Food Diary: How a 26-Year-Old Bartender Eats and Drinks on $50K/Year in Brooklyn, NY

Food Diary: How a 26-Year-Old Bartender Eats and Drinks on $50K/Year in Brooklyn, NY

Welcome to The Receipt, a series documenting how Bon Appétit readers eat and what they spend doing it. Each food diary follows one anonymous reader’s week of expenses related to groceries, restaurant meals, coffee runs, and every bite in between. In this time of rising food costs, The Receipt reveals how folks—from different cities, with different incomes, on different schedules—are figuring out their food budgets.

In today’s Receipt, a 26-year-old bartender works shifts at two bars while cooking chicken tagine and homemade hummus in Brooklyn. Keep reading for his receipts.


Jump ahead:

The finances

What are your pronouns? He/him

What is your occupation? Bartender

How old are you? 26 

What city and state do you live in? Brooklyn, NY

What is your annual salary, if you have one? Around $50,000 to $55,000 based on five days a week of work. I was recently bartending five days a week, but now I’m down to three a week, not including covers (which happens fairly regularly). I’m looking to add another shift at another bar. If I only worked three days a week for a year, my salary would be closer to $40,000. My pay shift to shift is very volatile, as both bars I work at are events-based. 

How much is one paycheck, after taxes? $800 to $1,000. 

How often are you paid? (e.g., weekly) Weekly

How much money do you have in savings? $1,000 to $5,000.

What are your approximate fixed monthly expenses beyond food? (i.e., rent, subscriptions, bills)

  • Rent: $1,100
  • Gym membership: $25 
  • Electric and gas: $45
  • Total: $1,170 

The diet

Do you follow a certain diet or have dietary restrictions? No dietary restrictions. I try to eat fairly healthy with a focus on lots of protein.

What are the grocery staples you always buy, if any? I always have coffee, eggs, protein powder, and usually bread. Often enough, I buy bananas, apples, avocado, and lettuce.

How often in a week do you dine out versus cook at home? Usually go out about twice a week for either food or drinks. 

How often in a week did you dine out while growing up? Hardly ever, maybe once a month. My mother is a very good cook and I am from a small town without many appealing restaurant options. Once I got to high school and could drive, I would go out more for meals with my friends. 

How often in a week did your parents or guardians cook at home? My mother cooked every day. In the summer, my father would take over some of the cooking duties and grill outside. 

The expenses

  • Week’s total: $288.57
  • Restaurants and cafés total: $223.24
  • Groceries total: $65.33
  • Most expensive meal or purchase: $62.93, drinks at Philomena’s
  • Least expensive meal or purchase: $0.57, yellow onion from Met Fresh
  • Number of restaurant, café, and bar meals: 10
  • Number of grocery trips: 6

The diary


8:55 a.m. I wake up cloudy and groggy. Yesterday, my idyllic Sunday plans were dissolved by an emergency shift that I worked from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. There was a pop-up brunch, a lovely couple romping about the area one last time before moving, a group of nurses that stumbled in after a brunch elsewhere and demanded (politely enough) that I shoot multiple rounds of group photos, and later, a rowdy, inebriated couple that I had to turn away as soon as they entered. 

I heave a cathartic sigh and do a limbering round of stretches on my yoga mat. Then I’m standing over my French press, grinding Colombian coffee beans I had previously bought from a corner grocery. I sip my black coffee and eat two bananas. It’s a humble beginning for what will be a redemptive day. 

I text my partner. Dinner tonight? I’m cooking.

12:46 p.m. I’m taking the day off. Upon returning from a jog, I scoop a serving of protein powder into my shaker and add an ice cube, and the muscle memory of bartending kicks in. I shake the powder-and-water mixture above my head, beside my ear, until the powder is fully dissolved. Typically, I buy the five-pound Optimum Nutrition whey protein powder, which costs around $75 and has 77 servings, so it lasts a long time.

1:22 p.m. I drop a thin slice of butter into a pan and crack a couple eggs that I bought the week before. I hit them with salt and pepper, flip them over easy, and enjoy the eggs with a bit of Valentina salsa picante. 

5:45 p.m. After some deliberation, I decide to cook chicken tagine. It’s my first time making it. A few weeks ago, I ordered it at a Mediterranean spot called Dar 525. I loved what I tasted. Key word: tasted, as in sampled—after my partner had some we practically switched dishes. So I know it will be a hit. 

