What It’s Really Like to Live With a Food Nerd: Our Loved Ones Tell All

What It’s Really Like to Live With a Food Nerd: Our Loved Ones Tell All


Red-wine braised beef short ribs on a plate with the rich, reduced sauce and sides of mashed potatoes and carrots

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

Tell someone you work at Serious Eats, and you’re bound to get some variation on, “Wow, your partner/roommate/spouse is so lucky! They must get to eat so much delicious food.” To which we reply, “I know, right? I’m such a catch.”

Naturally, these are the very thoughts running through all of your minds each and every moment you spend on the site. But, never ones to toot our own horns, we’ve decided to let our loved ones rub it in all on their own. For anyone who’s ever wondered, here’s what it’s really like to cook, eat, love, and live with a Serious Eats staffer.

(Spoiler alert: It’s a real privilege.)

We Slow Everything Down

Living in Jackson Heights is heaven on Earth for two people who are crazy about food. Our neighborhood is full of fantastic South Asian, East Asian, and Latin American restaurants—one year into living here, and it feels like we’ve barely scratched the surface. There’s just one pitfall: This abundance of choices wreaks havoc on Daniel’s deep and abiding need to know that he is ordering the Best and Most Correct Things when we go out to eat. This dilemma tends to manifest as indecision and slight panic on his part, and we generally end up ordering several times more food than we can eat in one sitting! There are worse problems to have—our fridge is perpetually full of tasty leftovers. —Bex Shubert, Daniel Dyssegaard Kallick’s partner

And Speed Everything Up

I like to think I’ve cooked many meals for Ariel. I warmly recall scenes of chopping vibrant green produce while she looks on in adoration from the other side of the counter. Maybe I dip a spoon into a gently bubbling pot of something—a delicate sauce perhaps?—and hold it out for her to taste. She smiles and nods with approval. I put on a record. We dance in the kitchen while I stir with one hand. There’s a dish towel draped effortlessly over my shoulder. The whole thing is a montage taken straight from the B-roll of Love Actually, minus the charming British people.

What I forget is that after I’ve flipped through half a dozen cookbooks, finally picked a recipe, bought groceries, and spent an hour—a full hour—chopping an onion and a few pieces of kale, Ariel has gradually gone from casually observing to moderately hovering to standing where a moment earlier I stood in front of the stove and then cooked an improvised version of what would’ve taken me two more hours to complete. I don’t know when I sat down on the other side of the counter and took the dish towel off my shoulder, but I don’t care. This bowl of chicken and veggies and couscous and whatever else she found in the fridge is so much better, hilariously better, than what I’d planned. And she made it in 17 minutes. —Gabby Losch, Ariel Kanter‘s boyfriend

Our Standards Are High

I couldn’t help but smirk when Sasha asked if I’d write a little something about cooking and eating with him. I have a strict, no-Sasha-allowed policy in the kitchen when I cook. Without realizing it, he always gets “the look” when watching other people cook—something I’m sure he picked up running the pass and watching over cooks in restaurant kitchens. It’s an anxiety-inducing gaze of silent judgment. He’s meticulous and exacting about cooking and cleaning in the kitchen, while I prefer a more free-spirited approach when making dinner. This is all to say, Sasha cooks most nights, and I eat like a carb queen.

Eating out with Sasha is a whole other deal. There’s a strategy to it that I’ve tried to relay to inquiring friends—just choosing a restaurant requires an eye-rolling amount of due diligence. He’s always talking with industry friends and reading about the restaurant scene, and before committing to a spot, he scours menus for culinary integrity as well as grammatical red flags like “fettucini” that set him off. After menu approval, he generally moves on to cross-referencing reviews from “reputable outlets” and scrolling through Instagram for unforgivable plating sins (both square plates and microgreens are dealbreakers for some reason). It’s a bit much, but I can say that we do eat extremely well most of the time.

When we’re traveling, Sasha can also get a little carried away with the eating itinerary. After making himself ill from a post-second-lunch, pre-dinner snack of Basque cheesecake on our honeymoon, I’ve begun enforcing rules, like only one multi-course sit-down meal allowed per day. So far, so good. —Cate Megley, Sasha Marx‘s dining partner for life

So Sometimes We Judge

If you are reading this, please call the authorities! I live in perpetual fear of disappointing my partner, Grace. She constantly demands the most elaborate and labor-intensive meals one could imagine. And if everything is not cooked to perfection, there’s hell to pay. Also being a member of Serious Eats, she expects me to have immaculate technique and be able to defend my process for why I made any given dish a certain way. And my notes must stand up to the most intense intellectual rigor. Woe be unto me if I am not sure why I chose to sear a steak in a nonstick versus cast-iron pan, or what led me to cook a pork shoulder sous vide for 12 hours at 140° instead of 14 hours at 138°. And if we run out of chili crisp, I may not live to tell you about it. My life is a waking nightmare. SAVE ME!! [ed. note: fact-checking with the party in question indicates that none of the above is true. Except the chili-crisp part.] —Ben Cohen, Grace Chen’s partner

And Critique

I learned early on in my relationship with Paul that he will judge the way I chop my onions. To avoid any potential tears (that were not induced by the onion itself), we’ve settled into a routine that suits us well: He chops and cooks the food, while I open and pour the wine. 🤷🏼‍♀️ —Christine Pracht, Paul Cline’s partner

And Downright Terrorize

Maybe sometimes you have felt a ghost-like presence in your life? A feeling that something is just there and that it’s looking at you. You think to yourself, “Haha, silly me, ‘tis but the specter of a spirit for nothing of the like walks this mortal plane” and go on with your life. But sometimes, if you’re me, you will be quietly humming while chopping carrots for a mirepoix and you look up and HARK THERE IT IS AND IT WEARS THE MASK OF THE RED DEATH BORING DISAPPROVING BLOOD LAZER EYES INTO YOUR SOUL OH GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE PLEASE HAVE MERCY!??!?

