the grub street diet

Demi Adejuyigbe Is Baking Pies and Cakes and Everything Else

“My entire identity has become quietly cooking through the pandemic.”

Demi Adejuyigbe conjuring Hawaiian pizza. Illustration: Ryan Inzana
Demi Adejuyigbe conjuring Hawaiian pizza. Illustration: Ryan Inzana

Demi Adejuyigbe is a prolific comedian and writer who has written for shows like the Good Place and James Corden’s Late Late Show, hosted two popular podcasts, and been called the “funniest person on the internet.” (He’s known for his musical bits like the annual “September 21” videos, an oeuvre that includes his rejected lyrics to Succession’s theme and an end-credits song for Green Book in the style of Morrissey.) This year, he’s been on a baking tear, graduating from cookies to lemon cakes, but it’s less about perfectly crimped pie crusts for him. “The process of cooking is like saying, ‘I am worth spending this time on, and it’s just good for my own mental health,’” he says. That’s continued since he joined the writers’ room for Peacock’s new Amber Ruffin Show, and last week he made two types of pies, along with cinnamon rolls and lemon cakes for friends. He ate salmon and turkey, too.

Tuesday, November 24
Sat on my couch at 12:05 a.m. eating Double Milk Chocolate Milano cookies. This is not how I expected this diary to begin.

Around nine, I got out of bed for more Milano cookies. Kinda like that one damn Yoda meme about the olives.

Milanos are up there for me. The shortbread is so good and so crunchy, but chewy, and then the chocolate. Unfortunately, I’ll be walking around in Albertson’s and I’ll be like, “All right, no junk food,” and then I’ll see the Milano cookies. Yeah, they’re great. As someone who keeps trying to make different types of cookies, I think that’s the cookie I ate so much as a kid — those and the thumbprint cookies, the raspberry ones — that I’m just like, “Oh, if I can make those, game over.” But I don’t have the patience to make them, not the way they do. Maybe one day.

In the afternoon, I cooked salmon for a salad with arugula and honey-lemon dressing and ate a whole sleeve of raspberry shortbread cookies from Ikea. I got those when I must have been trying to replace one of the pieces of my old bed frame, because I was like, “I need this thing or I can’t sleep in the bed.” So I went to Ikea and of course I can never just get the one thing. I walked through the store, and at the end, they have those raspberry thumbprint cookies, and I was like, “Yeah, okay, give me some of those.”

Absentmindedly ate dried pineapple slices as I put away groceries. Then I had the last bit of salmon from lunch for dinner. Followed by late-night gummy bears.

After midnight, I baked apple turnovers for my neighbors. Our new neighbors, diagonally from us, gave us some cookies as a welcome. A “sorry we can’t say hi because of COVID” thing. They left us a note with the cookies. So to return the favor, I baked them a box of apple turnovers and left them at their place, and they also loved it.

The turnovers are just a hit. It’s so fun to make, and everyone is sort of like, “Holy shit, you can do this.” I’m like, “It’s very easy, but I appreciate being thought of as impressive.”

Wednesday, November 25
Couldn’t eat before 2 p.m. because of a doctor’s appointment. I spatchcocked and brined my Thanksgiving turkey in the morning and afternoon. This is the first year I’ve ever cooked the turkey for Thanksgiving.

I used Samin Nosrat’s recipe. She mentioned buttermilk brining the turkey, when I was on her podcast with my friend Hrishi Hirway, and how that makes it really juicy, and I thought, Okay, that sounds like the thing to do. I told myself, “I know I want to make the turkey this year,” because was already in the throes of it — it feels like my entire identity has become quietly cooking through the pandemic. Her recipe sounded very easy, and I saw another from Williams-Sonoma, I think, about buttermilk brining with herbs and spices, and I thought that’s gonna be good at bringing out the flavor. But then I also read the recipe too late, and I needed 48 hours for it, and another day or so to thaw the turkey. I didn’t have that time. So I looked up another recipe that was for less time, and sort of mixed the three together. Samin’s was definitely the most helpful in terms of explaining the process and talking about what spatchcocking is.

Ate some fuckin’ Kit Kats and a few Cadbury chocolate buttons around 4:30 p.m.

For dinner, I made Beyond Meat burgers with apple-jalapeño jelly, roasted garlic and onion, and kale. I’ve been an on-and-off pescatarian for probably five years now. I sort of made a pact with myself to be vegan by the age of 30, which is just for climate reasons and the guilt of, well, I don’t have a good reason to continue eating meat. Now I’ll give myself salmon. I lean on salmon, so much, and shrimp and other fish, but salmon’s also just the most malleable fish. I end up cooking it a lot. It tastes really good in so many different ways.