I find a recipe online and head to a nearby grocery store, City Fresh Market. I have most of the necessary spices, but need everything else. 

I grab a yellow onion ($1.72), some loose garlic ($0.89), and a lemon ($0.99) to squeeze on when serving. This recipe differs from Dar’s tagine because it adds chickpeas ($1.79). I continue making my rounds and find cinnamon sticks ($4.59), a can of crushed tomatoes ($2.99), chicken stock ($4.79), and Moroccan couscous ($3.29). Then, rather than bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, I reach for a pack of the boneless, skinless variety ($12.99). It’s the less fatty option, and, some would argue, the less tasty choice, but I find it much easier to toss a slice of butter in the pan. Finally, I buy a package of dried apricots ($5.59). It’s the star of the dish, in my opinion, for the way its sweetness pairs with the spice blend (salt, cumin, ginger, black pepper, allspice powder, cinnamon powder, coriander powder and clove powder).

I bring a pot of water to boil and, after sampling a few or many for quality assurance, toss in the dried apricots. My partner arrives just as I am giving the chicken thighs their initial sear in my large cast-iron skillet. The chicken thighs come out and I replace them with the diced onion, followed by minced garlic, then the spice blend. Then, easy enough, in goes everything else, including the now plumped apricots. I place the chicken thighs on top and let everything simmer for a half hour. Meanwhile, I cook the couscous. 

We plate the tagine in shallow ceramic bowls and eat. It’s not our usual Sunday feast—there is no wine, no appetizers, no premeal libation, not even a side salad (that one slipped my mind at the store to be honest), but it’s plenty for a Monday, and we go our separate ways full and happy.

Monday total: $39.63


11:55 a.m. Another day off, another morning workout, and then I head to Top City Gourmet, a bodega near me. I order a bacon, egg, and cheddar cheese on a roll ($5.50). An NYC staple. When I was in college, the $3 bodega breakfast sandwich sustained me. Now, after the rise in egg prices, that $3 wonder seems a distant memory. I take the sandwich back to my apartment and improve it with a half avocado I had in my fridge and a generous dousing of Valentina salsa picante. 

12:22 p.m. Another scoop of protein powder dissolved in ice water. I wonder, as I keep track of my daily habits—why not make a shake? Peanut butter, almond milk, bananas—it would be easy enough. Simple answer: I choose to allocate my calories elsewhere. I drink a low-calorie protein knowing that when the time comes, I’ll have a pint, a cocktail, and maybe a late-night snack without fret. 

5:15 p.m. Though the spring equinox was yesterday, today feels like the first official spring day. It’s gorgeous out. Sixty degrees and sunny. I meet my partner in McCarren Park where we lay down on a blanket and open our books (I’m reading Rivka Galchen’s Atmospheric Disturbances, she’s reading Ling Ma’s Bliss Montage), and snack on some green seedless grapes from McCarren Natural on the way ($2.30). We read and snack, but more than anything else, we people-watch. The weather has brought a huge crowd to the park—it seems like everybody and their dogs are here. 

7:52 p.m. We walk from the park to a Just Salad nearby. We stop here often enough, so we have our reusable bowls that grant us the exhilarating power of a free topping. I order one of their special salads, Tokyo Supergreens with tofu plus chickpeas ($16.09, free chickpeas). I consider a flavored seltzer, $4 or so, but some primordial inner voice, that of my mother perhaps, asks, Do you really need that? No, I don’t. 

We are waiting for our salads. I’m looking at my phone when a name is called. It’s not my name. The name is called again. I look up…that’s almost my name…if you were to hack off the beginning hard consonant. The person behind the counter makes eye contact with me. I understand then that the hard consonant was lost in translation. I step up, receive my salad, and a new alter ego is born. From here on, whenever I’m hungover or drowsy, whenever I slip in pronunciation, my partner calls me that “almost my name” name. 

We walk back to her apartment, our reusable blue bowls tucked under our arms like footballs. We fall on the couch and pop the lids off our salads and put on a movie, Sideways, in preparation for a trip to wine country for a wedding…I used to like Merlot. 

