Food

How to Make Meatless Monday Your Favorite Day of the Week

So far my thirties have been the tightest years of my life, budget-wise. I didn’t stop buying meat and dairy for that reason, but it’s a fortunate coincidence, because going vegan has helped me avoid food-related credit card debt. I bought meat to serve guests recently and I was stunned by the price (granted, I was at Whole Foods). For the cost of four chicken breasts, I could feed myself healthy vegan lunches and dinners for a week.

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Save Your Money, Stick to Wine

Fancy-shmancy restaurants serve fancy-shmancy cocktails full of ingredients you’ve never heard of, so that you will pay too much to get drunk on something gross and then, because you’re drunk, buy more and more expensive food and wine than you planned to and then, the next morning, wake up gout-y, dehydrated, and poor, wondering where it all went wrong. Don’t worry, the Times is on it:

a restaurant is way more likely to hand you a not-good drink than a bar that prides itself on cocktail conjuring. … restaurants have come to depend on these [cocktail] lists for extra revenue, which comes in two forms: the margin on the cocktails, and the extra cash that first drink of the evening may pry loose from a customer’s money clip.

“It’s an unspoken truth in the business,” said Eben Freeman, who used to superintend the bars operated by Mr. White’s Altamarea Group and recently moved to a similar job with AvroKo. “You’re hoping to get a cocktail sale in before they settle down with the wine list. The dark side is that they will drink the cocktail faster” than a glass of wine, he continued. “And it will affect their decision-making, and might cause them to get the steak for two. Or the more expensive bottle of wine.”

The only way to escape this endless, torturous loop is to stare down your server and decline the cocktail menu altogether. Stand strong, America! Only you can prevent Atomic Fireballs.

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A Review of Pizza Hut’s Nostalgia Pizza

Have you ordered your free Pizza Hut Book It! Alumni nostalgia pizza yet?

I ordered mine last night, and will provide a thoughtful and nuanced review of the experience.

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The Cost of Things: Shake Shack Around the World

Danny Meyer’s take on better-than-average-burger-and-fries has gone global. Though the appeal of fast food is predictability and consistency, meals at Shack Shack still vary in cost. The trademark burger in the original Madison Square Park location “is now $4.95 at the flagship location, which is actually cheaper than the original inflation-adjusted price from the summer of 2004,” Eater.com explains. But what about the rest of the world? 

The world’s cheapest Shake Shack, in U.S. dollars, is in Moscow, where a burger, fries and a shake currently cost 495 rubles ($12.38). … The world’s most expensive Shake Shack — in US dollars — is at The Dubai International Airport, where a meal consisting of a burger, shake and fries would cost over $23. This is important because DXB is the world’s seventh busiest airport, with over 66 million passengers in 2013. And the in-house Shake Shack, located in Terminal 3 (the worlds largest building by floor space), is open 24/7. That means a whole lot of folks from around the world stand to have their first encounter with a Shake Shack at a very expensive Shake Shack.

To be fair, the DXB Shake Shack is a captive audience Shack, where a certain level of higher prices is anticipated. But just so we’re clear on how expensive it is, consider the following: A McDonald’s quarter pounder with cheese costs 12 AED at the Middle Eastern airport, which is 16 percent cheaper than the New York East Village price of $3.89. By comparison, Shake Shack’s 33 AED ($8.91) for a burger is about 80 percent higher than what it costs in NYC. That’s a heck of a markup. Still, this author would rather splurge on a Shack Burger if marooned here, rather than ingest the awfulness that is McDonald’s.

Other Middle Eastern and London locations also charge more, but who goes to those places to eat at Shake Shack? Especially in London, I’m sure there’s a local hamburger worth trying. Right? While in the Middle East you will eat your falafel and you will like it.

Photo: Niki Achitoff-Gray/Serious Eats

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Here Is Your Open Thread

Tamar Adler, in The New York Times Magazine, on cooking and eating when it’s just you at the dinner table.

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Paula Deen is Back, Y’all!

One of my favorite longform internet-type writers, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, has a profile of the new-and-improved Paula Deen business empire, built on ashes and martyrdom and Southern charm:

a new company had been announced— Paula Deen Ventures—which had been bankrolled to the tune of a reported $75 to $100 million by an investor named Jahm Najafi. His website says he “seeks to make strategic investments in undervalued assets,” but really, homeboy loves a fire sale: he was the last known owner of Book of the Month Club and BMG Music Service — you remember, 12 tapes for a penny — and in 2011 considered buying Borders, which had dwindled to 405 all-but-dead stores. He specializes in businesses that still have some juice in them; he doesn’t care how much because he buys them so cheap and a profit is a profit. (You can only imagine how quickly calls made to the Najafi headquarters were not returned for this story. Paula Deen’s publicists also denied my many interview requests on the boat and after; they did not respond to our many fact-checking queries.)

