the new york diet

Writer-Rocker Darcey Steinke Downs Jell-O With Nuns

"We had shellfish with mussels and clams with rice, not exactly a paella but an approximation."Photo: Melissa Hom

In her new memoir, Easter Everywhere, novelist Darcey Steinke recounts her life as a minister’s daughter, traveling the country and picking up tastes for regional dishes like fried okra. “When you get it right,” she says, “It’s like crack.” Though her Prospect Park neighborhood has yet to yield the perfect fix, she’s fond of the jerk chicken, and as a survey of her most recent week of eating reveals, she also knows where to find exceptional sauerbraten, redemptive sticky-toffee pudding, and a classic Waldorf salad with marshmallows — which she enjoyed with an order of nuns.

Thursday, April 4
I had to go pick up my daughter Abbie. We got a whole-wheat doughnut at Dunkin’ Donuts. I agree with Homer Simpson when he says, “Doughnuts, they can do anything.” Later I had some dried soppressata and some grapes.

Wednesday, April 3
Breakfast was brown rice cereal with strawberries, banana, and soy milk. Then I had a spinach salad with beets, hard-boiled eggs, and toasted almonds with blue-cheese dressing. I took my friend [Douglas Martin] who just got his Ph.D. to Café Asean. We had tofu bakar — tofu stuffed with vegetables with a peanut-lime sauce. And Chinese broccoli sautéed in wine sauce, and this thing called cha gio ca — thin salmon rolls with a mint-basil sauce. Then we had mushroom dumplings with a ginger dipping sauce. I had a glass of red wine.

Tuesday, April 2
I usually have a roast-beef sandwich before the class I teach at Columbia — I get it from the Milano Market on Broadway up there. I woke up feeling a little sick, so I had fruit salad and an Odwalla fruit drink instead.

For lunch I had chicken soup from the same place with pasta. I had some smoked fish — smoked trout is one of my favorite things — with French pickles on whole-wheat crackers.

I went to Frankies 457 with my rock band Ruffian. It’s not fancy, but what they do, they do really well. I had a heart of romaine salad with Caesar dressing and carrots. When I came home, I had a little bit of organic chocolate — the real serious dark chocolate.

Monday, April 1
For breakfast I had cottage cheese, roasted almonds, cantaloupe, and grapes. I had a Tuscan meat sauce — a Fairway prepared thing — with that wide pasta, pappardelle. I had to go meet my thesis students from the New School at French Roast. While I was meeting them, I had cranberry juice; later I had a martini with a lot of olives, dirty. And French fries. There’s some smaller health-food grocery stores near me, but I think Fairway is like heaven. I usually go to Hope & Anchor before Fairway for a little day out.

Sunday, March 31
For lunch I had a salad with smoked trout and spinach and beets. And then I went to a Seder at my cousin Renee’s house. Craig Marks, the editor of Blender, cooked and we read the ceremony. He made beef brisket with horseradish sauce. We ate the bitter herb and that wonderful stuff with the apple and the port wine. Before that we had chicken soup with asparagus, made by Deb Schwartz. And then green beans with macadamia nuts. For dessert, Kim France brought lemon tarts.

Saturday, March 30
My daughter had a sleepover; in the morning we had blueberry whole-wheat Pop-Tarts with coffee. Then I went up to the Community of the Holy Spirit; Sister Leslie, from this group of nuns that I’m an associated with, was taking her lifetime vows. They had a luncheon afterwards — it was spinach quiche with bacon, a pasta salad, and a green salad. The older nuns like to have classic fifties dishes, so they had a really good Waldorf salad with tiny marshmallows which I’m a fan of — you don’t get that every day. And they had a delicious Sprite punch — which I think is underrated — and a frozen Jell-o mold. Then they had red-velvet cake for dessert. A delicious life-vow luncheon.

For dinner, I went to the German-Austrian place [Thomas Beisl] near BAM. I was with my partner [Wall Street Journal reporter] Michael Hudson. I had sauerbraten and a glass of Austrian wine. My German grandmother used to make it — it’s like pot roast that’s been marinated for several days. It comes with potato pancakes and vegetables.

Friday, March 29
I took my daughter to school. Then I swam and had lunch at Schiller’s. I had just hit my head on an air-conditioning unit and was feeling strange, so I was happy to get in there and sit down. The beautiful, golden lighting made me feel like it was a moment of grace. I had a tuna salad, a glass of the good wine, and the sticky-toffee pudding, which is amazing if you like caramel.

After a playdate with my daughter and her friends in Prospect Park, we walked down to Enduro, a Mexican restaurant. We had rough-cut guacamole with really ripe avocados and chips. Then we had shellfish with mussels and clams with rice, not exactly a paella but an approximation. Then for dessert we shared a vanilla-mint sundae. I also had a dirty martini. My favorite!

Steinke reads from Easter Everywhere at McNally Robinson April 16.

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