9:20 p.m. We pause the movie and head to the kitchen for a snack break. Her items, her brilliant idea: frozen Whole Foods pancakes, toasted, with peanut butter and a dash of cinnamon. Count me in. I put on the kettle and we enjoy our snack with Tazo decaf chai. 

Tuesday total: $23.89


9:55 a.m. My partner and I wake up together and read in bed before having coffee. We often shoot for the French press, but we’re feeling a bit lazy, so we decide to make a couple of Keurig coffees. She prefers her coffee as dark as possible, so she usually buys Green Mountain Dark Magic K-Cups. When we use her French press, she brews a potion that I honestly think is the darkest, richest coffee ever made. I have, in times prior, poured a shot of almond milk into her coffee and watched it disappear into that blackness, not changing the color at all. 

We have a slow start to the day, taking our coffees back to bed. I bartend later at 4:30 p.m. She works on West Coast time, so we typically share these extended mornings whenever we stay over at each other’s apartments. 

11:28 a.m. After a nice walk around the neighborhood, we land at Ozzie’s Fresh Market. I feel the avocados ($3) and find two that are perfectly ripe while my partner appears with a yellow heirloom tomato ($1.39), the sweetest variety. 

We get back to her apartment. She toasts three slices of whole wheat sourdough. I slice the tomato in thin slices and salt them with Maldon sea salt flakes. We each eat a slice—quality assurance. We make avocado toast with tomato slices, coated in more salt flakes, black pepper, olive oil, a dash of crushed red pepper. I grace one of the slices with Crystal hot sauce. A little variety is always nice. We enjoy them outside and I head home with plans to hit the gym before my shift. 

2:29 p.m. Post-workout, you guessed it, protein powder and ice water. 

4:25 p.m. On my way into work, I stop at a salad spot in Bushwick called Green Streets Salads. It’s a bit expensive for a pretty basic salad spot, but the serving size is quite large and might justify the price. I get a Cobb salad ($16.32) and replace the blue cheese dressing with its house dressing, which, as far as I can tell, is a mixture of olive oil and red wine vinegar with some black pepper. I get the dressing on the side; I’ll open the bar first and have my salad in an hour or so. They don’t take your name down at this spot, so my new alter ego name isn’t uttered.

After I settle a small rush of five o’clockers with their post-work drinks, I eat my salad in view of the bar, taking a few breaks from it to pour a beer or mix a drink. Some banter here, some banter there. It stretches the meal over an hour or more. 

10 p.m. This is about the time I planned to eat something, however, unbeknownst to me, the bar’s kitchen has closed. 

Meanwhile, it’s jazz night at the bar. The house band’s bassist called out sick. No problem. The pianist plays bass with his left hand using a beat pad, while his right hand mans the electronic keyboard, emitting some interesting, wavy synth sounds. The drummer is responding to the lack of a proper bassist; his sticks are wandering. He uses the metal railing to his right and the wall to his left as part of his extended drum set. 

It’s not the usual jazz sound, not my usual eating schedule. This is emblematic of the bartending experience, or at least my experience. The unexpected occurs too frequently to be surprised by it. I might get something on the way home when I get out of here around 2 a.m.

2:19 a.m. I walk home, passing the few 24-hour bodegas and grocery stores along the way, and decide against eating. I’m more tired than hungry, and I don’t want to spend the money. I take a shower and go to bed.  

Wednesday total: $20.71


9:35 a.m. Good morning, world. I wake up and fall to my yoga mat for a round of stretches before heading to the kitchen. No work today, but I plan on stopping by some bars later to drop off a few résumés. I’m looking to pick up a shift or two. I used to work four to five days a week, but for the last few weeks I’ve been on a three-day schedule as I worked on some passion projects. 

I put the kettle on and grind some coffee beans. I pour the grind into my French press, add some water, stir, stir, stir, and then fill the beaker nearly to its brim with the remaining water. I have a few minutes to kill, so I wash my face, open and scan the latest New Yorker, make some mental notes to circle back, then flip to the crossword and manage to solve two clues (“salami” and “midtown”) before I plunge the press and pour myself my first cup. I drink out of my favorite cup, a speckled blue mug from an upstate artist that I received as a gift. I keep jumping around the magazine and eat two bananas. 

