My Day on a Plate: Luisa Weiss

In her blog, The Wednesday Chef, cookbook editor, food writer, and home cook Luisa Weiss bakes, fries, and roasts her way through recipes clipped from The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times—taking a bite out of the venerable publications’ food sections in the process. Here’s what the witty—and frugal—food lover ate and drank over a recent 24-hour period.
luisa weiss

Every morning, I make myself a cup of tea. I have this little one-cup teapot and some Mariage Frères Earl Grey that I bought in bulk when I went to Paris in April. I can’t drink coffee, unfortunately, though I love the taste. I don’t know if it’s some weird caffeine allergy or what, but coffee caffeine makes me pass out—literally. I drink my tea with 1 percent milk. (I try to only use organic but that’s about as much as I stipulate.) I’m definitely a milk-in-my-tea person. I even drink Lapsong Souchong with milk, which I’m sure would make a bunch of English people fall over in a dead faint. But I grew up drinking it that way; to me, you can’t have it without it.

So I had tea and two pieces of sourdough toast. I live in Forest Hills, which has a dearth of some kinds of foods, like quality fresh fish, but luckily for me, it has really good breads from Zabar’s and places like that. I pick mine up at a grocery store called Natural on Austin Street. (There’s also a bakery called Bonelle that makes a really amazing baguette. But it costs $3.75. I bought it once and decided I don’t make enough money to buy it again.)

One of my authors is working on a canning book, and she sent me like seven jars of jam and preserves earlier this year, so I had her homemade strawberry preserves with lemon peel. I don’t put any butter on the bread. I just eat it with preserves. I’m sort of a pain in the neck about butter. I grew up in Berlin, and when I’m in Germany I’ll eat butter because the butter there tastes really good. I feel like the butter here—even if I’m buying expensive, imported butter—always has that weird coating of butter that’s gone bad because it’s been sitting in the fridge for too long. Butter in Germany has an incredible tang. It’s just a totally different flavor from butter here.

I also had plain Liberté yogurt, my total and utter and complete obsession. I am that lady at the grocery store: I’ll buy like eight of them at a time. I eat one, I think, every day. I’ll often eat it for a snack as well. I’ll bring one to the office, where there’s always a jar of Domino sugar in the kitchen, and I’ll just have yogurt with sugar sprinkled into it. It reminds me of when I was living in Paris.

I can’t go three or four hours without eating; I have to eat breakfast. I have to eat lunch. I have to eat dinner. And I usually have to eat a snack, too. I get cranky if I don’t. I try to handle the snack time because I sit in an office all day long. Some days I’m better than others. If I’m really busy I can skip a snack, but then I get pretty hungry by dinner. Breakfast, though, is non-negotiable.

I work in Chelsea, so I’m actually quite lucky. I have lots of great lunch opportunities at my fingertips. When I first moved to New York I worked in midtown and I found after about two weeks I had exhausted all my lunch options. That was before Midtown Lunch existed. Now I’m sort of jealous that I don’t work in midtown anymore! Yesterday, I went to Uncle Moe’s and I had my first taquitos. I’d never had those before. They were really pretty good. The best part was the salsa verde that came with them. They also came with rice and beans, but I kind of feel like if you’re eating three fried tacos stuffed with chicken, you don’t really need to eat rice and beans, too.

I like eating lunch at Uncle Moe’s. It’s one of the few places in the summer that isn’t totally air-conditioned until it’s the temperature of a meat locker, and they always have Mexican music playing. It feels sort of West Coast and nice. But I was with my colleague, so we just zipped back to the office and I ate at my desk, which is pretty soulless, but sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. So I was editing with one hand and eating with the other. I loved that salsa verde, though.

Occasionally, I go through phases where I pack my own lunch. I get gripped with a desire to be totally virtuous in terms of my wallet and my diet by getting more home-cooked meals in, but my life is mostly too busy to be able to make lunch so I usually end up buying it. I have found some seriously creepy-cheap places in my neighborhood. There’s a $1 pizza stand down the street, and the pizza’s pretty terrible, but they also have good chicken and rice. My blog readers would probably be horrified to know that I will sometimes eat $1 chicken with $1 rice for lunch, but, you know, if you’re hungry and you want a warm meal and can’t afford a $10 lunch...

I had a busy afternoon, so no snack. Usually when I’m at the office and I have one of those it’s-4-o’clock-and-I’m-about-to-die moments, I end up at the vending machine. There’s just something about a nice, crackly, vending machine candy package.

After work, I went downtown to meet a girlfriend. We had a date to see The September Issue. Before the movie, we went to Vanessa’s Dumplings. It used to just be this little hole-in-the-wall called Dumpling House and now it’s this slightly larger hole-in-the-wall. I’m a dumpling freak and I especially love that vinegar-y soy sauce. We had the fried chive and pork dumplings and the steamed chicken and shrimp dumplings and we split a sesame vegetable sandwich, which is a vegetable sandwich on sesame bread—it looks sort of like a meatless banh mi—with shredded carrots, cilantro, and chopped-up scallions. You can get it with roast pork and hoisin sauce, but we just got the vegetarian one. It’s like a condiment sandwich. The entire meal, which came out to 12 dumplings, a sandwich, and two bottles of water, was $8.

And that’s it. That’s all I had to eat all day. It’s really pretty anomalous. I do cook myself dinner most days of the week. But yesterday I just ate a lot of food out.

Subscribe to Gourmet