It’s the kind of thing where every so often I’ll eat a hamburger or “Oh, my friend is ordering chicken and I’ll get some of that, too.” It’s sort of that laziness transcends my pescatarianism, but when it comes to cooking, I do pretty closely stick to it, except when it comes to the Thanksgiving meal.

From 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., baked mango custard pies, with a graham-cracker crust — I needed to cool them overnight — from my friend’s mother’s recipe. Specifically, Hrishi, who has been a great friend for so many years. I got to try this mango pie two Thanksgivings ago. It was great. It was a Thanksgiving food that I suddenly made in my head as A Thanksgiving Food. So I decided to make it this year.

I watched Fiddler on the Roof in the meantime. It was a suggestion from a friend. I jokingly called it a Thanksgiving movie, even though it’s not. But it fits so perfectly in the wheelhouse of things I love. I’d never seen it, but watching it, I realized, “Oh, I know all of these songs, the dancing is so fun, this movie is so full of joy” — for the first half. It’s so long I don’t think I would’ve given myself the opportunity to enjoy it unless I was either sitting in a theater or doing something like baking.

I think because I have a new home I recently moved into, at the same time that I have to cook all this food, I feel very domestic. I keep describing myself as a sort of northeastern Martha Stewart–type Vermont mother. I want gingham patterns everywhere, and I want to cook things and have people come over and get a pie off my windowsill. So I have different friends who are spending Thanksgiving with me, and I asked if there were any drink requests. I was trying to cover the gamut of what we’ve got. Someone said boozy cider, and I thought that would be nice. So I whipped that up with brown sugar, cinnamon, clove, anise, orange slices, and bourbon.

Last thing I did was make pie crust for another pie and set the dough in the fridge to cool overnight.

Thursday, November 26
The turkey had brined for almost 24 hours, so I moved it to the oven to cook for a couple hours.

Breakfast was peanut-butter granola and Chobani strawberry-banana Greek yogurt.

Rolled out the pie-crust dough, cut some nice autumnal shapes, and pre-baked it while watching Grease. It’s the movie I saw the most as a kid. I was obsessed with it; they had us do lip-syncing competitions to it at the local mall. I watched it for the first time since being a kid, I want to say, two months ago. The movie still rules. I still think it’s perfect, despite it being also politically awful in every way. I decided to put it on again as something to have in the background that I could enjoy without paying attention to it.

Once the crust was prebaked, I prepared the filling for the pecan pie off a Dorie Greenspan recipe.

Simultaneously peeled and prepared to bake some candied yams. Three or four years ago for Thanksgiving, another comedian, Jaboukie Young-White, had moved in with me. He lived with me for a year. And he had some friends over for Thanksgiving and they made candied yams and a few other foods that were so good. I’ve always valued Friendsgiving more than Thanksgiving, just because Thanksgiving was never a huge thing for me back home. My mom would get a turkey from Popeyes or whatever, and we’d eat it. But it wasn’t as if we were staunchly about Thanksgiving, and my parents never ask me to come home for Thanksgiving.

Pie finished baking. Looked like shit! My roommate told me it looked fine.

Candied yams were baked, and I was free from my cooking. I absentmindedly ate apples while waiting for my friends to finish cooking.

We had Thanksgiving dinner in my backyard: mango custard pie, turkey, stuffing, candied yams, chicken and dumplings, rolls, spicy cranberry relish, and Brussel sprouts. Way too much food for five people. The chicken and dumplings were my friend Liz’s doing. She is from Kentucky; she also made the rolls off a 100-year-old recipe that’s been in her family for generations. That was nice, because I’m from Texas and it felt very much like a food I would’ve ate growing up.

Around 10:30 p.m., I continued eating this mango pie as we played games and watched Scooby-Doo: Monsters Unleashed. I have to say I ate one whole mango pie. It’s delicious.

Friday, November 27
I woke up and bit into a Cadbury hazelnut chocolate before even having breakfast.

Around 11 a.m., I had banana-nut granola and Chobani strawberry yogurt.

I offered Thanksgiving leftovers to anyone who wanted some and two friends came by to take me up on that. I offered them all mango pie.

Had a plate of leftovers for lunch. Turkey, stuffing, and yams. The tryptophan in the turkey made me so tired, I napped for like three hours.

At night, my friend came by to paint in the front yard as I baked lemon cakes. I put on Sister Act for us to watch through the window.

For dinner, I made another Thanksgiving plate, this time with no turkey. I won’t get fooled again.

Around 11 p.m., the lemon cakes were done, but I decided it was also the perfect time to start baking vegan orange-glazed cinnamon rolls, which was a mistake because they take like two separate periods of 90 minutes to rise before baking. These aren’t finished until 4 a.m. (and, because I kept pausing it, neither was Sister Act).

Saturday, November 28
Woke up and ate graham crackers.