2:03 p.m. Back from the gym, I skip the protein powder, open the fridge, and lock eyes with a glass container holding my wonderful tagine leftovers. I’m making up for meals lost. I empty the large chicken thigh and a mound of saucy couscous into a bowl and place it in the microwave. 

I have a Galanz Retro Microwave. It’s a blue vintage-looking microwave that, for some inexplicable reason, I have seen on @stoopingnyc’s Instagram page like three times. Why would anybody want to give away this lovely microwave? It’s cool-looking! Well, let me tell you more about it. The interior glass tray never locks quite in place. The glass turns, the wheels move, but it just slightly scrapes as it rotates. You ask: Is this scraping audible? Why yes, it is. I would describe the sound—not for the sake of hyperbole, merely to give the reader an accurate report—as that of a whale bellowing into the deep ocean. 

Like leftover stew or bourguignon, the tagine leftovers take on a life of their own. The sauce is now, I think, richer and more present in every bite. The overall texture is a bit homogenized—the couscous is softer than I would want, but the meal is delicious and high in protein. Having caught less sleep than usual, and feeling soothed from the warm tagine, I fall to my bed and take a short nap.

5:15 p.m. I head to one of my favorite Bushwick bars, Left Hand Path. It’s a nice cocktail bar or maybe an elevated dive. I go to this bar often in the summer when its back patio is open. Today, I’m the only one sitting at the bar. I order whatever pilsner they have on tap, which turns out to be Threes Vliet ($8), and chat with the bartender. Who’s hiring? I heard this one place might be, says the seasoned barkeep. All right, I’ll stop by. I walk around the neighborhood, stopping at some spots I like, dropping off some résumés, meeting some owners, shaking some hands, etc. The stretch of early spring weather has continued, and my walk around Bushwick and Williamsburg is sunny and breezy. 

6:59 p.m. I land at a bar I’d never heard of and pop in. It’s called Philomena’s. There’s no sign out front, just this neon wire martini glass that juts out into the street. The decor reminds me of Left Hand Path: cozy cocktail lounge that isn’t too stuffy. I order, again, whatever pilsner they have on tap, narrowly catching the very reasonable happy hour price ($5), plus a hummus plate ($9). The hummus plate is really nice, particularly the warm, thick pita crusted with sesame seeds. There is a group beside me singing the bar’s praise. It’s their local spot. One person, who may or may not have been well in the bag, says I look just like somebody, then rolls through a list of celebrities far more handsome than myself, none of which I particularly look like. 

I text my partner and she joins me at the bar. I order a Last Word, an equal parts cocktail made of gin, green chartreuse, maraschino liqueur and lime, ($14.00) and she orders something called the Ginny off the speciality list ($14.00), which is basically a gin fizz with tangerine. I notice they have two specialty shots on their menu. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that before. Curiosity piqued, we order one of each ($14.00). One is a semi-spicy, syrupy mixture that resembles clamato juice, with mezcal as the liquor, and the other has a tequila base combined with grapefruit and honey. ($62.93 total)

8:12 p.m. Quick romp about the neighborhood, loving the spring weather. We stop in at my Williamsburg bar for a last round and a quick hello. I order a Guinness and Madre mezcal neat, which my partner picks up (at a discounted price). I don’t know what came over me. It’s a strange order. She orders a gimlet. There is a steady stream of people coming in and out of the curtained-off backroom. It’s figure drawing night, the bartender reminds me. I wonder if the nude model gets a free drink. 

10:30 p.m. I head back to Bushwick and make a pitstop at a Met Fresh, the cheapest grocery near me. My phone is dead. There will be no looking up of recipes. I’m not a naturally talented chef so I aim for something easy. I buy a yellow onion ($0.57), ground beef ($6.45), and on-sale hamburger buns ($2.49). ($9.51 total)

I get back to my apartment, put a pan on the burner, and begin caramelizing the onions. I form a few patties with the ground beef and place my trusty cast-iron skillet on another burner. With time to kill, I put on a record, Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions. Somewhere in the middle of “Living for the City,” the onions start to caramelize, the patties go on, and I place the buns in the broiler to catch a light toast. Inebriated and in need of something solid, I eat two large burgers with plenty of caramelized onions, plus some hot sauce to taste. I put the third patty in the fridge.

