The JungleJuly 17, 201827min0

If Amazon Prime Day is the internet’s version of an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet, then think of us as the hungry but discerning diners there to feast on high-value items like smoked salmon and made-to-order omelets. There are going to be a lot of deals to sift through between 3 p.m. ET July 16 and 3 a.m. ET July 18, but don’t waste your time: we’ll be going through and finding the best, most bang-for-your-buck kitchen sales to shop and posting them right here. Read on for what to buy now, and keep checking back as more deals are added.

instant pot bbq ribs 1

Photo by Chelsie Craig, Food Styling by Kat Boytsova, Prop Styling by Emily Eisen

Fact: these ribs were made in an Instant Pot.

If you’ve been following the tale of the Instant Pot over the past two years, then you know that the hybrid slow cooker/pressure cooker is capable of making broth in 30 minutes, steel-cut oatmeal in 3 minutes, and coq au vin in under an hour. The multi-functional appliance usually costs around $100, but Amazon has been known to drop the price to too-good-to-pass-up levels on shopping holidays, especially Prime Day. This year, the 6-qt DUO60 is $59.

Buy it: Instant Pot 6-qt DUO60, $59 (originally $100)


Photo by Alex Lau

Two Joules in action.

Sous vide cooking is the answer to making perfectly cooked steak, chicken, and fish in your home kitchen, and our favorite tool for the job, the Joule, is at its lowest price ever this Prime Day: $129. (Read more about why we love the Joule here.)

Buy it: ChefSteps Joule Sous Vide (White), $129 (originally $179)


Photo by Alex Lau, Food Styling by Anna Billingskog

Press and seal.

Once you’ve got that sous vide machine, you’re going to want a vacuum sealer. You don’t need one—you can easily use heavy-duty freezer bags to safely sous vide—but food-grade vacuum sealing bags are the gold standard, and to use those, you need this tool. The FoodSaver vacuum sealer starter set is our favorite, and it’s on sale for Prime Day. Plus, it comes with pre-cut bags in various sizes, so you don’t need to worry about those until you run out.

Buy it: FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer System, $80 (originally $100)

Yes, if you search hard enough, you can find a KitchenAid stand mixer on sale any day of the year. But in a color that isn’t from last year’s limited edition run? Only on Prime Day folks. Classic 6-qt mixers in silver, onyx black, and empire red are up to 60% off right now.

Buy it: KitchenAid Stand Mixer, Silver, $252 (originally $450)

Buy it: KitchenAid Stand Mixer, Onyx Black, $252 (originally $450)

Buy it: KitchenAid Stand Mixer, Empire Red, $220 (originally $391)

Basically gift guide 2017 Vitamix blender

The Vitamix 5200 is $152 less than its usual price.

At time of publishing, three different models of the Vitamix blender are on sale. Long favored by restaurant pros, the classic 5200 is more than 40% off, while the more affordable E310 is 30% off at $200. (Note that the on-sale E310 is “certified refurbished,” meaning that Vitamix gave it an updated motor and new container.) If you’re looking for an extremely heavy-duty blender, the 7500 is marked down 30% to $370.

Buy it: Vitamix 5200 Blender, $298 (originally $450)

Buy it: Vitamix E310 Blender (Certified Refurbished), $200 (originally $290)

Buy it: Vitamix 7500 Blender, $370 (originally $530)

Similar to the Instant Pot, if you’re going to buy a robot vacuum, the most economical time to do so is at Prime Day prices. The iRobot robovac connects to Wifi and is compatible with Alexa or Google Home. Reviewers say that it cleans a variety of surfaces (hardwood floors, throw rugs, carpets, marble) and its dirt sensor, which detects areas where there’s extra debris, actually works (it passes over dirt spots three times before moving on).

Buy it: iRobot Roomba Robot Vacuum, $250 (originally $350)

classic hummus processor 3 oil

Photo by Alex Lau, Styling by Sue Li

This can be you, making hummus in your food processor.

There are currently two Prime Day sales on Cuisinart food processors (which is what the BA Test Kitchen uses). The heavy duty 14-cup is marked down to $142, but this size is best if you often find yourself making big batches of dough. If you’re just looking for something to make dips and sauces like hummus or pesto, the mini is better. It’s also way cheaper—the last time we checked, the Prime Day deal reflected a price of $25.

Buy it: Cuisinart 14-Cup Food Processor, $142 (originally $186)

Buy it: Cuisinart Mini Prep Plus Food Processor, $25 (originally $38)

Sparkling water addicts rejoice! The SodaStream is here to maximize your carbonation capabilities. All you need to do is fill the bottle with water, insert it into the machine, and press a button that’ll create the CO2 bubbles. It’s light, easy to store, and will cut down on waste from plastic bottles and aluminum cans.

Buy it: SodaStream Jet Sparkling Water Maker Without Carbonator, $40 (originally $50)

Need some recipe inspo for that Instant Pot? Start here:


All products featured on are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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The JungleJuly 17, 201827min0

This post originally appeared in Bill Addison’s newsletter “Notes From a Roving Critic,” a twice-monthly dispatch from Bill’s travels across the country. Browse the archives and subscribe now.

This week, Eater published a colossal project: The Essential Guide to Eating California, shepherded by travel editor Lesley Suter. If you’ve read any of these recent newsletters, you know I spent nearly two months throughout spring ambling the state. I doubt, with all sincerity, that I’ll ever eat better during a long-term national project in my career.

As with other undertakings in our “Regional 38” series (we most recently tackled Texas), my central assignment in California was leading the charge to identify the state’s 38 essential restaurants. I remind myself daily what a privilege this job is… but also, this kind of task is tortuous and next to impossible. Lesley and I spent literal days debating this list; we went back again and again to check our thinking with the entrenched and richly opinionated Eater staffers who live in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego.

I wholly stand by our final roster, but I’ve never felt so exasperated by the limitations of the number 38. (Why 38? There’s no question I get asked more in my travels. Eater co-founders Lockhart Steele and Ben Leventhal liked to say it meant nothing. I tell myself it’s a distinct, satisfying number between 25 and 50, and that “Eater 38” has a nice alliteration.)

So I gave myself permission to imagine what the list might have looked like with 50 slots to fill. Here are a dozen more restaurants I love:

The duck confit basteeya at Mourad

The duck confit basteeya at Mourad

Mourad: Here, chef-owner Mourad Lahlou, a native of Marrakesh, merges the techniques and ingredients of his motherland and Northern California. I most crave his nods to Moroccan cuisine like duck confit and his couscous crowned with whatever vegetables and meats most inspire at the moment. (And I still miss his more overtly Moroccan restaurant, Aziza in SF’s Richmond district, a favorite when I lived in the city last decade.)

State Bird Provisions: Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski adopted cart service as homage to San Francisco’s love of dim sum; that’s only the beginning of their respectful, intersectional cooking that bridges and tunnels through myriad cuisines. Securing a reservation is ridiculously difficult; I’ve always had luck showing up early or late.

Californios: At Val Cantu’s tiny tasting-menu restaurant in San Francisco’s Mission District, he distills and unites the culinary influences of his Mexican heritage, Texas upbringing, and California home. His tres frijoles dish — the most haute expression of the humble bean imaginable, caviar included, is on its own worth the admission, which is $187 per person (midrange by Bay Area tasting menu standards).

Kin Khao: Wedged into one corner on the Parc 55 hotel near San Francisco’s Union Square, Pim Techamuanvivit’s restaurant delivers Thai flavors in their fullest, fieriest, most nuanced grandeur. Notable for lunch in an area where great daytime dining options are slim, but even better for dinner, when the menu greatly expands with dishes like rabbit green curry.

The mighty porchetta melt at Gjusta

The mighty porchetta melt at Gjusta

Gjusta: Some of my Eater colleagues complain openly about the setup of this deli-ish hybrid in Venice; take a number and while you wait, peruse counters filled with pizzas and salads and pastries and smoked fish and charcuterie and more, trying to settle on some choices. I agree the system — and the crowds — can be maddening, but once you find your place in the bionetwork, the scene can be energizing and the food so California delicious. Porchetta melt, people. Porchetta melt.

