Grub Street-Inspired Food Diary: Part II.

By: Jen Shoop

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It’s been almost a year since my first Grub Street-inspired food diary, and several of you expressed an interest in a sequel, which I completely understand — I find food diaries such an intimate look into someone’s daily life, and, well, I love food. So here we are. A narrow way to follow me through three days earlier this week…


We wake and toast the children some waffles, slather them with peanut butter (Teddie brand — IYKYK) and Bonne Maman strawberry jam, and serve alongside bananas. Then Mr. Magpie starts making our coffee (Sey beans, ground using a Fellow grinder and brewed in a Technivorm Moccamaster) while I toast a quarter of a baguette from A Baked Joint (procured at Organic Butcher), wrapped in foil, in the oven. We find this method warms and slightly toasts day-old bread without drying it out to cracker status. Then we slather with Plugra butter and the Bonne Maman jam. This invariably reminds us of the harried trip we took to New York City in order to scout an apartment when we were moving from Chicago to The Big Apple, and not necessarily in a warm and fuzzy way. The trip was knee-bucklingly stressful: you have less than 48 hours to find a suitable apartment that will not bankrupt you. You must do this with a seven-month-old baby strapped to your chest. You know nothing about the city, and you have a real estate agent who will horribly botch the situation. You absolutely must find a unit on this trip, as your husband starts work there in less than a month, and you have already begun the machinery of putting your Chicago house on the market and scheduling movers. Go.

Despite the high stakes circumstances, we did find little pockets of joy that weekend, including a breakfast of baguette with butter and jam from Levain at Amsterdam and 77th on the UWS, which we enjoyed on a bench in Central Park while mini burbled at us. We told ourselves, mainly through gritted teeth: “We can do this. We are doing this.” Even now, seven years later, a morning baguette feels like the breakfast of champions: we can, and we will.

We don’t necessarily need the energy heading into a lazy Sunday, but it charges us nonetheless. We enjoy our steeling breakfast over cups of coffee (half and half and a spoonful of sugar in mine; Mr. Magpie’s is black) and a game of Azul (I lost).

After Mass, we order Taco Bamba for lunch. I select the Fauda taco (seen above — fried, za’atar-spiced chicken with pickled red onion and a yogurt-dill sauce), which I can’t help myself from ordering time and time again (it is outlandishly good), and split a side of beans and rice with Mr. Magpie. Mr. Magpie is winningly strategic and orders not only his own trio of tacos for the meal but the delicious albeit unappealingly titled “Cup O Meat” — chorizo filling, four tacos, and toppings — for lunch the following day. We enjoy our plates on the front stoop of our home while our children picnic in the grass, eating bowls of buttered noodles and side platters of crudite and fruit.

Around four, my son and I cheers one another with sourdough pretzels. (Utz brand, not great. I like the ones from Uncle Jerry’s or Splits, but I’d been in a rush to buy road trip snacks at a Safeway and pickings were not as ample as I’d have liked. Sometimes I disguise a sub-par pretzel by dipping it straight into yellow mustard, but today I make do.) We’ve floated through an afternoon out on the front lawn with a picnic blanket, bubbles and sidewalk chalk, the neighbor boys who dropped by with Nerf guns, and my book (Horse, by Geraldine Brooks). I strategically leave my phone inside, and feel delightfully untethered. Mr. Magpie spends the entire afternoon, by contrast, in postures of exertion: he mows the lawn, pulls the weeds, moves sticks and brambles out of the garden beds, washes the interior and exterior of the car. A year or two ago, a friend of his said: “You know, you can pay to have people do those things,” and I could see something flinty in Mr. Magpie’s eye.

Around five thirty, I wander down to the garage with two margaritas. (I’ve perfected the recipe: 2 oz blanco tequila, preferably G4 or Espolon; 3/4 oz Cointreau; 1 oz fresh squeezed lime; 1/4 oz agave. Shake with ice. Strain over ice in a rocks glass with a salted rim.) We enjoy these as we catch up and he finishes polishing the interior leather seats.

For dinner, we tuck into leftover grilled boneless short rib from Banks Mountain Farm (enthusiastically recommended by our buddies at Organic Butcher) from the previous night, when Mr. Magpie christened the charcoal Weber Kettle with its inaugural grilling session of the warm weather season! He served with grilled red bell peppers and sauteed broccolini, both dressed in a vinegar-parm-olive oil concoction, and oven roasted potatoes. He pours us a full-bodied Rioja to accompany. (Did you know that Riojas have sticker designations on the back — a green sticker means it’s a younger wine; a yellow sticker means it’s moderately aged; a red sticker means it’s well-aged? I’m sure there are more technical explanations for the labels, but this is the gist — and price tends to be commensurate with color. We enjoy a red label one tonight. Why not?!)