Thursday total: $80.44


9:30 a.m. I wake up to last night’s dirty dishes. A metaphor? Many things seem like a metaphor when you have a headache. How much did I spend yesterday? Okay. Not great. Today is Friday. I’m bartending tonight in Bushwick and ready to make some money. 

First things first, caffeine. A sink full of dishes creates a bit of extra work for the morning coffee, so, lazily, perhaps pathetically, I head to my usual café, Post Factum, for a hot drip coffee ($3.27). It’s a small café with only a few seats, but the coffee is great, and, most important, they have a punch card program. I’m a sucker for a punch card. I don’t know how much I’m saving by getting every 11th coffee free. But when I do get that free coffee, I ride home on a wave of endorphins. I sip my coffee and walk around the neighborhood.

10:20 a.m. Back at my apartment, I put a pan on the burner and dice a shallot I had previously bought. I put a hunk of butter in the pan and introduce the shallot. Meanwhile, I scramble two eggs—my last two from a carton previously bought—and, once the shallots have browned, add the eggs to the pan, then salt, pepper, and a small dash of Utica Grind, a crushed red pepper spice blend that my parents gifted me a while back. I eat the eggs at my coffee table and peel that New Yorker open once again. 

1:25 p.m. Text from partner: We are making shakshuka Sunday morning. Brilliant. 

1:50 p.m. I don’t have many groceries and don’t have a ton of time before I need to leave for work. I place a pickup order from a favorite of mine, Café @ Klom Klorm, which is the smaller, more delivery-centered neighbor of Klom Klorm, a popular Thai spot. On my way home from the gym I pick up my tofu rama ($13.07). It’s my go-to lunch order: eight or so tofu pieces, steamed carrot wedges, broccoli, and cauliflower over a bed of white rice, all coated in a Thai peanut sauce and bits of shredded peanut, which adds a crunch factor. It’s tasty and filling, and very reasonably priced for the amount of food. I don’t finish it all and place the remaining rice and veggies in the fridge for later. 

5:30 p.m. I’m at my bar, and, having gotten through the initial round of drinks, I eat a protein bar. It’s a Met-Rx Big 100 Super Cookie Crunch ($4.00) that I picked up on the way earlier from a corner store called Unik Gourmet. Why does it seem, by law, that protein bars must have ridiculous names? I have tried a lot of protein bars in my short life. This one leans more into the candy than the health side, but has an obscene amount of protein, and, as a souped-up candy bar, it tastes pretty good. 

8:04 p.m. Receive another text from partner. I had sent her a viral tweet of @mariyyum, a food content creator, making homemade hummus, and she has sent me a photo of a bag of dried chickpeas. Text: We are doing the damn thing. Brilliant.

9:55 p.m. At this point, the bar has nearly emptied out. The happy hour crowd is long gone and the DJ doesn’t arrive until 11 p.m. It’s a moment of lull before the next wave. 

Throughout my shift so far, I’ve noticed streams of smoke wafting down the street. Whenever a patron opens the door, they let in a potent scent of chicken and spices. Now, that interests me. I pop my head outside. I see a large, black outdoor grill, smoke billowing. I see two men standing by. I walk over and say what’s up and meet the Jamaican jerk chicken chef, Fitzroy, and his son, Shemar. They are doing a pop-up kitchen on the street, selling $5 and $10 dollar boxes. 

I talk to them for a while. One thing about bartending—sort of an unsaid thing—is that the drinks you make, the alcohol and sodas that you preside over, represent their own form of currency, one that is redeemable and exchangeable on the barter market. For instance, if a party has had a few rounds, and if they present the possibility of becoming regulars, it’s pretty standard to give them something on the house, which often pays itself forward in the form of a generous tip. In this case, the chef offers me a free box of jerk chicken, and I pay it back with some ginger ales. 

He asks me if I prefer the mild or spicy sauce. Spicy. The chicken is blackened and crisp, the sauce is sweet and spicy, and it’s a needed meal before the bar gets busy again.