Night + Market: Thai dining culture in Los Angeles is rich and expansive; chef-owner Kris Yenbamroong reaches deep into the lexicon of Northern Thai street food, marking dishes with his stamp as an aficionado and sociologist. Start with a salad of fried larb “meatballs” (made from pork meat, liver, and blood) and take it from there.

Coni’Seafood: There’s so much astounding Mexican food in Los Angeles. Connie Cossio’s seafood restaurant specializes in recipes from the western state of Nayarit. The grilled whole snook feeds four and draws the most attention on social media (ahem), but start with the shrimp ceviche and maybe throw in some marlin tacos.

Lunasia: I poinpointed Lunasia as the pinnacle dim sum experience in the San Gabriel Valley after eating many dumplings and noodles and baos and egg tarts. When it came to the agony of narrowing down this list, it was a standoff between here and Koi Palace in Daly City, just south of SF. Koi Palace made the cut… but you should still join the lines here for some terrific dim sum.

The BLT at Bob’s Well Bread Bakery

The BLT at Bob’s Well Bread Bakery

Bob’s Well Bread Bakery: Central Coasters I know like to brag that this is their Tartine. It’s worth a detour into Los Alamos (a small town about 45 miles up the coast from Santa Barbara) for a breakfast and lunch menu built around Bob Oswaks’s incredible breads. I’m longing for the BLT right now, with a canelé for dessert.

TJ Oyster Bar: Okay, so in San Diego we told you where to go for ocean-side fine dining and lamb’s head barbacoa. But you really want to know where to go for a fish taco, right? This is my answer: TJ Oyster Bar resides in a strip mall in Bonita, a town about 12 miles from central San Diego. Two locations exist nearby one another; go to the original (at 4246 Bonita Rd.) that holds only 17 seats. Here’s your gorgeous crescent of battered tilapia plucked directly from the fryer, draped over a corn tortilla, and cooled by cabbage, chopped tomato, and a streak of crema.

Lawry’s the Prime Rib and House of Prime Rib: Again, no regrets on our decisive list, but I am personally sad that we couldn’t squeeze in more old-school California, of which I’m a fan. Case in point: the flagship Lawry’s the Prime Rib in Beverly Hills, first opened in 1938, and the House of Prime Rib in San Francisco, founded in 1949. Their focus is obvious; the menus strikingly similar. Both are wonderful. I’ll have more to say about each one of them — and a restaurant in a similar vein that I may prefer over both — in another story.

Yeah. California really is the best.

Your roving critic,

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The JungleJuly 17, 20188min0

Hi there!

My name is Megan and I’m 21. I lost 45 pounds on the 30 Day Clean Eating Challenge and I’m excited to share my story with you today 🙂

I’m married and have two dogs and for work, I’m a sales manager at a furniture store and like to go hiking for fun.

When my mom first told me about CleanFoodCrush, I was excited about the results I saw other people getting and I decided to take the leap!

Before finding CleanFoodCrush I struggled to stay consistent with healthy eating and exercise. I used food for comfort and it was really difficult to break that habit.

Now, I LOVE what I eat and all of the recipes are helping me to shed weight without ever going hungry.

Eat Clean Southwest Chicken + Rice Bowls

When I started the challenge, I realized I’m not alone. There are so many people out there just like me, trying to get healthy with Clean Eating.

The 30 Day Clean Eating Challenge has shown me that Clean Eating can be sustainable and fun. I never got bored with the meals and was constantly surprised by how delicious everything was. 

For me personally, having the community support in the private group was hands-down one of the top benefits of following the full program. I could ask questions and get support anytime, post photos and learn with other people on the same path as me.

I lost 45 Pounds while on the 30 Day Clean Eating Challenge, but that’s only part of what I achieved! I don’t feel sluggish and tired after I eat anymore, and I feel so much better in my skin. 

I’ve noticed a HUGE change in myself. Luckily my husband was right by my side the whole time. He helped coach me and made sure we were on track.

My words of wisdom for newcomers: it’s WORTH IT in the end! Don’t give up. Even if you feel like you’ve tried everything, this program really works. Clean Eating is a lifestyle transformation, and you can go slow and get results long-term. It won’t always be easy, but it will be worth it!


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The JungleJuly 16, 201849min0

Welcome to Kitchn’s Food Budget Diaries series, where we show you how people around the country spend money on what they eat and drink. Each post will follow one person for one week and will chronicle everything that person consumed and how much it costs them.

Name: Stacy
Location: Oxford, Mississippi
Age: 29
Number of people in family: 2 (me and my husband, Will)
Occupation: I’m a receptionist and my husband is a graduate student in ceramics.
Household income: $25,000/year
Weekly food budget: $75

Day 1: Sunday

6:10 a.m.: I wake up but don’t feel like getting out of bed yet, so I set a back-up alarm in case I fall asleep.

6:50 a.m.: I finally get out of bed and walk our dog. When I get back, Will is up and grumbling because my back-up alarm woke him up — whoops. He goes back to sleep, and I feed our animals: our dog, Evie, and two cats, Henry and Luna. I peek inside of the kiln that I fired last night (I make ceramic jewelry in my free time) and go for a quick run.

8 a.m.: I start making super-simple vegan pancakes from food blogger Cookie and Kate. We usually make pancakes once every weekend and modify the recipe based on what we have around. This time I’m adding chocolate chips. Evie’s watching me cook, anxiously awaiting her silver dollar “pupcake.” I make her one without chocolate, and she gobbles it up.

8:40 a.m.: Will wakes up, and we eat our pancakes (we slather them in peanut butter). Will makes himself a pour over coffee, and I start working on our meal plan for the week. We add recipes to our meal planning spreadsheet and make our grocery list.

9:40 a.m.: I drink a half cup of coffee, and we watch an episode of Monk.

11 a.m.: Will makes another pour over.

11:15 a.m.: Will eats an almond granola bar and doesn’t tell me, since it’s the last one. He admits it a few minutes later.

11:45 a.m.: Will is making ANOTHER cup of coffee. I try to stop him but to no avail. He says, “I’m going to regret this so much later.” He has a very unhealthy relationship with coffee.

12:15 p.m.: We take Evie to the park for a walk. It’s too hot for her, so I carry her half of the way.

1:10 p.m.: We eat leftover lentil and rice bowls that Will made yesterday, based on Kitchn’s recipe for tomato braised lentils. We also eat a little bit of cookies & cream ice cream from the freezer.

1:30 p.m.: We head to Kroger to do our shopping for the week. We have a couple of free items to get with our digital coupons: a Knorr skillet meal and a Core drink. Unfortunately, they’re out of 99-cent kale today.


Brown rice noodles, $2.89
Apples, $3.13
Bananas, $1.28
Cantaloupe, $2.99
Core water, free
Garlic, $.35
Knorr skillet meal, free
Garbanzo beans, $1.59
Mandarin orange seltzer water, $2
Whole-grain oats, $1.59
Popcorn, $1.59
Tomato sauce, $.25
White cheddar rice cakes, $1.99
Lemons, $1.58
Green cabbage, $.99
Limes, $.50
Rice vinegar, $2.99
Corn tortillas, $1.99
Green onions, $.50
White onions, $.77
Salted mixed nuts, $2.49
Pineapple, $.99
Sweet potatoes, $1.63
Passion fruit & papaya tea, $2.29
Canned tomatoes, $1
Frozen berry medley, $3.29
Extra-firm tofu, $1.79
Carrots, $1.99
Mozzarella cheese, $1.99

Total, including tax: $49.68

2:30 p.m.: We split a mandarin orange seltzer water on the way to Chicory Market, a local produce market, where we’ll pick up kale and farro. When we arrive at the market, they’re out of farro, so we decide to improvise with something out of our pantry. We share a chicory cold brew coffee.

Chicory Market

Tuscan kale, $3.99
Cold brew coffee, $3.50

Total, including tax: $8.02

3 p.m.: We arrive home and do a little bit of meal prep. I freeze some overripe bananas and start a batch of slow cooker chickpeas from Food Network to use in recipes throughout the week. Then I start cleaning the house while Will roasts sweet potatoes to make a purée for one of our recipes. He also cuts up some carrot sticks, which we nibble on, and he roasts coffee in our home roaster. We listen to a fun sci-fi audiobook that we started on a road trip a couple of weeks ago.

