Stone, who visited from Chicago to see friends and celebrate her new book.
Illustration: Adam Mazur
This week, comedian and former food blogger Lillian Stone was in town from Chicago. Her debut essay collection, Everybody’s Favorite, just came out. In it, she takes us to her childhood in Missouri’s Ozarks region, which feels like a combination of The Righteous Gemstones and Y2K: evangelism, Britney Spears, AOL Instant Messenger, Orlando Bloom, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. In the past, Stone’s sweet tooth has led her to attempting to conquer a one-pound jawbreaker, and in this week’s Grub Street Diet, she quells prerelease jitters with potato-chip ice-cream bars, khachapuri, and Love Island U.K.
Tuesday, July 11
I’m treating myself to Dunkin’ because I bought a rug that turned out to be kind of ugly, which is one of the worst things that can happen to a woman. I order my cold brew with sweet cold foam, an incredible invention that seeps into your coffee in creamy tendrils that look like the Grim Reaper’s fingers. Walking the half a block back to my apartment, I pass a real-estate office full of the meanest-looking people I’ve ever seen in my life. Maybe they bought an ugly rug, too.
Back home, I fire up my prized waffle iron. My boyfriend, Sean, bought it for our first Christmas together, and it remains the single best gift anyone’s ever given me. I measure out some chocolate-chip waffle mix from Kodiak, a protein-heavy brand my meathead brother recommended when I too became a meathead a few years back. Kodiak, baby, if you’re reading this, call me.
For lunch, I do something really evil: I make a turkey, cheese, and ketchup sandwich, which I’ve done since elementary school. I wish I could remember how this sandwich came about. I have always loved ketchup. There’s a chance my mom invented it, but I don’t know why she would’ve done such a thing. Making a sandwich is damn near impossible in our home because our cat, Tuesday, is rude around deli meat. I push her off the kitchen counter thrice before I give up and let her lick her own tiny piece of turkey so I can finish constructing my sandwich. I have to have something sweet after every meal, and, so I don’t rot my teeth, it’s a little bit of cereal or a fruit strip. I chase my evil sandwich with a strawberry fruit strip from Aldi and a little coffee mug full of Special K Chocolatey Delight. Special K is the glue that holds my relationship together. My boyfriend and I can take down an entire box in 24 hours — easy. It’s always at the top of our shared grocery list along with coffee creamer, deli turkey, waffle mix, and a romantic note from my boyfriend that reads, “Nice cans! —Sean.”
I’m going to meet a friend for drinks, so I eat an early dinner: leftover ground-turkey stir-fry, which is better than it sounds. I top it with a huge scoop of Laoganma chile crisp. I put Laoganma on almost everything: pasta, rice dishes, chicken breast — whatever. It has honestly ruined me; I visited a nice Italian restaurant a few weeks ago and kept wishing I could throw Laoganma on my perfectly good cacio e pepe. Then dessert — two more fruit strips — before I roll up the ugly rug. The rug company wants me to indicate the reason for my return, but there’s no checkbox for “ugly as sin.”
After work, I meet my friend Emily for our weekly Tuesday hang. We call it Tuesday Time, and it’s an excuse for us to discuss the sociopolitical climate, i.e., which Love Island U.K. cast member would be the most dangerous behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. We meet at Consignment Lounge, a Chicago bar furnished with funky antiques you can buy on the spot. Emily orders gin; I go for a draft cocktail with pisco, Midori, cucumber, and lime. It’s a gorgeous shade of green, and it tastes surprisingly vegetal — almost sweaty but in a good way.
We end the night at Pretty Cool Ice Cream, a very cute shop that specializes in novelty popsicles. I grab a Peanut Butter Potato Chip ice-cream bar, which has crushed potato chips mixed into the chocolate shell. Emily gets the vegan version, but I go full dairy and end up with a huge blob of snot in my throat on the drive.
Wednesday, July 12
Another waffle morning. Sometimes I get excited to go to sleep because I know waffles are soon to follow, which is maybe what the beautiful blonde women on Instagram mean when they tell me to “romanticize my life.” I grind the coffee while the iron heats. Freshly ground beans might be wasted on me because I usually put an ungodly amount of cream in my coffee, thus canceling out the subtler tasting notes, but I still love grinding it every morning because it makes me feel like a little pioneer lady.
I meet a fellow Chicago author at a little pub called the Green Post for a late lunch. The pub is all leather and dark wood — very English — and I’m tempted to ask the other patrons if they’ve seen the latest episode of Love Island U.K., in which one of my favorite contestants thinks deeply about her favorite animal and ultimately declares, “I do love monkeys.” I order a fancy grilled cheese with Irish cheddar, tomato chutney, and cheese-and-onion-flavored chips baked right in. Sorry — crisps. Oi, oi! It’s phenomenal. The fries (sorry — chips) are less phenomenal, but I dunk them in hella ketchup and polish them off all the same.