At noon, I ate one of the vegan orange cinnamon rolls (which were made for some friends — whoops).

Glazed one of the lemon cakes in preparation for a friend to come and pick it up. In removing the cake from the pan, a bunch of gooey lemon-glazed crumbs gathered and I ate them all like a disgusting little gremlin.

When we had to go into quarantine, I was still enjoying baking, so I would make cookies and wondered what else I could make. I started branching out to lemon cakes and orange cinnamon rolls and all sorts of other things. I realized I really enjoy this time in the kitchen, and I started to realize cooking was a very meditative thing for me. It felt like it sort of gave me time back that I had trouble getting. Part of that is my friend Miel used to tell me that cooking is very good for someone like me because it enriches my self-worth. The process of cooking is like saying, “I am worth spending this time on,” and it’s just good for my own mental health. I thought it was baloney back then, but the more that I cook, the more I realize that’s exactly what it is.

I made fried rice with carrots, onions, soy sauce, leftover stuffing, and leftover turkey. I have not learned my lesson — it knocked me out for another four hours or so.

Around nine, I walked to the corner store to get Gatorade and eat gummy candy. I have a go-to Gatorade color, which is blue. Something about it feel refreshing. I think it’s Cool Blue, but I’m always just like, Gimme the blue one.

Sunday, November 29
I woke up and immediately ate gummy candy.

Had peanut-butter granola with Chobani strawberry-banana yogurt.

At noon, a friend swung by to pick up the orange cinnamon rolls and gave me some strawberries he picked up at a farm in return. His girlfriend is vegan, so I thought there was an opportunity to make cinnamon rolls and make them vegan. ’Cause I’d never really made too many baked goods that are vegan, and they turned out really well.

Another friend came by to pick up the lemon cake, along with finally freeing me from all the leftover food I had by taking it to pass out to unhoused neighbors. I think there is something nice about making food and at the end of it having something to share with people, especially during quarantine when it’s so hard to see anyone. It’s just nice to have this thing where I can drop it off at a friend’s house and have a moment to say hi to them or even show them I’m thinking of them. Giving them this thing I spent a lot of time on feels very connecting and enriching and nice. A lot of people feel like it’s this selfless act, but I think it’s entirely selfish because I love the process of baking and that I get to give you this thing that you think was a lot of work for me.

I ate a bunch of the strawberries while looking up recipes I could use them in. They were delicious, of course.

Made dinner at 10:30. Beyond Meat burgers again, with the same ingredients as before but additional persimmon and Monterey Jack. Which is wild for me because I decided as a child I do not like cheese and only recently have been like, Oh, maybe cheese can be good in the right circumstances — hmmm.

It’s such a thing that I feel that whenever I start dating someone this becomes the point of contention. As a kid, I think I had a cheeseburger, I remember it being from McDonald’s, that I didn’t like. So for years, I was like, Yeah, I don’t eat cheese. It’s weird, but I don’t do it.

Earlier in quarantine, I ordered brisket tacos and they gave me a quesadilla instead and I didn’t want to make a stink so I ate the quesadilla. Then I was like, “Oh, that was actually really delicious.” Even further in the pandemic, I made a grilled cheese off a recipe and it was really delicious and I posted to Instagram saying, “I just made and ate my first grilled cheese ever, I won’t answer any questions.” Everyone was like, “Okay, but next time you do it, use mayonnaise.” I was like, “Shit, this is delicious too.” That is also a food I did not really grow up with. I came to know it as a very white people food, and it was not in any dish that I ate as a kid. I didn’t really eat sandwiches or anything.

I update my friend every time I make grilled cheese. Now I’ll text her and ask, “What cheese is good for grilled cheese? What cheese is good with this?” I’ll try out different cheeses, and it’s been very fun to open my eyes to one of the most popular foods for the first time, at age 28.

I still don’t eat cheeseburgers, but I’ll eat cheese pizza, and I’ll try to figure out what the difference is. I think maybe it’s the texture, or how it’s melted, or how instrumental it is to the meal. I really like Hawaiian pizza. I want to say there’s some element of contrarianism involved because I do love it a lot, but I just end up ordering it more because it’s a thing where everyone says, “Hawaiian pizza is so gross.” I don’t know? Ham is great, pineapple is great, they all taste great together. I think I like it a normal amount, but the fact that people complain about it as if it’s a controversial food? It’s really not. I get a hankering for it every time. I also think it isn’t very fun when I order pizza and there’s so much tomato sauce and cheese that it melts off. I think whenever it’s Hawaiian pizza, the cheese and sauce are on there pretty securely. I don’t know if there’s just less tomato sauce or what. I genuinely am like, “This is the best way pizza is.”

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Comedian Demi Adejuyigbe’s Grub Street Diet