4:30 p.m.: We split another seltzer water, and I make a batch of granola from Chowhound to have on top of our oatmeal this week. Oats upon oats!

We still have enough lentils to eat for dinner, but I make a batch of peanut slaw from Cookie and Kate to eat for lunch and dinner tomorrow. Luckily, we don’t mind eating the same thing several times in a row. This time, I make it with Maifun brown rice noodles instead of soba noodles.

6 p.m.: We eat the rest of our lentils, garnished with Sriracha and Parmesan cheese, while we watch another episode of Monk. Will eats a bowl of homemade granola.

7 p.m.: I eat an apple, and we watch Coco on Netflix. Will snacks on some carrot sticks.

9 p.m.: We get ready for bed.

Day 2: Monday

6 a.m.: Our alarms go off. We both snooze.

6:10 a.m.: Will gets up. I keep snoozing.

6:30 a.m.: I finally get up. Will makes us oatmeal on the stovetop and makes himself a pour over coffee. We eat our oatmeal topped with peanut butter, jam, soy milk, frozen berries, and granola. Our cat Luna stares at us while we eat. She is weirdly obsessed with oatmeal.

7:45 a.m.: We leave for work. Will is out of school for the summer, but he still goes into the studio every day to work on his pottery and sculptures. I drop him off at the studio and then drive to my office on the other side of campus.

8 a.m.: I arrive at work and make a cup of passion fruit and papaya black tea.

10 a.m.: I’m already dreaming about the peanut slaw I have for lunch. Mmm … I always look forward to eating it. I make a cup of spicy herbal tea.

10:30 a.m.: Will eats some mixed nuts and makes a cup of coffee in the Aeropress that he keeps at his studio.

12:15 p.m.: I eat a piece of candy from the candy bowl at work.

1:10 p.m.: I leave for lunch and pick Will up at the studio. I get an hour break, so we have time to go home to eat and let Evie out. I mix some of the chickpeas I made last night into the peanut slaw, and we each eat a large bowl and drink a seltzer water. Will also eats some carrot sticks and saltines.

2:10 p.m.: Will drops me off at work so he can go home and take a nap. I make another cup of black tea.

4 p.m.: Will heads back to the studio and eats two white cheddar rice cakes.

5 p.m.: Will picks me up from work. We head home, where Will takes Evie for a walk, and I dish up another serving of peanut slaw for our dinner. This time, I garnish it with cilantro, Sriracha, and a lime wedge. We enjoy it with two more seltzer waters.

6 p.m.: Will makes us some delicious stovetop popcorn from Cookie and Kate, which we devour while watching the last episode of Monk. Will also eats an apple and some saltines. I start rolling out slabs of porcelain to make into earrings and necklaces.

7:30 p.m.: I clean up my ceramic stuff and do the dishes. We eat the rest of the cookies & cream ice cream from the freezer. I also eat an apple.

Day 3: Tuesday

6:30 a.m.: We both wake up after a little bit of snoozing. Will walks Evie, and I start the oatmeal. Today we top our oatmeal with peanut butter, jam, granola, and frozen berries. Will adds a few chocolate chips to his and makes himself a pour over coffee.

8 a.m.: I start settling in at work and make my first cup of tea.

8:15 a.m.: My coworker gives me a yummy chocolate chip cookie.

9:20 a.m.: Another coworker gives me a piece of chocolate-caramel candy.

11 a.m.: At the studio, Will eats some mixed nuts.

1:05 p.m.: I pick up Will and we head home for lunch. We finish off the peanut slaw and drink seltzer waters.

2:30 p.m.: Back at work, I make a cup of herbal tea.

4 p.m.: Will eats a couple of white cheddar rice cakes.

5:15 p.m.: We arrive home. Will eats some saltine crackers and then walks Evie while I start dinner. I thaw a can-sized bag of black beans from the freezer and mix up a batch of taco seasoning.

(Image credit: Stacy H.)

We’re trying out a new recipe: quick vegan enchiladas from 101 Cookbooks. I’m omitting the olives and almonds from the recipe to make it more budget-friendly. Will returns from his walk and then reads and meditates.

6:15 p.m.: The enchiladas are in the oven, so I start cleaning and refining the ceramic pieces that I made last night. Will makes the tahini sauce and chops up cilantro to go on top of the enchiladas.

6:45 p.m.: We eat dinner and start watching The Departed. The enchiladas are delicious!

7:30 p.m.: Will eats some chocolate chips and a little bit of cantaloupe. I eat a lot of cantaloupe. We share the last sparkling water — they rarely make it past Tuesday.

9:30 p.m.: Bedtime.

Day 4: Wednesday

6:30 a.m.: We both get up. Will makes us breakfast and a pour over coffee. He drinks half of his coffee and takes half of it with him to the studio in a Thermos. It’s storming, and Evie is hiding in the closet. Breakfast is, once again, oatmeal with peanut butter, jam, berries, and granola.

7:30 a.m.: I attempt to walk Evie, which does not go well, as she is still terrified from the thunder. I feed her and sing “The Gravy Song,” a little song we made up to get her excited about eating her kibble.

8:05 a.m.: Will’s at the studio, and I’m at the office drinking a cup of orange spice black tea.

10:20 a.m.: Time for a cup of herbal tea! The store brand tea I drink comes out to about 10 cents per cup, so I don’t feel bad about drinking several cups throughout the day. At the studio, Will snacks on more mixed nuts.

12:40 p.m.: I’m drooling over pictures of food on the internet. Will and I go home for lunch and eat our leftover enchiladas. We agree to add the recipe to our regular rotation. We also eat the rest of the cantaloupe from yesterday, and Will makes a pour over coffee.

1:50 p.m.: I’m back at work drinking a cup of iced black tea.

4 p.m.: Will eats two rice cakes at the studio. I slice up some Edam cheese that my office received as a gift and eat an inadvisable amount.

5:10 p.m.: We stop at a gas station to fill up our tank and treat ourselves to a diet soda.

Gas Station

Diet soda, $.89

Total, including tax: $.95

5:20 p.m.: Back at home, I take Evie for a walk. When I get back, the cats are meowing up a storm. I feed everyone their kibble. Will reads and snacks on saltines and an apple.

(Image credit: Stacy H.)

5:40 p.m.: Will is starting dinner (chili garlic tofu bowls with sesame kale from Budget Bytes). This is a staple dish for us, and the sauce is pure magic. Will sneaks several pieces of tofu while he’s cooking. We realize that we have four episodes of MasterChef to watch! Well, there goes the next four hours of our lives. I’m working on my jewelry while Will cooks.

6:30 p.m.: Dinner is ready, and it is amazing as always.

7 p.m.: Will runs out to the store to get berries and milk for smoothies. While he’s gone, I edit some of the food photos I’ve been taking this week.

Dollar General

Frozen mixed berries, $2.60
Milk, $2.65

Total, including tax: $5.62

7:30 p.m.: I make us berry-banana smoothies with peanut butter and granola for dessert. We watch more MasterChef.

8:45 p.m.: We start getting ready for bed.

Day 5: Thursday

6:30 a.m.: We’re both up after our standard 30-minute snooze. Will starts the oatmeal and his pour over.

(Image credit: Stacy H.)

7 a.m.: I top our oatmeal with peanut butter, jam, berries, granola, and, in a shocking twist, milk. It’s more toppings than oatmeal at this point.

7:55 a.m.: We park at my office, and Will walks to the studio. I make a cup of iced black tea and settle into my desk.

10 a.m.: The World Cup is on! I’m not a big sports fan, but I do like watching the World Cup. Will snacks on mixed nuts at the studio.

12 p.m.: Will packed his lunch today so that he could eat a little earlier. He eats a leftover tofu bowl.

1:15 p.m.: Will and I head home. I eat my tofu bowl and an apple, and Will finishes off the homemade granola with some milk. He makes another cup of coffee.

2:20 p.m.: I make my second cup of tea.

3 p.m.: My coworker brings in ice cream for everyone to share. I eat a chocolate-covered cone.

(Image credit: Stacy H.)

5:15 p.m.: We have a ton of cooked rice left from yesterday’s dinner, so I decide to make coconut fried rice with edamame from the author of Cookie and Kate’s cookbook, Love Real Food. Can you guess what our favorite food blog is? Will eats some saltines, and we both eat some carrot sticks while I cook. Evie also gets a carrot, her favorite.

