L.A. Diet

Comedian John Henson Waters Down His OJ, Loves Spam Sliders

John Henson, enjoying the
John Henson, enjoying the “Pasdar” at Delancey. Photo: Lesley Balla.

Long before he was the host of ABC’s Wipeout or E!’s Talk Soup, John Henson says he “was officially the worst waiter in the history of New York City.” Now based in Hollywood, Henson tells us cooking is one of his passions: “I’ve really embraced the world of food,” he says. “People come to my house and laugh because I have an apron with my name on it downstairs. And I wear it with pride.” The comedian tells us he’s expecting his first child in about a week, so he has recently been forced to pick up the slack in his family’s kitchen. “My wife is nine months pregnant, so I’ve done the bulk of the cooking in the household. Cooking five nights a week or more made me expand.” In between making the family meals, indulging in late-night snacks, and running to and from doctor’s visits, Henson took the time to tell us everything he ate this week for today’s edition of the L.A. Diet.

Wednesday, February 25
I woke up and I made myself and my wife breakfast. It was sort of a throwback to my southern roots. My mother and father are from Arkansas; my mother is gone, my father is still with me. I made something my mother would make, which was scrambled eggs, an English muffin, bacon — just very simple. I make my scrambled eggs with a little milk and a little Tabasco. The key to an English muffin [is to] slap some butter on it as soon as it gets out of the toaster and then let it melt for a while before you start spreading it, then tear it apart. And big, thick bacon, man. That’s what I grew up on.

Something my wife and I have in common: no coffee. I can’t think of anything less appealing to me in the morning than a hot, bitter drink. I would normally drink OJ with breakfast, but a friend of mine told me “there’s so much sugar in OJ, you should cut your OJ with 50 percent water.” So I started doing this and to be honest, I don’t even taste the difference.

For lunch, I had a real treat. My wife, who is also a comedian, Jill Benjamin, grew up in a suburb outside of Chicago called Homewood-Flossmore, Illinois. There is a very famous pizza place throughout the Chicago area and the original store was in her hometown, called Aurelio’s. And a friend of hers sent her three freeze-dried Aurelio’s pizzas from her hometown. So you can imagine what that’s like to a woman that’s nine months pregnant. I’ve never felt a more immediate diminishing of my value in the home than when she signed for these three pizzas. We had a pepperoni that afternoon that was just ridiculous. We have yet to get to the other two, which I think are cheese and the works.

For dinner, we were at Cedars-Sinai for C-section class. So I got a turkey-bacon-and-provolone panini from the café at Cedars. But as you can imagine, in C-section class I didn’t eat it. And it was kinda sad, because there were some good seasoned curly fries with it. As soon as I sat down and started paying attention in class, I was like, “Yeah, not so much on the panini and French fries.” But we did stop on the way home to get a snack at Farfalla on Hillhurst and we each had a bowl of their minestrone, which was great.

Thursday, February 26
I had fresh, chopped fruit: bananas, blueberries, and raspberries. And my wife and I had oatmeal, and again I had my watered-down OJ. Then I worked about six hours straight through lunch doing voice-overs for the Wipeout video game. But I treated myself for dinner because of that.

I went to Jar on Beverly with my wife. Dude, they have a crab deviled egg there that is so ridiculous. And they know us well enough there that they just go and get it when they see us walk in. So we started with the crab deviled egg, then I had the pot roast with baby carrots, mashed potatoes, and baby broccoli. And then, this is again the silver lining of being with a woman who’s nine months pregnant: We ordered both the banana-cream pie and the butterscotch pudding. And I had one glass of the Malbec.

Friday, February 27
My wife had a petite filet the night before and didn’t finish it. So I took it, cut the steak up, and heated it in the skillet and I made some eggs. So we had a little steak and eggs.

At lunch, I made my wife a grilled cheese and chicken-noodle soup, which was the first thing she ever made for me. I remember thinking there was a little serendipity there. I was sick and she brought me grilled cheese and soup and, this is embarrassing, I was in my late thirties and that was the first time in my life I had ever had a girlfriend cook for me. She wasn’t feeling good that day, so I got to return the favor.