That afternoon, I have to take my car into the shop, which, again, is one of the worst things that can happen to a woman. I wait for the mechanic for two and a half literal hours and deeply regret not bringing a snack. I feel a headache coming on, like I’m some kind of Victorian woman who requires a fainting couch and/or a massive handful of gummy worms. Three hours and $500 later, I’m on my kitchen floor with my beagle in my lap. I boil water for buttered noodles, my favorite comfort food since high school. I eat two more fruit strips while the linguine cooks, then throw in a pat of butter, a giant scoop of Laoganma, and a generous sprinkle of Cavender’s, a tangy pseudo-Greek seasoning from an Arkansas company near my hometown. Every Ozarks home cook uses the stuff. I eat my noodles on the couch in an old T-shirt and the most gigantic pair of underpants you’ve ever seen. Sometimes life is so glamorous I could cry.
Thursday, July 13
I’m up early for a 10 a.m. flight to New York. Four of my best friends just moved to the city from Chicago, and I can’t allow them to forget the gentle lilt of my voice or the graceful swivel of my hips. Also, my book is coming out in five days, and I want to celebrate with my editor, who lives in Brooklyn. Releasing a book feels completely insane, like when you leave for a trip and you’re just positive you’re forgetting something important. My stomach is funky from book nerves and plane nerves, so I hold off on coffee until I’m at O’Hare.
I make a beeline for the Starbucks in Terminal B. The line is long as hell, and someone named Harry has abandoned his venti white mocha to the chagrin of the screaming barista. I keep my order simple: a grande misto with 2 percent milk, an acceptably firm banana, and a plain bagel with cream cheese.
At the gate, I choke down my bagel (too dry) and banana (too wet) while making intermittent eye contact with a woman sitting nearby. She’s brought a huge ziplock bag of honeydew from home. I recognize her as a tactical genius and hope to God she’s seated in an exit row. At least I’ve brought my drug of choice: Sour Patch Kids. They’re the perfect candy and are canonically the only thing I can eat in times of extreme stress or nausea.
I land at La Guardia just in time to haul my giant suitcase to Xi’an Famous Foods in Greenpoint for a late lunch. I’ve been craving those stewed-pork hand-ripped noodles since my last visit in 2022. It’s about a million degrees outside, but I order extra spice anyway, creating a saunalike environment for myself against the hot window. By the time I’m done, I’m wrung out like a washcloth. I have released so much sweat that I absolutely should be dead. But I’m not dead, which is great, because I’m crashing with my sweet friends Cara and John in Crown Heights and I’ve brought a special housewarming treat: two giant bags of Goldilocks polvoron from Seafood City, the giant Filipino supermarket. (John has been generous enough to introduce me to his favorite Filipino snacks, including this particular polvoron.)
I throw back a few bites of cookies-and-cream polvoron and chug water like it’s an Olympic sport, trying to rehydrate before meeting my editor Anna at the Crown Inn on Franklin. We sit in the backyard, sweating into our beers and chatting about Love Island until my other editor, Kate, appears with flowers. Kate left the publisher just as we wrapped up manuscript edits, and seeing her is the happiest surprise. They ask how I feel about the book release, and I realize my excitement outweighs my anxiety, which is a first.
An hour later, I cruise to Union Hall to catch a comedy show with Cara, John, and two other Brooklynite friends. We’re hyped to check out DDT, a nearby wrestling-themed bar, after the show; John is the son of Earthquake, a WWE legend from the ’90s. The bartender swiftly ushers us out, saying they’re way too crowded for our group. He clearly doesn’t know he’s rejecting wrestling royalty. I offer to hit him with a belly-to-belly suplex, but John gracefully declines.
We end the night at Burrito Bar & Kitchen in Prospect Heights, which reminds me of the strip-mall Mexican restaurants we’d visit after my little brother’s weekend-long baseball tournaments back in the day. To be clear, this is a good thing. Strip-mall joints always have the best salsa: heavy on the tomato, my favorite. It brings back strong memories of roasting my legs under the Branson sun and drinking three root beers in rapid succession while my dad screamed for a bunch of 10-year-olds to HUSTLE. I order a coconut-banana daiquiri (insanely strong) and a carnitas burrito because shredded pork is apparently the theme of the day. I’m stuffed, but I still find room for one single Nerds Gummy Cluster before bed.