But then you sort of recover your composure and make yourself very small, too small to be noticed because it is, in fact, no supernatural horror but the look your wife gets when she has asked you to complete some basic kitchen task in the service of a multi-course meal for a shared repast with friends who are arriving in two hours and it has not been done to her standards. You take in a breath, knowing what comes next, and sheepishly ask if everything is okay. She says “Yes, it’s fine” but her face says “No, how dare you lay a hand upon this bounty of the earth you worm.” And then you ask again and she mumbles something about where your fingers are on the knife and then the next thing you know you have been relieved of all kitchen duties and are despatched to go “hang out with Stevie,” which is also a handy metaphor for where in the family hierarchy you are at this very moment. From your banishment, you can literally feel anxiety and rage levels flow forth from the other room as “[REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED]” quickly drowns out the “fun” cooking music (Blondie) you’ve mutually agreed upon. The crashing and profane caterwauls rise like some insane necromantic ritual until suddenly all is quiet and the silence is most terrifying of all. You, that supplicant judged and found wanting, finally poke your head out and ask “Is everything okay?” as you struggle to hold back the extremely strong dog that you have been charged with overseeing. And you look out upon a visage of true carnage—a kitchen that has been condemned and made to suffer. And the author of that bedlam stands before you, hair blown to electric heights, smeared and streaked with unknowable fluids, and rage in her eyes and she stares at you, and you wonder whether this time it is it, this is the last time, this is the time your uselessness is too much and you will be forever cast out.

But in the middle of the foldout side table that serves as “dining room” you see a series of perfectly prepared and beautifully plated delicacies that smell like the gods themselves have anointed them and you look at your watch, and it’s 20 minutes until that one guy who always gets there exactly on time is going to get there and the fire in her eyes starts to go out and she says, “Okay, now I’ve got to get ready really quick before [that guy] gets here” and you see that you will not be sacrificed this day. And then, in penitence you sing the refrain of the useless man everywhere: “This looks amazing, Niki! I’ll clean.” —Josh Scannell, Niki Achitoff-Gray‘s hostage partner

We’ve Been Known to Neglect

There are those who mistakenly believe that Ed has served time as a restaurant critic. As I carefully explained to one of them recently, Ed does not do anonymous. Not for Ed the surreptitious visits to the new hot place under an assumed identity. No. While Ed is happy to try to accommodate my preference for anonymity, he loves to be greeted by name by the maître d’, the sous-chef, the sommelier, the pastry chef, and to end a meal out with a long tête-à-tête with the leader of the kitchen himself or herself. There have been times, my birthday, for example, when I have begged to go to a restaurant where Ed would be unrecognized, and I could have him to myself for the whole evening. One year we went to a Starbucks. Ed was quite anonymous there. We had a Valentine’s dinner at La Caridad 78, a local Cuban-Chinese place favored by taxi drivers. It was heaven. Instead of sitting with a fixed smile on my face while Ed chatted away with a semi-circle of restaurant professionals, I got to be the center of attention. —Vicky Bijur, Ed Levine‘s wife

And Occasionally Steamroll

Duck crowns hanging in the fridge on day 3.

Maggie—my partner in crime, roommate, and older sister—and I share mildly obsessive tendencies that translate into big (and oftentimes, unnecessary) projects. She has always been my biggest advocate and support through all of these projects but also serves as my voice of reason. Her advice, rooted in logic and efficiency, has influenced my decisions small and large for as long as I can remember. Maggie is always the first to tell me that I don’t need something or if something is a waste of my time.

Yet, ever since starting her job at Serious Eats, her judgment about all food-related issues has become deeply skewed. Her frequent reminders that “tHeRe’s No rOoM iN ThE fRiDgE” have been replaced by next-level refrigerator tessellation because yes, we need to dry-age a duck, cure a batch of duck confit, and hang duck ham all at the same time. Likewise, her usual minimalist and frugal tendencies have dissipated in the name of buying nice versions of everyday ingredients.

We recently estimated that we spend 90% of our time on thoughts about and activity surrounding food, as evidenced by our shared, cloud-based grocery list and text logs, which have urgent reminders to feed the sourdough starter or to defrost the veggie stock. It’s clear that her job at Serious Eats has turned our lives into one never-ending project to cook and eat all the nice things™, but I’m not complaining (as long as I continue to be fed with test kitchen leftovers). —Joann Lee, Maggie Lee’s sister

Finding a Scapegoat Helps

In 2016, I wrote a story for Serious Eats about what it was like to live—and cook—with Daniel. Our relationship in the kitchen (and out) was fiery and often contentious, as Daniel tried to teach me actual techniques and I resisted. Now, four years later, we have a toddler, which means that cooking at home has become something you do in a hurry, half-clothed, usually holding a small but heavy human. No longer is anyone noticing how thinly the vegetables are sliced or whether the “work station” has remained pristine; putting something on the table that’s not takeout is more or less the most impressive thing that happens now. And you know, I kind of miss the old days. We cared about how our string beans were cut, how romantic and dumb! Okay fine, Daniel definitely still also cares about my work station, but now there’s someone around who’s even messier and more chaotic than I am, so it takes the heat off me. Which I appreciate! Thanks, Adrian! —Kate Lowenstein, Daniel Gritzer’s wife

Love, Serious Eats

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