6 p.m.: We devour the fried rice. Will cuts up a pineapple, which we eat for dessert. We watch more MasterChef.

7 p.m.: Will makes us a triple-decker quesadilla to share. He plays guitar; I work on my earrings and listen to my super-depressing audiobook, A Little Life.

9 p.m.: We stay up “late” watching Netflix.

10 p.m.: Bedtime!

Day 6: Friday

6:45 a.m.: We both hit snooze a couple of extra times. The cats are meowing outside of our door. When I open the door, Henry bolts in, screeching. He is unhappy with our belated breakfast service.

7:15 a.m.: I decide to shake things up and make cheesy omelets for breakfast. They end up super overcooked. We like the omelets, but Gordon Ramsey would not be pleased.

Will makes a 12-ounce pour over; he drinks a half cup now and saves a half cup for later. I also drink a half cup. I try to only drink coffee on the weekends, but Friday is technically the weekend, right?

8:30 a.m.: I’m at work filing documents and catching glimpses of the World Cup.

9:30 a.m.: Office field trip to see the Corpse Flower, a rare flowering plant that smells like a rotting corpse when it blooms. It’s supposed to bloom any time now, but it’s not in bloom yet when we go to see it.

10:30 a.m.: Will eats mixed nuts and drinks his leftover coffee over ice.

12:15 p.m.: We head home for lunch, which is leftover coconut edamame fried rice. Will makes us another pour over to split. Henry chews on my fingers, a favorite pastime of his.

2:20 p.m.: Back at work, I snack on cheese and crackers.

3 p.m.: Will eats rice cakes at the studio.

5:15 p.m.: At home, I take Evie for a walk. Will eats saltines and reads.

(Image credit: Stacy H.)

5:40 p.m.: Will starts dinner (he’s making roasted carrots with farro, chickpeas, and herbed tahini sauce from the Love Real Food cookbook). Since we couldn’t get farro this week, he makes it with some couscous from our pantry.

6:30 p.m.: Dinner is ready! I had never realized that roasted carrots could be so delicious. Will heads out to the store get us some ice cream and returns with two chocolate chip cookie sandwiches.

Dollar General

2 chocolate chip cookie sandwiches, $5

Total, including tax: $5.35

7:30 p.m.: I’m already getting sleepy. We watch a little bit of Netflix.

9 p.m.: I’m sound asleep, and Will falls asleep shortly after.

Day 7: Saturday

9 a.m.: We both wake up after a mere 12 hours of sleep. I take Evie for a walk and then work out.

(Image credit: Stacy H.)

9:45 a.m.: Will is making coffee and breakfast. Pancakes! Will makes me come into the kitchen to see a “perfect” pancake that he made. He’s running around calling himself the “King of Flapjacks.” I roll my eyes.

10:15 a.m.: The pancakes are ready! I eat mine with butter and honey, and Will eats his with peanut butter. Evie eats her pupcake plain.

11 a.m.: Will heads into the studio, and I start to work on jewelry and listen to my super-depressing audiobook.

12:30 p.m.: I finish my audiobook. It is a brutal read, but beautifully written. I decide that I should read something light-hearted next.

1:30 p.m.: Will arrives home, and we eat our leftover carrot bowls for lunch. Will roasts a batch of coffee.

2:15 p.m.: We share another cup of coffee, and Will eats some saltines.

3:15 p.m.: Will has another half cup of coffee, which he promises will be his last, then we head to Kroger to pick up a couple of pizza toppings for tonight. We also need to get raisins so that we can make cinnamon raisin bagels tomorrow.


Green peppers, $.99
Mozzarella cheese, $1.99
Raisins, $2.29
Tomatoes, $.27

Total, including tax: $5.93

4 p.m.: On the way home from the store, we learn that the Corpse Flower has bloomed! We head over to smell it with a couple of friends from the ceramics studio. It does, indeed, smell like death.

4:50 p.m.: We’re home, and Will has another half cup of coffee. He checks his email and finds out that one of his sculptures was accepted into a show! We start cleaning the house for a brunch and board games potluck that we’re hosting tomorrow.

6 p.m.: We take Evie to the park for a nice long walk.

6:45 p.m.: We’re back at home and really hungry. Will eats a few saltines and makes us a batch of stovetop popcorn to share. I start making the pizza crust, which we top with homemade sauce, mozzarella cheese, green peppers, onions, and tomatoes. The crust recipe makes enough for two pizzas, so I freeze one of the dough balls for later.

(Image credit: Stacy H.)

7:50 p.m.: The pizza’s ready! Will makes us a couple of apple cider vinegar tonics with honey and lemon juice to have with dinner. We’re watching Paddington on Netflix.

9:30 p.m.: Time for bed! We want to get an early start in the morning to prepare for our get-together.

1. How did you set your food budget?

When Will started grad school a year ago, we set a goal to get through it without taking out any loans. We tried to figure out how low we could get our budget without sacrificing fresh fruit and vegetables. Our total budget is $300 a month; we aim for $75 a week, but we rely heavily on pantry items, so our weekly shop can range from $60, if our pantry is well-stocked, to $90, if we need a lot of pantry items. It typically evens out over the course of the month.

Because Will roasts his own coffee, we order green coffee beans online about twice a year, which we don’t include in our weekly food budget. We budget $10 a month for this, or about $2.50 a week. Household items and pet food also come out of a separate budget line.

We use two spreadsheets to keep track of our food budget: a meal planning spreadsheet and an overall budget tracker. In our meal planning spreadsheet, we list all of the recipes that we’re going to make for the week and all of the ingredients that we’ll need to purchase. We estimate how much each ingredient will cost, and the spreadsheet totals it up. I try to keep the estimate $10 to $15 lower than our weekly budget, in order to leave a little room for discretionary purchases.

The second spreadsheet is an overall budget tracker. I have budget lines for every category that we spend money on, and I have it set up to deduct from that category if we list a purchase within that category. So, we start with $300 in the food category for the month, and as we categorize purchases as “food,” the spreadsheet deducts the amount of that purchase from the food total. This spreadsheet is really useful for tracking our monthly spending and monitoring how much money we have left for the month.

2. What are the kitchen ingredients you can’t live without?

  • Dry goods: Rice, black beans, chickpeas, oats, canned tomatoes, olive oil, peanut butter, honey
  • Vegetables: Kale, sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots, onions, garlic
  • Condiments: Soy sauce & Sriracha
  • Fruit: Frozen berries, apples, bananas
  • Drinks: Coffee and tea

3. What’s the budget recipe you always rely on?

Definitely rice and beans, in many different forms. Some of our other favorites are as follows:

At Kitchn we believe setting a food budget for you and your family is an essential part in getting your financial life in order. Don’t know where to start? We have a guide for that. Want to share your food budget diary with Kitchn? See how here.

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The JungleJuly 16, 201813min0

The article below was originally published in our 2017 Gift Guide, but we’re resurfacing it because the Joule sous vide is marked down $50 to $129, its lowest price ever, for Amazon Prime Day 2018. The deal lasts from 3 p.m. ET July 16 to 3 a.m. ET July 18.

I’ve been sous videing everything lately. That’s not an exaggeration. Everything. Pork belly. Chicken breast. Beef short ribs. Salmon fillets. It’s all good. And I’m using the best sous vide machine in the game (so far), the Chefsteps Joule Sous Vide. If you’re the type of person who brews beer or kombucha, feeds a sourdough starter, pickles chile peppers, or just really likes any and all science-y food stuff, this is it. This is the sous vide machine you need.

Here’s how it works. The Joule heats a pot of water to a specified temperature and holds the water at that temperature. This heats whatever is submerged in the water up to that temperature, and never past it. Think of sous vide as an insurance policy. Submerging food in a bath of heated water—instead of subjecting it to the uneven heat of flames—means your food will never be overcooked. It lets you know that you won’t ruin that expensive cut of meat you bought, which is nice to know when people are coming over. For whatever I’m making, I sous vide it, then sear it quickly on the griddle or cast iron. Like this pork belly:

I’ve used a few sous vide machines before, and none have done it quite like the Joule. First off, the price point is great. You’re not spending more than 180 bucks on this, which is a hell of a deal for a piece of equipment this advanced.

