How many people does your fridge need to feed?
One, and an Ivy, because she’s here most weekends.
What do you usually eat for breakfast?
There was a time when I was really into rice, seaweed, and sprats—sprats are sardine-type things I get at the Russian grocery. Also, rice and eggs. I lived in Japan and now I eat a lot of rice. I’ve got a little pan for making Japanese-style omelettes. But I’m low on rice. I haven’t gone to the store for the 15-pound bag I usually get so I’ll eat eggs and bread from the Russian bakeries. And coffee.
I wish I could eat how I ate in Japan all the time. I never ate dairy there, and I felt really healthy. There were rice and fish and vegetables at every meal. And smaller servings. When I lived there I was down to 145 pounds, the smallest I’ve ever been. The sucky thing about New York is that I know how I want to eat, I just don’t have the time to do it.
Is there anything you eat every day?
Butter and olive oil. And beer.
Rice; eggs; tofu; carrots, turnips, and parsnips—that’s the lunch that I make. I blanch them or eat them raw, with rice, tahini, and tofu. There was a time when I read a macrobiotics book and tried to live by it, and I also read some good recipes for black beans and miso soup by John Cage. He introduced me to the snack of wholegrain bread with sauerkraut and tahini, and it’s really good. But I never have all of my meal components in place—I’m always lacking something. And I don’t want to say french fries, but sometimes I eat lunch out too much and end up resorting to diner french fries and grilled cheese.
What item are you forbidden from purchasing right now?
I probably should forbid myself some things. I’m a terrible impulse buyer. I’ll buy huge blocks of cheese and chocolate, or alcohol; anything that’s bad and terrible and going to kill you I buy and eat.
What’s the most delicious thing in here?
Some of the things in here now are total surprises to me, like this gin. I didn’t buy this. My sister and her boyfriend were just staying here and they left that, and the tonic water, and some beers. That being said, I’d pick the grapefruit. I’ve been really into eating it for breakfast. But I’m not into the the way my girlfriend Ivy eats grapefruit for breakfast. It’s disgusting. The consistency is weird, and it looks like lobster bisque, and it’s cold. I also have this tamarind, which you soak in water and then squeeze the juice out and use it to sweeten a stir-fry. It looks like what I imagine heroin looking like. And this is jaggery, which is like brown sugar—I add it to curries.
The most disgusting?
Sometimes I try to make iced coffee and then I forget about it and it gets really bitter, and then I’ll drink it and want to throw up. And then I don’t get rid of it.
The bananas in the freezer. I keep saying I’ll make banana bread but my oven doesn’t work.
Anything you regret buying?
I don’t have any regrets, but I always kind of feel sad about buying these containers of Feta cheese. You buy it one night when you want to make Greek salad but then that fancy passes and you don’t know how to eat it or want to eat it. But it will be in here forever. Actually, I do feel bad about this Bragg’s liquid aminos. I paid way too much for this. These people, they just convince you. But they look shitty—don’t they look like they own a horse or something? I wouldn’t trust the Braggs but I bought their product.
What's your guilty pleasure?
I got this U-bet chocolate syrup as a prize at a quiz night Ivy and I hosted at the Brooklyn Historical Society. Well, I shouldn’t say I won it: it was leftover schwag they gave me. Anyway, I’ll cop to wanting dessert some nights and pouring this on top of a spoonful of peanut butter.
Where do you do most of your food shopping?
I do my big-trip shopping at NetCost, a Russian market near the aquarium. They have a really good bakery, and a crazy-good smoked fish counter. But they don’t reliably have tofu—it’s a crapshoot. Weekdays I shop at the C-Town close to where I work in Park Slope. Also at Fine Fair on 28th and Mermaid—it’s where I get my basics, and they’ve also got good international stuff. At the bodega I get seltzer and lemonade. And I go to Patel Brothers in Jackson Heights regularly and stock up on Indian spices.
How much do you spend on groceries each week?
I have no idea and I feel really irresponsible. I can spend anywhere between $75 and $200 a week.
How often do you go grocery shopping?
Three times a week.
What percentage of your meals do you prepare at home?
On a good week, every meal. I try to make a big batch of vegetables and rice to take to work, and I’ll make dinner for myself and have eggs for breakfast. On a bad week, I’ll eat lunch out three days a week.
Is there anything in here that we would have found in your childhood fridge?
Hellman’s. I think just that out of all of this stuff in here. Even though they had eggs, they weren’t organic, just the garden-variety, styrofoam package kind.
What do you wish you had in here?
Really expensive, delicious smoked fish. That’s something I never buy unless it’s, like, Easter.
Ben is a librarian, and he’s holding a jar of Riga Gold smoked sprats in oil. He lives in Coney Island, Brooklyn, steps from the beach.