Before bed, the children enjoy brownies that we made from a Ghirardelli box mix the night prior. I always add a splash of vanilla, a handful of good chopped chocolate, and, if on hand (which rarely it is), a teaspoon of instant coffee — hacks from Ina G. The additions really do enhance the flavor. By the time put the children down, finish the second part of the first Dune movie (we cannot make it through a 2+ hour movie in one night any more…), Mr. Magpie and I are full and sleepy, and forget to dish the brownies out for ourselves.


Back to school after ten days of spring break! The morning is a blur of cereal bowls and the incorrect uniform components being pulled on and thrown off. I drop off the children, return home to scarf down half a banana and a mug of coffee, and then turn right back around to go back to the school because I realize I’ve forgotten to give my son his dose of Amoxicillin. (Who else has felt she’s bought out the county’s supply of antibiotics this long winter season?!) After, I drive to hot yoga, then take a hot shower, then count the minutes until lunch, as I’m famished. We eat the Taco Bamba leftovers with Nojito flavored Spindrifts for lunch. The key to a great second day meal from Taco Bamba is toasting the tortillas in a pan, and covering all food with a wet paper towel before placing in the microwave — this prevents the rice and meat from drying out.

For dinner, Mr. Magpie makes “sugar fish,” or miso-glazed black cod. It takes several days to marinate, and my God is it delicious. The marinade has a good amount of sugar in it that caramelizes in the oven to leave a syrupy-sweet, crisp coating. He serves this with rice finished with seaweed salt, prepared in our Cuckoo rice cooker (Mr. Magpie did ample research and determined this style, from a Korean company, was the top of the line; it makes charming train sounds as the cooking process completes); an enormous bowl of steamed and salted edamame; and bok choy dressed in garlic and sesame oil. To our delight, our daughter inhales everything on her plate. My son gags on the bok choy and flat out refuses the fish — we know this is out of principle rather than experience, as bok choy is blander than broccoli, and he eats that by the fistful. Sigh. We are stuck in a picky phase despite trying every suggestion in the book. I am resigned to the situation but it routinely upsets my talented chef of a husband.

After dinner, I have a few fistfuls of leftover jelly beans from Easter, and decide, for the trillionth time, that I don’t like jelly beans.


I pour myself a bowl of Aspen Meusli with oat milk and diced bananas. I have this obsession with meusli — there used to be a chain of French cafe/bakeries in D.C. with an outpost in Georgetown called Marvelous Market and I would stop to get their overnight meusli, studded with dried fruit and slivered almonds, at least once or twice a week when I was going to grad school and then working down south of M Street. (I’d get this along with what my sister and I called “ice cream coffees,” because they were ultra-blond roast iced coffees they’d mix with a heavy hand of half and half. RIP Marvelous Market — we loved you!) Anyhow, I have been determined to figure out how they prepared that meusli for years, but for now, a bowl with cold oat milk will do. I eat this with a hot cup of coffee.

Mr. Magpie is enjoying a third day of Taco Bamba leftovers (truly, a good deal, and we are leftover warriors — we will eat until the leavings are done! I mention this because it astounded us to learn that some people categorically hate leftovers?! Like, it’s a thing!), but there aren’t enough for two lunches, so I “scrounge,” as Mr. Magpie and I put it. This usually means a fried egg on an English muffin or a packet of ramen from the pantry, but today I have a piece of toast with Teddie’s peanut butter and some sliced banana on top. (I’d not used a full banana in my meusli and it looked so sad half-gone in the fridge.) I have Martin’s kettle chips on the side, along with an iced tea Spindrift.

I kiss my children and husband good bye and rush out the door to drive downtown to meet my friend Jacqueline for dinner. Jacqueline is a food and travel writer, and in town to review a recently revamped Westin property down at 9th and New York. It is 70 degrees out, and I blast Sidney Bechet with my windows down as I coast down Mass Ave, taking in the stately embassies and several of DC’s prettiest circles. I imagine the montage vis a vis the lens of a Woody Allen film. It is good to romanticize your life! Jaci and I sample a few things from the hotel’s Root and Vine menu — warmed olives, whipped feta, roasted brussels, and a pepperoni and hot honey pizza. The food is fine but the company is spectacular. It feels lovely to shake up a Tuesday in this way.

I return home and pour myself into bed at 10:15 — well past my normal curfew — but not before rousing Mr. Magpie to catch up on the day.


+Kitchen gear to amp up your cooking game.