And it really is advanced. There aren’t any analog controls, which I will say, I was kind of hesitant about at first. The Joule is controlled completely through a Bluetooth app on your phone. The Chefsteps app also gives you cooking temperatures and guides for doneness. It’s easy to control, not confusing at all, actually. I mean, I figured it out. Technology is pretty crazy.


Photo by Peden + Munk

Start your steak in the sous vide machine and finish it on the cast iron.

There are also a ton of physical attributes that make the Joule a superior sous vide machine. It’s small, like, throw-it-in-your-drawer-and-forget-about-it small. You don’t have to worry about clearing out a new place to store it, which is an added hassle during the holidays. Well, it’s an added hassle at any time. The Joule is also totally waterproof (some sous vide machines aren’t, which is stupid) and has a magnetic bottom, so it easily attaches to the bottom of your metal pot. You don’t have to worry about attaching it to the side.

That magnetic attachment is nice, because you can put the pot of water, with the Joule and your food inside, and get on with your life. You don’t need to be in the kitchen. As long as you can plug it in, it could be on a bookshelf, on your desk, on the table. Hell, it could even be in the bathroom, if you’re cool with that. You can cook in every room in your house.


Photo by Alex Lau

The potatoes in this Chorizo and potato salad belong the Joule

You don’t need a vacuum sealer to sous vide, but let me go on record saying it helps. Once you cook your vacuum-sealed food, it can stay in fridge for about a month.

But most importantly, the Joule heats water quickly, and keeps the temperature consistent. That’s what you need from a sous vide machine. It’s an impressive tool for anyone who likes perfectly cooked food (everyone) or is curious about exploring a new way to cook proteins or vegetables in the kitchen. And I wasn’t kidding when I said you can make just about anything (sous vide potatoes are great in potato salad, as well as shrimp for shrimp cocktail) with the Joule.

Well, almost anything. Don’t go making an apple pie in there. I’m not going to come over and clean up that mess for you.

Your Sous Vide Essentials

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The JungleJuly 16, 201826min0

This post originally appeared on July 14, 2018, in Amanda Kludt’s newsletter “From the Editor,” a roundup of the most vital news and stories in the food world each week. Read the archives and subscribe now.

If we had “issues” the way traditional magazines do, this week would mark the launch of our California issue. A couple of times a year we like to dispatch our national critic Bill Addison to a different region of the country to eat his way across the area and work with locals to come up with a list of their “essential” local restaurants. We’ve done it with the South, New England, the Midwest, and Texas. This time around, we had to much to say about the rich cultural diversity, complexity, and impact of the state’s food that we blew it out.

So yes, primarily we have the essentials, culled after months of Bill eating his way up and down the coast and through the valleys — and after days upon days of team infighting and debate (we have a lot of opinionated California-based staffers). But we also have an essay from Bill on why California is THE best place to eat in America right now (hint: It’s the “ebb and flow between tradition and innovation”). And the ever-brilliant and tireless Gustavo Arellano on the wonderland of Mexican food in the Central Valley. And Farley Elliott on the ranch cuisine of the Central Coast. And an ode to the Fresno chile. And a visit to OCs Little Saigon. AND an animated comic about water-boiled fish. AND a photo essay/exploration of LA’s best international fast-food chains.

But we’re also service journalism junkies and want to help you on the ground, whether it’s a guide to Marins best oyster shacks, San Diegos best tacos, or where to eat between LA and SF. We’ve got you covered in Sonoma, we have your back in Palm Springs, and we are your on-the-ground experts in Santa Barbara.

I’m never going to be one of those New Yorkers who decamps to California. It’s not a concept I toy with, not on the radar of my daydreams. Neither the LA sunshine nor the SF produce nor Napa’s fall morning mists tempt me in the slightest. But damn, it’s a nice place to eat. And I’m glad I have all these devoted experts and this guide to tell me how, and where, and why to do it across a complex and compelling state.

Openings of the week:

Dama, Downtown Los Angeles
Wonho Frank Lee

I have three places to add to my to-do list this week:

• First, a Cantonese roasted duck destination with a mid-century modern vibe in Dallas

• Then a super lush, almost tropical-feeling pan-Latin bar and restaurantbuilt in a former banana distribution facility in LA

• And finally, chef Alvin Cailan’s new New York restaurant, where he’s serving a new interpretations of comfort food

On Eater

Cold Spring Tavern in Santa Barbara
Farley Elliott

  • My favorite read of the last week is New York-centric but should be interesting to anyone who cares about urban development, infrastructure, and politics. It’s a profile on Andy Byford, the super-human-seeming individual brought on to fix the massively screwed up New York City subway system, where train delays now occur 70,000 times per month, up from 28,000 times six years ago, and where it costs six times what it costs in Paris to do subway construction. Aside from Byford, everyone comes out looking like a crook in this, including mayor Bill De Blasio (who, at publishing time, hadn’t even met Byford); governor Andrew Cuomo (who raided the MTA budget); former governors Giuliani and Pataki (same); and perennial villain Robert Moses (who “deliberately starved mass transit”). [New Yorker]
  • This week I learned you can post childcare positions on Good Food Jobsl [GFJ]
  • How Shake Shack beat the short sellers [Crain’s]
  • Like Gabrielle Hamilton, I am a tarama addict. My Greek grandmother-in-law’s trick is like a half a loaf of white bread (instead of panko or potatoes or whatever other starch she suggests here) [NYTMag]
  • How the fire at Manresa forced David Kinch to start thinking about his health and work/life balance and ultimately made the restaurant better [F&W]

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The JungleJuly 16, 201813min0

Seemingly everything that The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, touches turns into gold … or flowers. Mostly flowers! Her signature style of happy-looking patterns, colors, and prints is beloved by her hordes of fans — many of whom have started to make the pilgrimage to Pawhuska, OK, just to shop at The Mercantile and stay in her hotel, The Boarding House (both of which are delightfully filled with Ree’s personal touches).

If you haven’t booked your Pawhuska trip yet, but would still like to get your fill of all things Ree, check out her exclusive line of kitchenwares at Walmart. The retailer is currently having a big sale on a few fun PW items. Here’s what you can get while the gettin’s good (aka while supplies last, up until July 20).

(Image credit: Walmart)

1. Vintage Geo 3-Piece Canister Set, $18 for three (usually $29)

Ree isn’t exactly known for her minimalist design sensibilities. These playful floral, geometric canisters are meant for keeping coffee, tea, sugar, flour, or dried pasta handy on the counter. And they match her style to a T.

(Image credit: Walmart)

2. Flea Market Dots Treat Jar, $8 (usually $11)

In Ree’s world, humans get cookie jars and four-legged friends get their very own treat jars. This one comes in one of Ree’s favorite colors (turquoise) and makes a great gift for pet-lovers.

(Image credit: Walmart)

3. Autumn Harvest Charlie & Walter and Lucy & Duke Salt and Pepper Shakers Set, $10 (usually $10)

Speaking of four-legged friends, these salt and pepper shaker sets are named after some of Ree’s favorite ranch dogs.

(Image credit: Walmart)

4. Flea Market 6-Inch Decorated Footed Bowls, $10 for four (usually $16)

These sweet polka-dotted flowery bowls are the perfect vessels for serving up a summer fruit salad … or ice cream! (We vote ice cream.)

(Image credit: Walmart)

5. Winter Bouquet 12-Piece Dinnerware Set, $45 (usually $55)

If this pattern looks a little winter-y to you, that’s because it is! Guess it really is Christmas in July. Get a head-start on planning your holiday feast by scoring a great deal on this set of serving dishes and platters.

Which of these pieces is your favorite?

Kitchn supports our readers with carefully chosen product recommendations to improve life at home. You support us through our independently chosen links, many of which earn us a commission.

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The JungleJuly 16, 201822min0

Welcome to Lifers, our column dedicated to the bartenders, porters, hostesses, and more who have made grinding through the restaurant industry their life’s work.

Ask for “Mama” at Gramercy Tavern in New York City, and everyone knows you’re talking about Carolyn Wandell-Widdoes.

