the grub street diet

Haley Nahman Is ‘Very’ Anti-Parfait

“I don’t think yogurt should be vertical.”

Illustration: Lindsay Mound
Illustration: Lindsay Mound

Haley Nahman is every Brooklyn girl’s Instagram crush. Formerly the features director at Man Repeller, Nahman made the leap to Substack last year, where she writes the Maybe Baby newsletter and hosts its accompanying podcast. She is also a fan of snacks, preferably eaten whenever she feels like it. “I don’t think about food until I’m hungry — and I really don’t like eating when I’m not hungry,” she says, adding, “I fought to have this relationship with food after struggling with it more in my early 20s, and so I feel like I take it really seriously. I want to stay in this place, and I’m maybe even protective of it.” This week, that meant balancing kombucha with Cheetos and preparing more than a few recipes from the New York Times. “I’m really grateful that I don’t feel as tortured about my relationship with food as I used to, which is really nice — it’s very liberating.”

Friday, April 23
I don’t usually eat breakfast, but around 11 I was supposed to be editing my podcast and I was procrastinating, which naturally meant I wanted to eat something. I decided I was going to have breakfast. At first, I got out a box of Cream of Wheat and then I was like, No, that’s cursed. I don’t want Cream of Wheat right now. I decided I was maybe going to venture out of the house. I was looking for an açai bowl, which I hadn’t had in like two years, but I was unenthused by the options. I looked at a breakfast sandwich from Nagle’s Bagels, which is a bagel spot near my apartment, but then I realized that what I actually wanted was a bodega sandwich: a deli sandwich, a kombucha, and a bag of chips is one of my favorite meals. I got a sandwich I would’ve gotten when I was younger, so it was like: turkey, pepper-Jack cheese, lettuce, mayo, mustard on an un-toasted roll. And then I got jalapeño Kettle chips and a Pilot kombucha, pomegranate-rose flavor.

I’ve eaten more Kettle chips in the last year than I have in my whole life. They’re crispy and oily and they feel bad when you’re eating them. I also ate a clementine. The kombucha — I realized after a few weird sips — was expired by, like, a few months, which was too far. I poured it down the drain. One of my theories is you should buy kombucha as close to its expiration date as you can. You want it to live right on the edge; that’s where the magic happens.

About three hours later, I had one Hershey’s Kiss, which my boyfriend, Avi, threw at me across the room unprompted. One of Avi’s love languages is to just bring me little treats and not say anything — just place them in front of me or throw them at me. It’s kind of related to one of our other primary shows of affection, which is something we call “Bodega Santa.” I think a ton of people have some version of this, but when you go to the bodega, you always bring back a bunch of — or at least a small selection of — unnecessary random treats as a surprise. Avi always wants a Perrier or a Sanpellegrino. He often gets me kombuchas or the chocolate Hello Pandas. Or sometimes we go rogue and do Cheetos, because sometimes you like to feel something.

For dinner, I met my friend Laura in the city. In Manhattan. We were originally going to go to Thai Diner, which I’ve been wanting to go to. The wait was two hours, so we walked around Nolita. We walked by Jack’s Wife Freda, and they miraculously had a table for two outside. The main thing I really wanted was French fries, but we decided to split a bunch of things. So we got peri-peri chicken wings, roasted cauliflower, chopped salad, fries, and I got a Pimm’s Cup, while Laura got a super-dirty martini.

We got another round of drinks and then we just walked around. We did that thing where we walked to the subway but I didn’t want to get on yet, so we just did loops and loops around the block and then finally I went home.

Saturday, April 24
I woke up slightly hung-over because I’ve become a lightweight, and that meant I was unusually hungry in the morning. I asked Avi if he wanted to walk to Golda, which is in Bed-Stuy. I got a decaf latte. I typically get oat lattes, but I was scarred from that viral article a couple weeks ago about oat milk actually being full of a particular, harmful type of sugar. Everything good is ultimately ruined is the lesson.

I got decaf ’cause I quit drinking coffee every day back in 2018 because it gives me migraines. I regret my choice because I love coffee and I miss it. I genuinely miss it. Sometimes I secretly hope that my barista makes a mistake and accidentally gives me a caffeinated latte, just so I can feel that caffeine jolt that I miss so much. Occasionally, I’ll have one with caffeine, but it makes me insane.

They took the yogurt bowl that I liked off the menu, and they replaced it with a parfait. I am very anti-parfait. I don’t think yogurt should be vertical. This parfait is honey-and-vanilla labneh, berry compote, and granola. The first few bites were amazing, but, of course, immediately after the first few bites, all that I had left was a cup of yogurt. The proportions were fucked. Nothing against Golda — I’m just against the presentation.

