Illustration: Maanvi Kapur
When Kashana Cauley — whose novel, The Survivalists, debuted last week — was growing up in Wisconsin, she naturally gravitated toward “seasonal eating,” because it was cheaper. “Back in the day, peak peach season, for example, was the set of weeks when peaches were 99 cents a pound,” she says. “When peaches went back up to $3, that was it. Peach season was over. What were you going to do? Spend $17 on peaches like some kind of madman?” Now, the former Daily Show writer lives in L.A., where she can bask in the splendor of California’s citrus, birria tacos, and plentiful supply of cucumber-lime Gatorade.
Thursday, January 12
My breakfasts are kind of intense. There are many parts. I’m a distance runner, a “60 or 70 miles a week” kinda girl, and everything in here has made me run better. You’re probably wondering if I’m fast (nope!), ripped (absolutely not!), or skinny (strike three). What I am is prepared to run away from danger for two to three hours at a very medium speed.
I wake up and put on some Calvin Harris and eat a banana and a very tiny, three-finger-width clementine. I live in L.A., and there’s this Del Taco ad that aired last year during the holidays, which is right before citrus season. The two guys in the ad keep saying, “It’s tamale season, bro.” So I march around my apartment saying, “It’s citrus season, bro” to my son, who says supportive things like “Mom, that’s not funny.”
I move into the “spinach and canned fish” part of breakfast. The fish is canned wild white anchovies packed in olive oil. I know there are people out there who eat the kind of canned fish that’s packed in water, and to them, I say, “Sorry for your loss.” I studied abroad in Spain during college, and while all my friends were busy falling in love with Spanish men, I developed a crippling addiction to good olive oil. I’m the bitch who will open my cabinet, pull out all six kinds of olive oil, and start explaining the notes in them to the least interested person in the room.
The last thing I have before going out on my run is coffee. My husband and I are coffee freaks. We own a French press, an AeroPress, a Chemex, and one of those little stove-top deals that we use for Café Bustelo when we’re making Cuban coffee. Whenever I go on vacation, I end up hanging out with baristas and bringing a bag back from a local roaster. These days, we’re drinking Huixoc from Guatemala. It has praline, nougat, and chocolate-orange vibes. I like heavy coffee flavors.
On the run, I have a couple of GU Energy Gels: blackberry and a flavor I find perfect for the era we live in — Chocolate Outrage. When I get back, I sip on some lemonade-flavored Gatorade, which I think tastes better than actual lemonade. I’ll take fake sugar and artificial coloring over the real thing any day. I’m sure when I die, they’re going to cut me open, see that my liver is an unusual shade of yellowish-green, and correctly note that I spent my life as a Gatorade person.
For lunch, I have some kind of twisty pasta, and I tear up mozzarella with my hands to put over it, because I’m really sick of cutting mozzarella with knives.
At night, I go to a book event. It’s amazing, because I genuinely didn’t think I was going to get published. I’ve attempted to write novels for 11 years. But somebody took a chance on it, and the response has been incredible. I’ve been so shocked. All my events are full, and people buy books. I feel really embraced by the folks who’ve done events with me. I just feel incredible, and I love everyone.
I finish the day with a glass of night water.
Friday, January 13
I have The Breakfast, but today I top it off with a handful of roasted pumpkin seeds. My husband makes the yogurt. He likes a long-term cooking project. In the early part of the pandemic, he was one of those sourdough guys, but now he’s turned to yogurt. I’m thrilled with this development, because I can’t stand most grocery-store yogurt. It has fillers and flavorings and sugar, which is garbage. Good yogurt should be plain, full-fat, and taste substantial on the tongue. It should have a sourness that reminds you of lemons without tasting like a lemon. All that fat should be a good backdrop for fruit; happy to accept actual lemon, garlic, dill, olive oil, salt, and pepper for a good tzatziki; or flavorful enough to eat plain. I have held taste tests for yogurt. I have driven an hour each way for the right stuff. I believe in good yogurt more than other people believe in God.