For 30 years, she’s been working as a server within the Union Square Hospitality Group, mostly at Union Square Cafe, Danny Meyer’s power lunch spot, and now at Gramercy Tavern, the farm-to-table beacon. If you’ve been to either restaurant, you’ll probably recognize Wandell-Widdoes by her tight blond bun, Cabernet-red lips, flashy earrings, and cat-eye glasses with blue eyes that follow your every move. In a nice way, of course. She’s trying to give you the dining experience of your dreams, and she’s an expert at that.

For the first installment of Lifers, we sat down with Wandell-Widdoes to find out how she got her start—and what she’s learned on the job.

Carolyn Wandell Widdoes 1

Alex Lau

Setting the table at Gramercy Tavern.

What was your first restaurant job?

“Peachey’s Ice Cream Family Restaurant in Ringoes, New Jersey. It was kind of similar to Denny’s but more of a family-run restaurant, serving old-fashioned burgers and really great ice cream. I was 16 years old and looking to make some extra money. The best part was putting together ‘The Pleasurable Suicide’: 20 scoops of ice cream with bananas, wonderful toppings, and whipped cream.”

What’s the most tips you made in one night?

“Oh, geez. I remember working at Union Square Cafe on New Year’s Eve sometime in the last century. [Laughs] It’s a pooled house, meaning everyone shares the tips. I made about $400. I’ve always worked in a pooled house type of restaurant, so I never made $1,000 a night or anything like that. With that $400, I paid my American Express bill, so I started the new year right. That’s how I looked at it.”

When did you realize you wanted to do this for life, and what convinced you to go all in?

“I got my social work degree in 1995. Then, my mother got Alzheimer’s, so I needed to help my father and my sister with taking care of her in Upstate New York. Social work means working overtime, so I couldn’t take days off. I started waitressing because it was more flexible and still gave me the salary I needed to make ends meet. Now after many years, I think of hospitality as a kind of social work.

Carolyn Wandell Widdoes 8

Alex Lau

“When I first walk over to a table, I say hello and welcome everyone, then I read that ‘sign.’ Everyone comes in with a sign.”

What is the craziest thing that’s happened on the job?

“The day we had a blackout in New York in 2003. I was working the bar during lunch at Union Square Cafe and wondering what we should do. Do I close the cash drawer? Are we closing the restaurant? We ended up closing and prayed that the refrigerators would keep the food fresh. Many of us on staff walked home together over the Brooklyn Bridge. It was very beautiful and unifying.”

What is the best perk about the job?

When I see a returning family and the kids are grown up. I get verklempt. Little kids can be picky eaters, and I always had this one trick up my sleeve at Union Square Cafe: I tell them about the pillowy, marshmallow-y clouds with tomato sauce called gnocchi. They’d look at me, thinking ‘Can I trust her?’ but end up ordering it. Years later, they come in and tell me, ‘I’d really like to have that again.’ I love when that happens. It makes me feel like my work is worth it.”

Why does everyone call you “Mama”?

“I got the nickname from one of the fabulous back waiters at Union Square Cafe. At the end of the night, he would always bring me dessert and I would say ‘Come to mama!’ He told me that ‘mama’ means ‘learned, wise one’ in Swahili, so it became his pet name for me. It just stuck.”

Carolyn Wandell Widdoes 2

Alex Lau

On table dynamics: “Some people want power at a business dinner, and you see everyone at the table consulting with them before talking to me.”

What qualities make a good server?

“Empathy. Compassion. Efficiency. Urgency. Grace. Anything can go wrong—a food order incorrectly handled, a drink falling off the tray—so you need to be quick on your feet and reorganize in the moment. One time Danny Meyer asked me, ‘How do you do this job so well?’ I told him that I imagine myself sitting his seat, thinking, ‘What would I want?’ and then bring that before he even knows that he needs it. I also told him about Mary Kay and how she had this great philosophy about everyone having an invisible sign that says ‘Make me feel important.’ As a salesperson, you read how big that sign is for each person. He goes, ‘I like it!’ That story is in Setting the Table, page 92, and he mentions a ‘wonderful server.’ That’s me.”

What is something you are unusually good at now, thanks to this job?

“Reading people and lifting their spirits. I can only say that because that’s what people tell me. I set the tone for a blissful experience, whether it’s for my guests or my entire restaurant team to work together in harmony. So I look everyone in the eye, ask the hospitality angels for help, and generally send good vibes. And I make sure the water glasses are always filled. Hydration is key.

Carolyn Wandell Widdoes 7

Alex Lau

She needs to stay hydrated too.

How have customers changed in the years you’ve been working as a server?

“We’re becoming a more global community now, thanks to things like the Internet. People are much more willing to try new things and ‘taste’ new cultures, which is exciting. There’s been 180-degree turn. I think the whole hospitality industry has changed, even with #MeToo. We’ve definitely worked with and served people who crossed the line, and in the past, it took too long to get the situation handled. You had to tell your story over and over again and you didn’t always get a respectful follow-through. But it’s finally being addressed, and here at USHG we’ve recently taken a definitive stand on it: There’s a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment. Now we feel more validated and heard.”

How have you changed?

“I’ve seen it all working in this industry. I’ve touched the lives of over 100,000 people, whether I’ve waitressed their table or served them food. I figured that out about five years ago. I’ve seen people at their best and at their worst. I know I’m not perfect, but I’m definitely a better team player and more compassionate human being because of it.”

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The JungleJuly 16, 201839min0

A Styrofoam cup of watery broth, orange Jell-O, blue Gatorade, low-fat vanilla yogurt, a juice box of wild berry-flavored Boost Breeze, a packet of Scandishake powder, and generic saltines, neatly lined up on a dull gray hospital tray: This was among my husband’s first meals in over two months.

Brad had lost his vision along with the ability to digest food in the wake of a stem cell transplant — the only treatment for relapsed aggressive lymphoma. His doctors at UC Davis Medical Center’s bone marrow transplant unit put him on total parenteral nutrition, an IV solution of sugar, protein, and vitamins that met all his nutritional needs except fats; once a week, he got a bag of lipids.

Though TPN sustained his body for weeks, Brad needed to learn to eat again to leave the isolation unit. Hunched over the tray, he was profoundly uninterested in the hospital food provided for him three times a day. Eating, for most of us a pleasure, was for him a matter of deep anxiety and abdominal pain. Salty broth powder stirred into lukewarm water seemed unlikely to reawaken his appetite, which had entirely disappeared, or to bring him comfort.

Food for the sick wasn’t always like this. Once upon a time, Brad’s Jell-O would have been wine jelly, and the reconstituted broth a clear consomme. Cookbooks and home economics manuals used to include sections on “invalid cookery” as a standard part of domestic instruction. Why was the stuff on Brad’s hospital tray so deeply unappetizing? How did we get here? And, most urgently for me, how the hell was I going to get my husband to eat?

“Nourish” and “nurse” share the same root, the Latin nutrire, to feed, support, or preserve. Before modern medicine, providing food was one of the at-home nurse’s only tools to promote healing or offer comfort to an ailing child, spouse, or parent. The tight 19th-century link between food and medicine was a holdover from medieval times; as Enlightenment rationality and the discovery of basic anatomy supplanted the theory of the humors, ideas about how to treat disease shifted. In time, that shift would split food and medicine into distinct categories in Western culture (though modern wellness trends and new research are now undoing that split).

As I thought about what I could concoct, I remembered all the women in 19th-century novels who delivered soup and gruel to sickly neighbors, like Meg March in Little Women, mixing up blancmange for the sisters’ neighbor Laurie, after he caught a cold. I pulled out my battered copy of Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, a cheap paperback bought long ago for grad school research on domesticity, which has a whole section of advice on tempting fitful appetites, and Amelia Simmons’s 1796 American Cookery, widely acknowledged as the first American cookbook, which includes a recipe for “A sick bed Custard”: “Scald a quart of milk, sweeten and salt a little, whip 3 eggs and stir in, bake on coals in a pewter vessel.”