And there is still profit to be squeezed from the Paula Deen brand. Deen’s products — through collaborations with Meyer Corporation, among others—had seen a reported 35 percent sales increase in the first two quarters of this year; subscriptions to her magazine reportedly grew by 40 percent. (For perspective, in those two quarters, paid subscriptions for magazines in general faltered 1.8 percent and single-copy newsstand sales fell a significant 11.9 percent from a year before.)

There are many fascinating facts embedded in this essay. For one, it can cost $75,000 per episode to make a cooking show. How is that ever profitable or worth it? For another, Glenn Beck sells discounted NRA subscriptions. Mostly though it’s an interesting story about a self-made woman who publicly self-destructed and is now trying to self-make again, in part by drawing on the sympathy of folks like her with a soft spot for butter. An American tale, indeed.

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My Obsession With Health Food Products Is Eating Away at My Bank Account

I am 24, with no health conditions. Under fluorescent lights, my doctor, smelling like foaming antibacterial hand sanitizer, tells me that nothing is wrong. But my neck is sore, I didn’t sleep enough last night, ringing phones make me anxious, my hips are tight, and I’m always cranky. I do not like the way I look. I am not at home in my body.

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Coffee vs Diet Coke vs a Pure, Uncaffeinated Life

How much do you spend on coffee a day? Is it worth it? Slate (via Inc) says hell no:

that euphoric short-term state that you enter after drinking coffee is what nonhabitual caffeine consumers are experiencing all of the time. The difference is that for coffee drinkers, the feeling doesn’t last. “Coming off caffeine reduces your cognitive performance and has a negative impact on your mood. The only way to get back to normal is to drink caffeine, and when you do drink it, you feel like it’s taking you to new heights,” Bradberry explained. “In reality, the caffeine is just taking your performance back to normal for a short period.”

It’s bad for your sleep cycles, your productivity, and your wallet. Sorry, lovers of Joe.

I can be smug about this since I’ve never drunk coffee. It’s strong and bitter and I do not get it at all, unless you muffle it in so many layers of milk and sugar that it doesn’t taste anything like coffee, at which point it’s 5,000 calories and $500 and turns your irises into pinwheels.

On the other hand, I get my daily caffeine fix from Diet Coke, which doesn’t even have the defense of being a naturally occurring, organic upper. It’s water and chemicals and fizz and God help me, I love it, even though it is probably wreaking havoc on my gut flora. Who am I to judge? Let he who is without beverage sin cast the first stone.

illo by Charrow, possibly the most serious coffee person I know. 

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Cooking: Secretly The Worst?

Everyone knows that secrets to living frugally include 1) cooking as much as possible, and 2) more cooking. But cooking, man! It’s time consuming, exhausting, stressful, and then, even after all that effort, unreliable.

When I finally went to bed after hours of cooking and cleaning up, having achieved absolutely nothing — having impressed no one, including myself, with the food I made — I said to my boyfriend, “Cooking is really stupid.” He said that he agreed. I said that I was never cooking again. He said he thought that was a great idea. I said, “I have to make homemade tomato sauce with C on Saturday. And I have to make some more galettes because the last ones sucked.”

“That sounds like a lot of cooking,” he said.

“I know,” I said. “I’m going to make the galettes and the sauce and then, I am never cooking again.”

Is cooking really that much of a money-saver, asks Get Rich Slowly? The answer is yes, mostly (and the site offers some hacks). But that still doesn’t answer the question of whether for you, individual reader, it’s worth it.

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IMPORTANT: How to Reheat Leftover Pizza

Anything that contributes to you living your Best Life falls under the purview of the Billfold, or so I’ve decided, so this, from Food52, about having perfectly reheated pizza — certainly a cornerstone of living your best life — is relevant to our readership. It’s also budget-friendly, in that you’ve already spent the money, so having pizza for lunch the next day is BASICALLY FREE.

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How Do You Do Groceries?

When I was fresh out of college, back in the days where we still thought email was a substitute for letter-writing instead of a method of assigning and confirming responsibilities, I wrote a friend a long email letter about my low-paying telemarketing job and the realization that grocery shopping was my only form of discretionary spending.

(Later, when I watched The Office, I got to the part where Ryan Howard says “Now that I’m back to doing the job of a temp, again, I find that food is one thing I can control,” and laughed uncomfortably.)

So I used to spend more time in the grocery store, looking at everything and thinking about what I could buy.

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