That day I was in Beverly Hills and I stopped into Neiman’s and had a bowl of turkey chili that they serve at the bar on the fifth floor. It was just awesome, with sour cream and cheese and all that kind of stuff. The food at Neiman’s is really good!

For dinner, my wife still wasn’t feeling well. So I went to the grocery store and I made a chicken-veggie stir-fry. I sautéed some chicken, steamed a ton of vegetables, and made some simple white rice. And then I also served her some coconut water, which is really good if you’re dehydrated. Then, because she had not been eating much that day, we had a snack later on that night — banana with peanut butter — which made me feel like I was 11 years old again.

Saturday, February 27
My wife made crepes with powdered sugar, fresh fruit, and a little chocolate sauce. I just had water. We got the new Brita filter on our sink, and I’ve just been going to town drinking water.

For lunch, dude, I don’t know if you’ve done this, but if you’ve haven’t, then you are wrong and you need to correct this. Go to District on Sunset and have the Spam sliders with quail egg and soy mayo. Here’s what I would say to anybody who goes “Ew, Spam! Ew, quail eggs!” Shut up and eat it. Don’t even fucking read it. Just go eat it. I have a feeling you’re going to be happy.

And I actually had this written down and can honestly say this is based in truth: “Mid-afternoon snack. Accidentally swallowed a bug while walking my dog.” It was one of those like, inhale and it hits the back of your throat before you can do anything about it and you’re like, “Oh no, that’s not coming out.” So if ya thought quail egg was gross!

For dinner, my wife made me chicken enchiladas and dear Lord! That’s one of my wife’s home-run things. I ate until there was grave remorse. For chicken enchiladas, I usually eat like I’m at a truck stop. I had a Coke Zero with that. I’ve switched over to Coke Zero now.

Later on that night, for a snack, I had these garlic-Parmesan cheese crisps that a friend told me about. It’s like a cracker made entirely of cheese. Look into those. They’re fantastic.

Sunday, February 27
Breakfast it was oatmeal again with a banana, OJ, and water.

For lunch, I made a Cabernet burger on the grill. I make this red-wine-and-brown-sugar reduction and mix it with the meat, and baste the meat with it. Then I make a rosemary mayo and serve it on foccacia with white Cheddar, baby arugula, and roasted tomato slices. And I make some fries with it. It was awesome. Honestly, that burger … if I’d had the time to make bacon on top of it, I would say I’ll stack it against any burger in L.A. At least for my particular taste, when I’m on my game, I’d say it’s as good as it gets. That rosemary mayo on that foccacia is just hard-core.

I had an epic dinner at my friend Josh’s place. My wife’s circle of friends, like Ike Barinholtz and Josh Meyers, these guys are comedians, but they’re unbelievable chefs too. Josh made tapas at his place that night. He had an asparagus, ham, and mayonnaise tapa, roasted vegetables, and a leek flan. He had some meatballs that were nice and zesty, kind of in an arrabiata thing. And he had chicken brochettes with spices and honey; marinated mint pinchos; and lentils and bacon. There are certain things that you just can’t go wrong with and I’m a big believer that adding bacon to anything improves it.

Monday, February 28
I had some Honey Bunches of Oats with almonds and a banana because my wife is due literally a week from Monday, and we had our final doctor’s appointment. And I came back home and just worked straight through lunch.

Dinner at Delancey, this little place in my neighborhood. Same guy, George Abou-Daoud, who owns District, Mercantile, and Bowery. My wife and I had our rehearsal dinner there. I spent eight years in New York and that place to me is such a, like, Little Italy, kind of corner Italian place.

I had a Bleecker pizza, which is bacon and leek, with an order of the meatballs, which are fucking crazy. They’re like beef and pork meatballs with ricotta and a little arrabiata sauce. Maybe the best meatballs in L.A., for my money.

They make a great drink there. It’s called a “Pasdar,” named for Adrian Pasdar, which I think is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. Apparently, he’s the guy that introduced them to it. It’s a glass of red wine with a shot of spiced rum in it. It’s like a glass of really rich red wine that then after swallowing, it warms your stomach and chest. It’s a great “after an Italian meal” drink, if you’re going to have a nightcap.

Comedian John Henson Waters Down His OJ, Loves Spam Sliders