I eat two gels on the run. I’ve been running since high school, but it feels like me and the gels have been together forever. At least ten years. We are so tight that I packed a bagful of them when I went to the hospital to give birth to my son. I figured I’d pop gels every so often to keep my energy up for whatever childbirth needed from me. Birth is the longest marathon, right? At my local running store, they were so proud of me. The guy behind the counter said I should write to the gel company and get sponsored for being a pregnant woman who was planning to survive the birth process on energy gels. I’m not having any more kids, but if any running companies want to sponsor someone who isn’t fast, hit me up. Of course, one of the hospital nurses yelled at me. She was like, “What are you doing eating? You can’t eat! We need your stomach to be empty in case of surgery!” Apparently, the American way is to calm the birthing mother by letting her starve the baby out. I was hungry!
I have Gatorade and, a couple of hours later, leftover black-eyed peas with leftover jollof rice. We make our jollof rice with habaneros, so it’s a delightful little hit to the chest.
Somebody calls to interview me about the book, and after the stress of trying not to sound stupid, I am hungry, so I have a banana while I sign some bookplates (which I didn’t know were a thing). I have illegally bad handwriting, so I like picturing whoever’s going to get the bookplates trying to figure out where exactly I put all the letters in my name.
To celebrate the book, me and the fam order in the rabbit meal from Kismet for dinner. Kismet gives you roasted rabbit covered in sesame and poppy seeds, a rabbit stew, and rabbit on skewers with seasonal vegetables, which, because we’re in January, made it onion season. I like this rabbit so much that I’ve been guilty of looking at other people’s pet bunnies and idly wondering how delicious they might be. We order this tahdig-like rice they do with pumpkin seeds and currants on top, egg yolk in the middle, and a deliciously crispy brown-rice crust. We have a side of lamb meatballs that come with steak fries and charred lemon. We pair it with orange wine. I’m obsessed with orange wine. You know what you’re getting with most red and white wines, but orange wine can taste like anything from caramel to sherry’s cousin to cheese someone left under their armpit. I love all that range.
Before going to sleep, I have an edible. After I take one, I only ever have an hour left in me. They’re just these lovely little smoke-flavored sleeping pills.
Saturday, January 14
It’s been really rainy here, like, “Wait, is that street I can see out my window a river now?” kind of rainy, so I get up at 5 a.m. to get the run in before a new round of rain. I have The Breakfast. When I get back, I have a little bit of cucumber-lime Gatorade — the best flavor of Gatorade ever invented and only a California thing. When I was pregnant, I did a fair amount of flying to hot places and drank Gatorade to keep myself more hydrated than water seemed to be able to accomplish. I thought pregnancy was some kind of endurance sport. I was a pregnancy, bro.
I have grapefruit and grits with butter and salt. All grapefruits that enter my home get sized up in the palm of my hand for heaviness, and if they don’t pass that test, they get a day or two on the counter to ripen before they get stuck in the fridge. After a day in the fridge, they are perfect. Sweet, cold, and ripe. Many things get ripened on the counter to correct the great injustice of underripe grocery-store fruit. In summer, I counter-ripen peaches both to eat and to put in pies and cobblers. I have two pomegranates on a counter right now patiently waiting to reach perfection. At my last job, I convinced a handful of my co-workers to age their peaches and tomatoes on the counter, and then they ate them and understood.
For lunch, I have chicken with a mysterious spicy red sauce that my husband cooked the other night and more black-eyed peas with jollof rice. After that, I make an almond-flour cake flavored with olive oil, orange juice, zest, and almond extract. I’m the family pastry chef. I’ve liked baking since college, when I used to throw pie parties, figuring the only thing better than drinking with your friends was having a big-ass pie sitting on a kitchen counter for when everyone inevitably got hungry. I remember so many nights when people came over stoned and devoured entire apple crisps I’d made before I could have any. For some reason, I was very popular in college. While I make the cake, I watch the Niners play the Seahawks. As a lifelong Packers fan, I’m cheering for anarchy or at least a close game. But the Niners have a way of wrecking your plans.