Friday total: $20.34


12 p.m. I am running late. I need to be at my Williamsburg bar to open it at noon, but, after waking up late, rushing through a workout, and missing my breakfast, I’m grabbing some food from a grocery on the corner of Grand and Manhattan. I order a honey turkey wrap ($8), cold, with lettuce and tomato, no onions or cheese. I grab a protein bar ($3.50), a hot bodega coffee ($2.50), and two bananas ($1). (($15.60 total) I jog to the bar and find that it’s already open. The owner is setting up the wells. Unperturbed by my lateness, he reminds me that there is a baby shower starting in a couple hours and lasting all day. I join him to set the bar up, sip some coffee, and eat the protein bar, a Quest Nutrition Cookies & Cream bar. Hey, that’s a normal-ish name. 

1:51 p.m. This bar has a large back room and hosts a lot of events, which makes the Saturday day shift usually pretty fruitful. The baby shower is kicking off soon. Fifty-eight guests. If you’re thinking a baby shower at a bar seems odd, then you’re thinking of the wrong variety of baby showers. 

A dancehall DJ walks in carrying his own subwoofer. He tests his gear in the back and sends shockwaves throughout the bar. One of the owners, who lives upstairs, walks in with a blank expression, the face one may expect to have when you own a bar, are a mother of two toddlers, and live directly above said bar. I have a moment before the tab is opened, so I disappear in the kitchen and eat my wrap. It’s a fine wrap, good enough in a pinch.

4:30 p.m. Bodega coffee has been poured into a Guinness glass over ice, and I’m downing it in sips between making a lot of sidecars and margaritas. 

6:42 p.m. One of the owners and I share a Red Bull. Not usually a Red Bull drinker, but I’ve been playing catch-up all day. I feel like I’m slightly lagging. The party has kicked into another gear. Plenty of shots and toasts. 

7:01 p.m. I take a shot of well tequila, Anza Blanco, with one of the owners, the father-to-be, and a group of his friends, mostly firemen and EMTs. The vibe is unadulterated happiness. I love bartending parties like baby showers and wedding receptions, where everybody is gathered to celebrate life. The joy is contagious, my tip jar is very full, and everything is as it should be. 

7:11 p.m. I receive word that a spew of vomit has hit one of the bathroom sinks. I look at the barback who has just arrived, who looks at the owner, who is looking at me. I’d rather quit, I think to myself. The owner runs to the basement office. The barback, a wonderful writer and musician who is probably the smartest employee of the bar, sighs at the chain of command, but then, the owner reappears with plastic gloves pulled to his elbow. His eyes have a heroic twinkle. The great ones lead by example. 

7:23 p.m. Mike and Jack are the wonderful couple behind the restaurant Bitchn Kitchn and the resident chefs of my bar. The party is subsiding, and though I get off soon, I haven’t eaten nearly enough and I’m beyond hungry. They whip me up four pieces of chicken wings. I’m biased, but they really do make some of the best chicken wings I’ve ever had. I go for the breaded plain wings. They are perfectly seasoned and crisped, impossibly moist, and a much-needed snack before closing out my shift. 

8:27 p.m. I’m at my partner’s apartment and we are executing the initial phase of a culinary plan that’s been in the works for a few days. We soak the dried chickpeas in a large bowl of water and add a small scoop of baking soda. Hummus incoming. We empty a carton of full-fat Greek yogurt and a touch of salt into a bowl that we have laced with a cheese cloth. My best MacGyver impression: I tie the yogurt-filled cheese cloth to a wooden spoon that I place over the bowl, suspending the sac of yogurt above the bowl so that the additional liquid will drip out overnight. Labneh incoming. She has picked up the bill on these items in return for Monday’s dinner.

9:26 p.m. It’s a rainy day in the city and we decide to go for ramen. We pick Setagaya in Williamsburg. I have an Asahi draft ($8) and she has a sweet saki ($7). We binge, starting with oshinko rolls ($5) and pork buns ($10). The pickled daikon stands out for me, the slices of pork are thin and tender, and the buns soft and airy. She gets the black garlic ramen ($18.00) and I go for the spicy miso ($17.00). They are both incredible. We sit by the window and the falling rain makes our meals even warmer, even cozier. At some point, we switch ramens. She prefers my thicker broth and wider noodles, and, as always, I am just happy to be here. We split the bill, and tip included, everything settles at about $40 each. 

Saturday total: $55.60 


9:57 a.m. We wake up together and she attacks the crossword while I brew a pot of coffee with her French press. Her coffee, her press, her apartment, so I brew it dark as night. 