We knew we were going to meet my brother, Andy, for a picnic later, so we texted him asking what we should get, and he said, “I’m gonna do a little jaunt before the park for some essentials…;)” Avi said, “Andy Mode activated,” which is code for Andy is going to bring a ton of really good stuff, and none of us have to do anything. It’s the best mode.

My brother has very good taste, and Andy Mode is when he goes crazy and buys a bunch of stuff for all the people he loves, and it’s his way of showing affection, and we all benefit from it. So we didn’t have to get anything for the picnic, which was nice, but we did go to the store to get some stuff for recipes that Avi wanted to make the next week. We also got some kombuchas, of course. I know kombucha is a lot of sugar, but anyone who reminds me of that is my enemy. I remain staunch in my belief that kombucha is somehow good for me.

Around 2 p.m., the sun came out, which was good because we were going to Central Park. Here’s the haul that my brother came with, in typical Andy fashion:

Barney Greengrass haul: Bialy wheel, baguette, pastrami lox, Torres EVOO chips.

Zabar’s haul: Comté cheese. Fromager d’Affinois, chocolate babka, and spicy soppressata. Every flavor of Levain cookie. Some natural Chilean wine called No es Pituko. Sancerre Sauv blanc. Followed by The Crisp Sixpoint beer and too many Modelos.

Andy is always who I go to if I’m meeting someone and want to take them to a cool restaurant or somewhere that is interesting but not pretentious. He always has perfect recommendations in every neighborhood. And he’s always been like that. He shaped my taste in a lot of ways. We went to the same college and moved to San Francisco after college, moved to New York, etc. Same with my sister. All my siblings. I copied everything they did, basically because I’m the baby.

We were at the park for hours. We had way too many beers. Too much wine. So we didn’t have dinner. Although my friend Danny arrived late with an Ursula cookie.

Sunday, April 25
Hung-over. I had plans to meet my friend Michelle for breakfast, rescheduled from a dinner we were supposed to have the week before. It was raining, so we almost canceled, because originally I wanted to go to this diner in Clinton Hill called Mike’s, which is a super-old diner that has been there for years. But since it was raining, we decided to go to a place across the street that has an awning called Rosalu. When I got there, I realized it was fully made up to look like an old diner, which I thought was kind of weird because it’s right across the street from Mike’s. I asked the owner how long they had been there, and they said they had only been there for like a year and a half or something, which I think is really sus. Like, even though I ended up liking Rosalu — I got eggs and toast with hash browns — I felt like some kind of traitor to Mike’s, even though I’ve never even been to Mike’s.

I’d been meaning to make cookies for our neighbors, so I made the New York Times Giant Crinkled Chocolate-Chip Cookies, by Sarah Kieffer. These are the cookies where you bang the pan. They’re really good. I discovered these one or two years ago, but they’ve been my go-to.

We just moved in, and I wanted to introduce myself to our neighbors because I feel like there’s a really crucial window when you move into a new place when you can meet your neighbors, and if you wait too long, it becomes really awkward. I ended up dropping those off with a little note that had our names and numbers. We didn’t really want to stay and talk in case they were uncomfortable with distancing. We were really nervous. Knocking on people’s doors is so jarring. It’s not really a thing anymore. I was way more nervous than I thought I’d be. We did a weird move of leaving the plate with the note on the mat, then knocking, and walking over to the stairs so we were away and then sort of waving when they opened the door, gesturing that the plate was there for them. We might have made a negative impact on our relationship with our neighbors through this process.

We kept a few cookies for ourselves. I had half a cookie before dinner and a whole cookie after dinner, but I haven’t even told you about dinner yet.

Dinner, Avi cooked. He also made a New York Times recipe. I have, embarrassingly, made multiple New York Times recipes in my last week of eating, like three, maybe. It really betrays a lack of creativity, but anyway. This is a recipe called Sheet-Pan Sausage, Potatoes, and Brussels Sprouts With Honey Mustard, by Ali Slagle. Avi is really a good cook.

It’s not that I actively hate cooking; it’s just not where I naturally want to spend my energy, ever.

So Avi cooked while I built a shoe shelf for our hall closet and then I had another cookie. My one complaint about these cookies is that they’re really only good when they’re fresh. I don’t think they’re as good the next day. They get progressively, alarmingly worse as the days go on. I hope my neighbors ate theirs that night.