Sustenance for invalids even spawned the most distinctive food institution of modern culture. The noun restaurant originally connoted a French broth served in an 18th-century Paris maison de santé, or house of health. Broths and gelatins — weak suspensions of protein in liquid — act as kinds of enriched water, offering amino acids and minerals. “A restorative bouillon has the benefit of restoring one’s nerves that may be frayed by the stresses and strains of urban living, and also restoring one’s appetite,” says Rebecca Spang, professor of history at Indiana University and the author of The Invention of the Restaurant: Paris and Modern Gastronomic Culture. French-style broths and consommes continued to be cornerstones of cooking for the sick into the 19th century.

Conventional nursing wisdom on the progression of foods moves from clear liquids to semisolid foods, eventually including dairy products. I started at the beginning, with a rich, savory chicken broth. Mindful that my forebears had used older chickens, with their sturdier bones, I went to a specialty butcher for cheap, scrawny stewing hens, which I simmered with celery, onions, and parsley.

I put the finished broth, hot, in a glass container and carried it carefully into the isolation room, along with a wide china soup spoon. Brad couldn’t see it, but when I took off the lid and the savory steam reached his nose, he let out a sigh — the first sign of delight I’d seen from him in weeks. His hand trembled, but he brought the spoon to his mouth and took a small sip. Once Brad could keep down broth without stomach pain or digestive problems, I added starches to make loose gruels: long-cooked rice; thin potato puree; and eventually soft-cooked tiny pasta stars with an egg for protein.

Brad’s difficulties were more complex than a simple calories-in, calories-out model could accommodate; he needed to learn not just to eat, but to enjoy and feel competent at eating. He had difficulty manipulating the flimsy plastic spoons the hospital offered, and was prone to knocking over lightweight Styrofoam cups. Although Brad couldn’t see, his senses of texture, smell, and touch were acute.

Considering the contextual details of eating was key for the cookbook writers of yore. “It is in sickness that the senses of smell and taste are most susceptible of annoyance,” wrote Catharine Beecher in the 1869 domestic-advice manual The American Woman’s Home, published with her more famous sister Harriet Beecher Stowe. Cleanliness was another crucial concern, according to Helen Veit, the author of Modern Food, Moral Food: Self Control, Science, and the Rise of Modern American Eating in the Early Twentieth Century and an associate professor of history at Michigan State University. “The tiniest blot or stain on the doily would be offensive and off-putting,” Veit told me. “The tray for the invalid should be arranged with great care and if possible with a vase of flowers.”

The publication of Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent by Fannie Farmer in 1904 marks the transition from the soft comforts of homemade blancmange or wine jelly to a more contemporary approach to nutritional science with a focus on calories and nutrients. Farmer wrote in the preface that “the classification, composition, nutritive value, and digestibility of foods have been carefully considered with the same constant purpose of being a help to those who arrange dietaries.” Even so, many of Farmer’s recipes, like marshmallow pudding, are pure comfort food.

The institutionalizing of modern medicine was contemporaneous with the industrialization of modern food. Jell-O was invented in 1897 by Pearle Bixby Wait, who added coloring and flavoring to granulated gelatin as a convenient shortcut to labor-intensive from-scratch gelatin desserts, a food often recommended for the ill. (An early slogan: “delicate, delightful, dainty.”) Canada Dry ginger ale, that staple of sick-kid trays, debuted in 1904; Lipton, the British tea brand, introduced powdered soups (such as its golden chicken noodle, with stubby egg noodles) in 1939. Junket, a powdered custard mix made from rennet, an enzyme derived from the stomach lining of calves, had an eponymous pavilion at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York.

By the early 20th century, there was a broad cultural shift, represented by male physicians and authority figures, away from home nursing and traditional lore, the province of women. This was the same shift that would prioritize formula over old-fashioned breastfeeding, and obstetrics over midwifery. Physicians began to prescribe technical-sounding “dietaries,” the better to control food and costs in an institutional setting.

The new approach meant the emphasis in food for the sick shifted from its aesthetic qualities (gentle flavors, pretty presentations) to quantitative measures (precise amounts of food to provide nutrients, timed feedings), which dovetail neatly with large present-day hospitals, where dietitians must assess the nutritional needs of large numbers of patients, and hospital kitchens must feed hundreds.

Recognizably modern hospitals, which subscribed to germ theory and new standards of cleanliness, transformed illness in America. Wartime hospital food service was crucial to changing hospital food delivery practices, according to a brief history in the 2007 Non-Commercial Food Service Manager’s Handbook, by Douglas Robert Brown and Shri Henkel. The profession of dietetics was also spurred on by the world wars, when armies sought a scientific approach to feeding troops well. The first nationally distributed dietetic manual for hospital food departments, The Handbook of Diet Therapy, appeared in 1946.

Clinical dietitians working in hospitals today evaluate patients’ nutritional needs in conjunction with their physicians. Brad’s dietitian meticulously tracked his caloric intake, via notes made by the nurses about how much was left on any given tray. She used these metrics to adjust Brad’s TPN prescription, and explained her decisions largely in terms of the numbers and how much “oral nutrition” Brad was getting. Brad, heavily medicated, found her number-driven pronouncements almost incomprehensible.

Brad started a liquid diet in March, then moved to semisolid foods a few weeks later. By late April, the dietitian told him he was free to order anything from the solid-food menu provided for neutropenic (immunocompromised) patients. Neutropenic diet guidelines vary by institution, but most limit raw fruits and vegetables and ban undercooked meat or eggs, pepper or other spices (which can carry bacteria) added to food after cooking, fermented foods, deli meats, and raw or soft cheeses.

The neutropenic diet did, however, include food like burgers, limp fries, chicken parmigiana, and tacos with whole-wheat tortillas. The dietitian told Brad he could have anything he wanted, but this freedom overwhelmed him. I read aloud to him from the leaflet menus, editing as I went, offering him just a couple of choices I knew he’d find acceptable. He gravitated toward simple soups and a chicken-cutlet meal with flabby pasta and green beans. I wanted to bring him food from home, but with my husband’s hospitalization going into its fifth month, I was already stretched. Broth and purees had been easy, but the safety guidelines for homemade meals of solid food were more complex, and therefore, more labor-intensive. Following them was a challenge.

Modern hospital food can, and often does, fail in two major ways: its nutritional quality and its gustatory appeal. That’s a problem, especially because according to Cordialis Msora-Kasago, registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 30 to 50 percent of patients enter the hospital already malnourished — making feeding them all the more urgent.

Brad sent back tray after barely touched tray, and saved sealed items like the Gatorade that came with every meal. Soon his room held so many bottles of orange and blue liquid it looked like a University of Florida locker room. But stopping the deliveries seemed like more trouble than it was worth. Rolling out those tray towers so everyone can get the food they need at roughly the right times is a mind-boggling feat. The comprehensive Foodservice Manual for Health Care Institutions, 4th Edition (2012), by Ruby Parker Puckett, underscores the complexity of the hospital food-service world in 592 pages, with dozens of charts and tables, ranging from “Control Chart of Tray-Line Start Times” to “Making Coleslaw Using a Systems Approach.”

A crucial choice facing food-service managers, the textbook notes, is whether to make food in-house or purchase prepared, industrial products, with the book leaning toward the latter course: “Fewer and fewer foodservice departments prepare items from scratch because of the time and labor involved.” Although quality is paramount, the long analysis of costs and other factors that follows reveals other priorities: “When product labor cost is high it is usually better to purchase the product” — meaning that it’s cheaper to turn to big providers.

Hospital food service is big business. Health care and senior services accounted for nearly 20 percent of French-based Sodexo’s 20 billion euros in 2017 revenue. Aramark (revenue $14.6 billion) serves more than 2,000 health care facilities, Healthcare Services Group serves 900 dining and nutrition facilities, and Sysco Health serves more than 150, touting partnerships with mass-market food producers like Campbell Soup Company and Tyson Foods. In a 2016 survey of 184 hospitals, 34 percent of institutions spent between $1 million and $5 million on food service annually. And the business is growing: Most of the institutions surveyed had seen increases in their patient meal count over the preceding year.

Hospital patients might be the ultimate captive audience. Most have little to no choice about which facility they patronize, though some are getting more choice in the food they eat, with more hospitals offering patients the option of ordering food on demand. On Brad’s floor, the only things available on demand came from the nursing station, which always had quick, shelf-stable options: generic graham crackers wrapped in yellow cellophane, Boost Breezes, and the powdered broth we had both despaired of early in his attempts to eat.

