your fridge?
(Also, here’s what’s in our cabinets…and what should be in yours, too! << We spent a lot of time curating this!)
Post-Script: Five Cookbooks I Really Want.
+Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables. I am the world’s most boring vegetable cook. I’ll pull out all the stops on the main dish, but when it comes to sides? Buttered orzo and roasted broccoli is about as interesting as I get. I could use some new ideas when it comes to veggies, and this won a bunch of awards.
+Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. Mentioned this recently elsewhere, but I love that this book includes a section where the author has organized his recipes into meals. How handy; I almost always follow the author’s suggestion in the recipe head notes as to what to pair with a given dish!
+Dinner: Changing the Game. I’ve received a number of emails asking what our go-to weeknight meals are, and the truth is we could use some new material! Our go-tos when we aren’t feeling adventurous:Zuni’s roast chicken, minus the bread salad, and plus orzo and steamed vegetables; Mario Batali’s weeds pasta; linguine and clams; hangar steak with red wine-shallot sauce, sauteed mushrooms, and oven fries; America’s Test Kitchen tacos with turkey instead of beef; stir-fried vegetables and rice; Old Bay spiced shrimp with oven fries and steamed veg; mmm chicken with angel hair and veg; pretty much any pasta dish from this cookbook. We could use some weeknight inspo, and this one looks intriguing.
+Dining In. For the same reason above — I could use some more approachable, weeknight staples. That, and Alison Roman is having A MOMENT, HENNY.
+Buvette. A reader nudged me in this direction and how can I say no? We love Judy Williams around here.
Post-Post-Script: Also on My Radar, Unrelated.
+I am ADDICTED to these pickles, and I haven’t yet found them in Manhattan, so Prime will have to do…
+I am dying over this dress. It is SO me — the shape, the pattern, the startling color. One of my friends told me that I always pick unexpected colors and now I can’t un-hear it and I always puzzle over why I gravitate towards certain hues…
+These are at the tippy top of my wishlist. But how many statement pearl shoes does a girl need? [Ed. note: TRICK QUESTION. Unlimited.]
+I have been poring over Etsy in search of cool vintage jewelry lately, inspired by some of the costume jewelry I’ve inherited from my grandmother and great aunt. How cool would this brooch be, pinned to a little tweed jacket? Or this pair of oversized bow Givenchy earrings?!
+I’m into this pearl-embellished jean jacket.
+I’m still, six seasons later, into these frilly white blouses. This one has my attention.
+Love this saucy bikini.
+Very into floral statement earrings, as I’ve mentioned dozens of times here — check out these!!!