Friday, July 14
Cara and John live down the street from Cafe Rue Dix, a French Senegalese café that seems like the perfect antidote to the day’s stormy forecast. We have coffee in little china teacups and puffy bite-size beignets for the table; I order the Breakfast Pomme de Terre, a plate of four crispy, potato-stuffed spring rolls served with a side salad. We all agree that breakfast salad is a really solid concept. Everything is fantastic and I’m in a blissful mood, even after someone’s window AC unit drips into my coffee.
Hopped up on beignets, Cara and I head into Manhattan to visit some trendy stores we can’t afford, the kind that sell $300 shower curtains and chairs that look like hands. We can afford bags of old-school candy from Biggie’s Bodega, a corner store monitored by a squat American bully named Biggie who loves attention. We agree that Biggie has absolutely got to be one of our best guys.
It’s raining, so we duck into a random pizza spot to grab $3 slices. We’ve got an hour to kill before our dinner plans, so we end up at a wine bar on Broome Street. The wine-bar server is maybe the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. She’s got unkempt red hair and is wearing a little white tank top that shows both of her areolas in a way that is impossibly chic. She clearly hates our guts and wants us dead.
We’ve got reservations for seven at Chama Mama in Chelsea, and I’m hyped to go Khachapuri Mode. Cara, John, and I share a khachapuri and an order of beef-and-pork dumplings, which are maybe some of the best dumplings I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot of dumplings. The wrappers are thick and perfectly chewy, toothsome in a way that suggests the presence of buckwheat. They’re gone before I can investigate further.
Finally, it’s banana-pudding ice cream at Morgenstern’s, and I’m half-joking that we’d never wait half an hour for an ice-cream cone in Chicago. I scowl and silently dare someone to utter a New York–ism at me, knowing full well that I’ve already morphed into a Brooklyn girlie with my large fanny pack and my refusal to wear open-toed shoes in public. I’m drinking the Kool-Aid, and it’s seasoned with water from a dripping AC unit.
Saturday, July 15
Brooklyn tourists are legally required to visit Bagel Pub, and I’m not one to flout the law. I get an everything bagel with bacon-scallion cream cheese, a small café au lait, and a mango smoothie because I need nutrients. Then I notice something incredible: Bagel Pub is selling Nerds Gummy Clusters at the counter. I grab a box in preparation for what we’ve already chosen as the night’s feature film: The Exorcism of Emily Rose, a legal drama masquerading as a horror flick.
I am completely blissed out after my bagel despite the fact that I am blasting major ass because, per my doctor, I have some sort of yeast allergy. Will I change my behavior in any way? Not today — I’m too busy antiquing in Greenpoint with Cara and John. I have a rare sickness where I sometimes become convinced I should purchase a $3,000 vintage Elvis lamp even though I literally just found out I’m getting laid off. I wonder if this is how it felt to be Elizabeth Taylor. I go outside so I can fart without igniting the antiques.
We meet another Brooklyn pal at Patisserie Tomoko, on the border of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, and sit at the bakery counter for its three-course dessert prix fixe. I’ve been looking forward to this for days. It’s about $30 a person, which seems like a sweet deal for such a luxe vibe. I order an iced lavender-mint tea because, again, it’s ungodly hot outside. What’s with this city? Isn’t it one of the great fashion capitals of the world? How can anyone abide high fashion when walking to the subway cooks your brain like a candied nut?
Lucky for us, the first dessert course is a chilled watermelon-soup situation with yuzu ice cream. The second course is a dainty little hojicha-chocolate soufflé with sweet-potato ice cream. It’s topped with something called “pecan stick,” which looks like cigarettes but tastes much better. The final course is a selection of petits fours — macarons, a black-sesame-crunch bar, and a few other dainty delights — that I try to cut evenly with a little cheese knife. I end up creating a huge mess; still, every course is so good it makes me emotional. Then it’s back to Crown Heights for a nap.
It’s time for the pièce de résistance: dinner at Purple Yam in Flatbush with Patty and Michelle, my two other Chicago besties who defected to Brooklyn a month after Cara and John. The five of us go nuts on lumpia and pancit and kare kare and share two orders of halo halo, drinking it like soup to temper the heat of the day. It’s the first time we’ve all been together since early June. I’ve felt unmoored since my friends moved, though Sean and I have toyed around with the idea of making the move ourselves in the near-to-distant future. Despite the blazing heat and the mean, sexy servers and the AC-unit coffee creamer, I start to imagine what life could look like if we packed up the cat, the dog, and the waffle iron and hauled it to Brooklyn. I’d be lying if I said we had a plan; I barely know what the next few months will look like with the book release and the layoff. But right now, I’m drinking halo halo soup with my best friends. My book comes out in three days. I have a box of Nerds Gummy Clusters waiting for me. I feel excited and anxious and cozy packed into a corner booth with my four sweaty soul mates.