Many hospitals and food-service companies are trying to change not just the image but the reality of hospital food by catering more directly to patient preferences. This is in addition to the enormous range of menus available for different medical needs (diabetic, low-sodium, immune-suppressed), specific allergies, and religious dietary restrictions. Large hospitals tend to offer dozens of menus to serve these different needs, though often the food items have a flat sameness.

At UC Davis Medical Center, which serves a diverse immigrant population, the food was almost exclusively generically American or heavily Americanized: burgers, sandwiches, salads with ranch dressing, gloppy beef with broccoli stir fry, ground beef tacos. However, some hospitals have added special menus that offer foods targeted to their local communities: Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, for instance, is beginning to offer Korean options, and the Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu offers Hawaiian dishes.

An increasing number of hospitals — slightly less than half of those surveyed — are adding on-demand room service. Msora-Kasago says that an important step in appealing to patient preferences is encouraging them to eat when they’re actually hungry: “Nobody eats at the same time every day,” she says. “We try to feed [patients] at the same time, but if I wake up at 8 o’clock, and breakfast has been sitting there since 7 o’clock, I’m less likely to eat.”

Returning to such individual service from mass delivery hearkens back to the older home practices of trays prepared for fragile appetites on demand. It also echoes a similar pendulum swing in other areas of medicine. For instance, obstetrical practice, once almost entirely at home and then heavily institutionalized and medicalized, is now moving to a hybrid model of semi-personalized care with a wider range of options, such as birthing centers, midwifery services, and birthing rooms.

Some hospitals are taking catering to patient preferences a step further. Stony Brook University Hospital in New York State has moved to an all-room service model, with dishes cooked to order by patient demand. The transition has been challenging but rewarding, says John Mastacciuola, director of dietary, culinary, and retail services at Stony Brook Medicine. Mastacciuola, a chef by training, worked in restaurants, catering (as the executive chef for Sex and the City), and corporate food service before moving to the health care sector. “We wanted to gear it more towards restaurant-style food instead of — I hate to say it — the slop that they would throw on a plate in a hospital or a long-term care facility,” he says.

Mastacciuola worked closely with a staff nutritionist to devise new menus for 22 special diets. “For people who are on a cardiac diet or people who are diabetic, it’s tough,” says Mastacciuola. “You want to give them good food and healthy food, but you’ve also got to make it taste good and even look good.” Eliminating processed meats and introducing fresh vegetables brought increased costs, including re-training staff to cook from scratch. “The way they used to do things was ordering frozen foods and processed foods, and it’s cheaper because you can control the cost. If you don’t use it you just keep it in the freezer.”

Improving the healthfulness and the taste of the food at Stony Brook University Hospital has resulted in higher patient scores for food satisfaction and a top Healthy Hospital Food Environment award from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in 2016. It’s not clear, however, whether these changes have improved patient outcomes. But surely, better food improves patients’ moods and attitudes, even if there aren’t clear clinical results.

Before Brad’s transplant, he had routine, weeklong hospitalizations for chemo over the course of summer 2015. One of the aspects he dreaded most was cycling through the same dull weekly menu, time after time. Our family took to going out to a favorite restaurant the night before those infusion visits, just to send him off to the hospital fed well with something he enjoyed.

In the move from individual at-home care and feeding for sick patients to mass institutions, medical science shifted to a big-picture, data-driven set of prescriptions and practices. Doing so undeniably saved lives, thanks to astonishing medical advances. But in the midst of institutionalizing and standardizing care, the medical establishment may have lost sight of the function of appetites and individual taste.

Food — for many patients one of the few sensory pleasures they can enjoy — can be an important, healing part of that corrective shift. Catering to patients’ tastes and preferences can certainly be more expensive, yet as Brad and I both learned, it can make a huge difference to the very sick, who may have lost almost all sense of themselves. Eating, among the most basic of human acts, can help reawaken that sense.

One day in early May, four months after he was admitted to the hospital and more than three months after he stopped eating, Brad told his oncologist he was thinking about doughnuts. The next time the doctor came on rounds, he brought a half-dozen chocolate glazed. Maybe it wasn’t a nutritionally ideal choice, but Brad expressing a real appetite felt like a cause for celebration.

When Brad was discharged from the hospital in mid-May, he was still getting about half of his calories from TPN, which I had to learn to administer intravenously. We embarked on a long, slow program of upping his food intake. A rehab dietitian offered suggestions tailored to his specific needs and preferences: try more avocados here, add cream to soups there. Over time, he lost his fear of eating, and by August he was able to transition off TPN entirely, eating all his calories orally. He hasn’t touched Gatorade since coming home. He still suffers from chronic graft-versus-host disease, but he has gained some weight back, and food is again a source of pleasure for him.

I can’t claim that homemade broth and pastina with an egg stirred in saved my husband’s life; modern medicine, and his physicians’ expertise, did that. But looking to a different model for feeding him at his lowest point — one that accounted for the patient’s appetite and placed a premium on tempting it — was an important turning point in his recovery. The meals modern hospitals feed their most vulnerable patients are expertly calculated to give them all the nutrients and calories they need, but that only works if patients actually eat the food.

Several months after Brad came home, his doctor cleared him to eat from a restaurant kitchen. We went straight from that appointment to a favorite Vietnamese restaurant in our neighborhood. Brad was still functionally blind and very weak, and it felt strange and nerve-racking to sit in a public space to eat together again. We felt anxious until the food arrived: bun thit nuong (noodle salad with pork) and a steaming bowl of pho. As we sipped the fragrant broth and slurped up noodles, we were far removed from our old selves, and even farther from an 18th-century Parisian maison de santé or a 19th-century sickroom. But for the first time in many months, food had made us both feel restored.

Kate Washington is a writer, editor, and recipe developer based in Sacramento.
Allegra Lockstadt is an illustrator, designer, and interdisciplinary artist based in Minneapolis.
Fact checked by Samantha Schuyler
Copy edited by Rachel Kreiter

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The JungleJuly 16, 20187min0

Beans are a year-round staple, in my book. I especially love them in the summer, though, when I can easily pop open a can and turn it into a simple, no-sweat dinner in no time at all. These 10 recipes are light and fresh, but definitely don’t skip on flavor. They also help you use up those white beans, black beans, and chickpeas that are tucked away in your pantry.

1. Tomato & Feta White Bean Salad

This simple salad gets a jolt of flavor from lots of salty feta and bright, fresh chopped parsley. It’s satisfying on its own, but it’s also great piled on toast.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

2. 10-Minute Black Bean Tacos

Yes, you really can have dinner on the table in 10 minutes if you simmer a can of black beans with spices and pile the mixture into tortillas topped with your favorite fixings.

3. Spicy Shrimp Skillet with Tomatoes and White Beans

They’ll be plenty of spicy broth at the bottom of this skillet, so definitely serve it with plenty of crusty bread on the side to soak it all up.

4. Spicy Salmon Black Bean Salad

Hot smoked salmon is the secret to adding more flavor to just about anything. Here it adds smoky, meaty depth to this extra-quick black bean salad.

5. Zucchini-Chickpea Fritters with Red Onion Jam

It’s worth making a double batch of these crunchy fritters, since leftovers reheat well and are great tucked into pita for a simple lunch.

6. Spinach, White Bean, and Taleggio Pizza

White beans may seem like an odd pizza topping, but they really do add a bit of heft and creaminess that might convince you otherwise.

7. Mediterranean Chickpea and Feta Wraps

When you’re not really in the mood to turn your oven or stove on, let these colorful wraps be your friend. A mix of yogurt, feta, dill, garlic, and lemon juice add a punch of creamy flavor to each bite.

8. Caesar White Bean Burgers

These Caesar salad-inspired bean burgers lean on Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, anchovy paste, lemon juice, and plenty of Parmesan cheese to ensure every bite is exciting.

9. Roasted Carrot and Chickpea Salad

Simmering the chickpeas in a mix of fresh orange juice, garlic, and coriander on the stovetop is an easy way to give them life after all that time hiding in a can.

10. Black Bean Burgers with Chipotle Ketchup

While you definitely don’t have to make the chipotle ketchup for these burgers, it’s actually super easy to make and really does make this dinner stand out.

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