10:54 a.m. We dice a red pepper and a yellow onion, mince some garlic, and toss them in a pan with olive oil. She pours in a spice blend of cumin, smoked paprika, a little chili powder, and a touch of cinnamon, then adds the roasted whole tomatoes, which I break apart in the pan with a fork. We let it simmer and sit for a few minutes and then start making pockets in the sauce and dropping our eggs in. It’s our first time making shakshuka. It comes together well. Most of the eggs are a nice texture, with firm whites and runny yolks, except for the middle egg, which is closer to the texture of a frisbee. We enjoy the meal with some sourdough toast. 

2:04 p.m. After hitting the gym together, I buy a protein drink from Blink on my way out, a Lean Body protein shake ($5.50). We walk to McCarren Park. It’s beautiful out again. She had the foresight to bring along a blanket and we lay in the park. I think I fall asleep for a few minutes. At the table next to us, a group of four or five men in their 60s enjoy some Coors Banquet tallboys. I see one of them twist open a small metal flask and pour a clear liquid into a plastic cup for the buddy next to him. It reminds me of Kingsley Amis’s novel The Old Devils. 

4:35 p.m. Back at her apartment, we snack on some cheese sticks and pistachios before showering. We are standing in the kitchen when an idea hits the air…drinks at Delmano?

6:00 p.m. We are sitting outside at Hotel Delmano, a stylish cocktail lounge. She orders a specialty cocktail called Ninety-Nine Roses ($15.00), an herbal gin drink. I chase a former intuition—the Guinness mezcal combo I had a few days ago was incorrect, but I stand by the spicy liquor/cocktail and beer combo. There is something there. I order a Rothaus pilsner ($9.00) and a specialty cocktail, the Devil’s Garden ($15.00), which has chipotle-infused mezcal and is served with a flourish of fresh mint. The combination is a success, the pairing brilliant: The spice and bite of the cocktail is soothed by the bright, refreshing pilsner. We leave Delmano for Whole Foods with a little more than a spring buzz. I pick up the Delmano bill since she is buying the necessary ingredients for tonight’s dinner. ($42.46 total) 

7:15 p.m. We return to her apartment and toss a premade spanakopita from Whole Foods (bought by my partner) in the toaster oven. I make her a dirty vodka martini and myself a watered-down boulevardier over ice in a wine glass. I don’t have strong opinions on Whole Foods. I hardly go there, but my partner swears that it has some quality stuff, and the flaky spanakopita, fresh out the oven, is pretty tasty. Not your mother’s homemade spanakopita, but it’s a nice appetizer as we prepare to make hummus for the first time.

7:52 p.m. What was a leisurely time in the kitchen snacking, drinking, and dancing to oldies is quickly becoming a race to get dinner on the table before my partner heads across town to catch the Succession season four premiere with her friends. The labneh is easy enough. We plate it and coat it in olive oil and za’atar seasoning. Unfortunately, while it tastes good, the consistency is a bit firmer than we hoped for. 

I boil the soaked chickpeas to make them as soft as possible while removing off the filmy foam that rises to the top. My partner is tearing off cloves of garlic and tossing them into a blender. She is pouring a jar of tahini in. She is straining. I put three lamb keftas into a cast-iron pan and turn them at equal intervals. My job seems relatively easy. She seems to be doing something scientific, and, per usual, she amazes me. I’m grilling meat, sipping a drink, and DJ’ing. 

8:19 p.m. We sit down to eat. It’s beautiful. My plate consists of a (perfectly, expertly cooked) lamb kefta, scoops of hummus and labneh, a spring salad of romaine, tomato, feta, olive oil, and a toasted pita. The homemade hummus is creamy and delicious. We eat at her kitchen table and chat about our plans for the upcoming week. 

I take the L train back to Bushwick. I should be full and happy, but a feeling of anxiety is rising. My life is wonderful but the sustainability of it is a constant worry. I spent noticeably more than usual this week on food and drinks, and nothing has come up yet for additional bartending work. I remember that I have a burger in the fridge. I have leftover tofu. I vow to do better next week, drink a little less, eat what I have at home first and foremost. I begin to feel calm. Then, the slightest shudder rings down my spine—I left my two bananas at the bar. 

Sunday total: $47.96

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