Monday, April 26
Avi made another NYT recipe for lunch: Pressure-Cooker Vietnamese Caramel Pork and Eggs, by Andrea Nguyen. But around noon, I got hungry before it was ready, so I ate a few handfuls of pretzel sticks. These are very cursed pretzel sticks. We’ve had them for months. I don’t know why I bought them, because neither of us really wants pretzel sticks. Now we’ve had them for months, and even when we moved, I couldn’t justify throwing them away, so we brought them and they’re just dry as a bone, of course.

Avi definitely prefers real meals at lunchtime, while I would fully be fine just, like, picking at things. Or I think that I would, but then I’m really grateful when we have a real meal. There’s another way that ultimately I’m grateful for Avi’s food perspective, because it’s actually satisfying to eat real meals even if I’m not naturally inclined toward making them.

Midafternoon: This is classic I’m trying to write mode, which directly translates to eat a bunch of random snacks. I had a bunch of Starburst minis in red flavor that I bought from a gas station. I also had some Cheetos Puffs, another gas-station purchase. Those things should be classified as a drug. I mean, I’d decriminalize, but still a drug. And then I had another half a cookie.

Dinner, we ordered in from a place called Bar Camillo. We got a guanciale pizza. It’s actually called pinsa at this place. Pinsa, which we kept saying.

For dessert, our friend went to a Japanese grocery store a few months ago and bought us this little Japanese candy called Popin’ Cookin’. On the front, it says, “So cute and so fun.” It’s not actually good candy; it’s more just the cute novelty of it. You have to take these little packets and mix them together with tiny tools, and you make tiny ramen and tiny gyoza, tiny fish cake and a tiny egg. And then you make this broth. The ramen literally looked like tiny ramen. It was so convincing — we were shocked. The broth tasted like Coca-Cola.

Tuesday, April 27
We knew we were going to have my brother over for dinner, so Avi prepared a chicken marinade in the morning. I went to Corto, which is a coffee shop in Bed-Stuy, and I had an oat-milk latte, decaf. I was already back on the oat milk — couldn’t stay away. Again, I secretly hoped they made my coffee caffeinated, because I’m always on the cusp of going back to my old ways, but they didn’t, which is good.

Around one, I had leftovers from Sunday: the sausage and potatoes. I added an egg. I’ll add an egg to anything. Then it’s lunch. It was surprisingly delicious. After lunch, I had a Health-Ade pomegranate kombucha that I bought on Saturday, which felt a little bit like I was cheating on Pilot. Pilot is unmatched. It’s extremely bubbly, but Health-Ade is comforting in the way that a Diet Coke is.

I was kind of hungry a couple hours later, so I went back to my old ways: Cheetos Puffs and Starburst minis. I should be ashamed because Avi got fancy cheese and crackers from the store and I could have had those, but the junk food called.

For dinner, Avi made a roast chicken. Oh God, this is also NYT. It was the Green-Goddess Chicken, by Melissa Clark. Humiliating, but you know what? I made something that was from a different cookbook: tahdig, from Mina Stone’s cookbook Cooking for Artists. I’d made it before, but I wanted to try it again because I feel like the first time I made it, it didn’t really stay together.

Then we made arugula salad. My sister belongs to a paid secret-recipes-only club, where she found this amazing balsamic dressing that she sent to my brother and me, so I feel like I’m in on some kind of secret. It’s a speakeasy dressing.

The problem with this dinner, aside from the fact that our new apartment wasn’t really ready to host, is the fact that this green-goddess roasted chicken, which we’ve made several times before, always makes our house fill with smoke, and the smoke alarms go off incessantly, and we were really excited to move and we thought that maybe it would be different this time and it was not, and so when Andy arrived, it was just absolute mayhem in our house.

We were both standing at different smoke alarms frantically waving dish towels. It was a deafening sound, our whole house was filled with smoke, and every window was open. I don’t know what it is. We’re not doing anything wrong, but there’s something about this recipe that doesn’t work for ovens. Our neighbor came running down to see if everything was okay.

So dinner wasn’t ready for a while when my brother got there, and we guiltily put out snacks: various meats, and these Simple Mills sun-dried-tomato-and-basil crackers, and some random olives. The tahdig was the best I’ve ever made it. It has dried apricots, hazelnuts, and stuff, and we had tons of leftovers, so I’m sure we’ll be eating that all week, and my brother brought some white wine, which we drank. Then we had the Zabar’s babka for dessert because we actually didn’t end up opening it on Saturday. It was still kind of fresh.

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