+The stove works for you — and other lessons from cooking.

+Notes on making great cocktails at home.

+One of my favorite cocktail recipes for warm weather.

Shopping Break.

+OK, J. Crew, I love this dress. Also available in chic blouse form to pair with white jeans!

+Drooling over this crochet mini bag. The colors! The shape! So good!

+I own this denim maxi skirt in the bone color and love her, especially during transitional months (summer to fall, spring to summer). She looks SO good with a simple white tee, leather sandals, and big shades. I’m actually wearing this outfit as I type. I’m intrigued by Still Here because someone recently wrote that the founders are conceiving of the brand as “the new Gap.” Lots of timeless basics that suit all different wardrobes, style types, etc. Obviously, the price point is much higher but I do get the analogy.

+The item I was most excited to receive from my Sephora sale order: this concealer brush that people keep raving about. I also got a bunch of items from Charlotte Tilbury, inspired by Emma Stone (especially excited about this cheek color), and stocked up on Kosas Airbrow. They are still running the tiered sale (up to 20% off through 4/15 depending on your status), and my top picks here.

+I’ve been so focused on my hair health this year — I’ve bought and tried SO many items. As you know, I’m a huge fan of Roz, and I really think this rosemary mint hair oil ($10!) helps with luster, strand strength, overall happiness of my hair (especially since I style it with hot tools every 2-3 days). I also just ordered this “glass hair” product after seeing it marketed on Instagram. The gal’s hair looked ridiculously good! Worth a shot.

+A gorgeous nightstand for a little one’s room.

+This tiered dress sold out last time Quince released it — reminds me a lot of the Anthro Somserset (super flattering dress).

+A few recent gift finds for little kids: Squishmallows (so, so popular with my daughter and her friends), Sarah’s Silks, a little doll carrier, and a water bottle personalized with a waterproof acrylic sticker.

+Speaking of those stickers — Joy Creative Club has some cute personalized paper options for end of year teacher gifts. I always think about a teacher (and Magpie reader) who once wrote me and said that teachers really want a nice, thoughtful note and a gift card (to Amazon, Target, etc). I tend to stick by that but sometimes bundle with a little something extra, like a notepad, or maybe these Patchology masks? Who wouldn’t want those coasting into the summer?!

+CUTE cocktail dress.

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5 thoughts on “Grub Street-Inspired Food Diary: Part II.

  1. Dying to know what do you do when your son rejects the meal? I usually find myself sighing, internally screaming and boiling noodles/taking out the butter *eye roll*

    Agree with the below comment, the level of detail you include makes your writing such a joy to read!

    1. Thank you so much for the compliment, and for the gift of your readership!

      Oy, I so feel you on the frustration at meal times! At dinner, we permit him to have refills of anything he’d like on his plate (we always offer fruit, veg, and usually some type of starch – rice, bread, pasta, etc – there are always at least 1-2 things I know he will eat!), but that’s it. We tell him that dinner is what’s on the plate. This often means he doubles up on fruit or rice, but skips protein and any new veg / side…but that’s the line we’ve drawn. I used to worry so much about him going to bed hungry, but have felt reassured by Magpies who have suggested we think in terms of 48-hour cycles — he really does fuel up and have a good breakfast and lunch, but then a very light dinner, most days, and usually if I audit his diet over 48 hours, there’s a good mix of veg, protein, etc. I also remember when he was sick with a stomach bug, and I called the doctor in a panic because he’d not really eaten anything for a few days, and she said: “You’d be surprised how little food they really need. He’ll catch up, and eat when he’s hungry. Just makes sure he has lots of fluids.” This commentary has also helped me easy the worries that I’m sending him to bed hungry!

      I give him a decent amount of autonomy over what he’d like to eat for breakfast and lunch, so drawing a firm line at dinner feels fair to me…


  2. I really enjoyed reading this! You always give so many juicy details – I find your blog to be the “meatiest” of the ones I read, and I appreciate that!

  3. I never comment, but you and your flint eyed man are absolutely killing it as usual!!! Little people cannot understand “Mommy is a lawyer, Daddy is a doctor” until they are much older. What they can understand and internalize is the time and care you put into daily living. They see him taking pride in caring for your home etc, the joy it brings all of you when the crops add to the meal (even if they don’t eat it!!!). You taking the day to be the shelter they return to after a full round of play, always there with a positive comment or a snack or whatever is needed. These little things teach gratitude and contentment in ways they will use to form work ethic, goals etc. Keep up the great work!!! And thank you for all you share.

    1. This is so beautiful and reassuring, Celene. Thank you so much for the encouragement!! You can’t know how much it means to me!

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