Because we’re having a real-ass winter here in L.A. — the high temperatures are like 55 degrees, and I’m a native Wisconsinite who gave up on both coats and socks when I moved here — we have a bunch of cheeses with bread, crackers, honeycomb, pickled beets, and dry red wine. Plus since this is the closest we get to what I call “bone-marrow weather,” we have that too — even our open-minded eater of a son. After dinner, I dust the cake with powdered sugar and we eat it.
Sunday, January 15
I eat The Breakfast with another perfectly aged grapefruit, go on The Run, take a couple of gels, and finish up at home with Gatorade and a homemade matcha latte.
For lunch, we drive out to the Westside to picnic with our favorite tacos from Tacos Por Favor in Venice. It’s an hour each way. We don’t care. We’ll do it for the tacos. I get two quesabirria tacos with birria dipping sauce and one tongue taco. We all split an order of birria nachos. In addition to peerless meats, Tacos Por Favor has the absolute best tomatoes of all time and an unparalleled white cheese — all of which goes on the nachos along with refried beans, guacamole, and sour cream. These are world-conquering nachos, unafraid to fill an entire Styrofoam clamshell.
We head home just in time to see the Vikings lose, which is always the highlight of my football year if the Packers don’t make the playoffs. There’s nothing better than an afternoon filled with nachos and that weird, depressed smirk Kirk Cousins gets on his face when he knows he fucked up — like, for example, when he throws for three yards on the fourth-and-eight play that ended the game.
For dinner, we order from our favorite Thai place, Sapp Coffee Shop: three different orders of Sen Chan Pad Boo, one order of egg rolls, and one order of Chinese broccoli with salty dried fish — a dish that is my favorite salt-bomb on the planet.
For dessert, we grill the leftover citrus cake. In Madison, where I grew up, there was this very off-the-wall restaurant called Ella’s Deli. The vibe was as if the B-52’s opened a restaurant with a dead magician. There were these extensive, dusty, ancient toy dioramas encased under glass at each table and a complicated collection of pulleys, levers, and catapults that ran a ball along a track that went around the entire ceiling of the restaurant like a game of Mouse Trap suspended above your head. My favorite dessert there was a grilled pound-cake sundae. They’d take pound cake, slather butter on it, put it out on the grill, then top it with ice cream and sundae toppings. It answered the question What if dessert were cocaine? I’m unwilling to re-create the entire thing, because I never have that much stomach space left over after dinner anymore, but I love to put citrus cakes and pound cakes in our oven at 400 degrees for seven minutes.
Monday, January 16
One more round of The Breakfast routine and some leftover Thai for lunch.
In the afternoon, I have hot chocolate with the whole fam while we take the Christmas decorations off our tree and put it on the curb. The Olympics have a closing ceremony. So do we.
The highlight of today is making a pork-and-scallops dinner from the Joe Beef cookbook. The two dudes who own that restaurant are heroes of French-Canadian decadence. I own both of their cookbooks — the first, standard “here’s the delicious stuff we cook at our restaurant” edition and the second “we’d like to eat well during the apocalypse” one. I don’t know a ton about Quebec, but the cookbooks are filled with Quebecois history and food traditions alongside amazing restaurant stories. I read them like novels — like there are characters and an arc but very, very filled with food.
We brown the scallops, make a hollandaise sauce, and — my favorite part — pull the pork off the butt, making my home smell like heaven all day. If you ever get the opportunity to pull pork, do it. I swear, homemade pulled pork tastes so much better than most of the restaurant stuff.
The cake we’ve been eating for the last two days tastes fine enough, but I feel I can do better. My husband and son love sweets, so they cheer me on while I make a second cake. This time around, I add an extra egg yolk for moisture, up the sugar content a little bit, and put in lemon zest and juice alongside the orange flavors. It is better! My husband whips out his favorite Armagnac to go with.
I close out the long weekend by taking an edible and some melatonin — the perfect party combo if your idea of a party is going to sleep.