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The Way We Eat

The Way We Eat: A Museum Exhibition Designer and an Oncologist in Santa Barbara, California

updated Oct 1, 2019
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NameJenna and Julian Savage Davis
Location: Santa Barbara, CA
How many people regularly eat together in your home? Julian, Jenna, and baby Devon.
Avoidances: Julian has allergies to all nuts including peanuts and sesame and their oils.

Jenna is an exhibition designer at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and Julian is an oncologist. The busy couple just had their first baby, Devon, this summer and are adjusting to their new life as a family of three. We chatted with them in their home kitchen (which happens to be the same one where Julian grew up) to learn about the best breastfeeding snacks, the secret ingredient in Julian’s award-winning guacamole, and why you should always say yes to free food.

Credit: Leela Cyd/Kitchn

We photographed you both right before Devon arrived, and now she’s here! Congratulations! How has life changed?

Jenna: Sleep is just not a thing anymore.

Julian: We have no schedule. It’s kind of a 24/7 thing, all hands on deck trying to figure out what to do. The baby pretty much wants to be held all the time and Jenna is surrounded by breastfeeding snacks. She’s got a pretty good routine down, but it’s hard to find any regularity.

I can only imagine. Did people bring you tons of food?

Jenna: We didn’t create a formal meal train, but we stocked the freezer with frozen food from friends and family! We had tons of friends bring over homemade meals and get us tons of snacks and easy-to-make things. We also had friends from out of town order things for us. We also know when it’s time to pick up food from the local Mexican or Thai place.

Julian: We’re so sleep-deprived, so we just said yes to all the help we could get.

Credit: Leela Cyd/Kitchn

Is there anything you wish you would have known or is there just no way to prepare?

Jenna: I wish I would have known how to be a better friend to my friends who had kids before us. I feel guilty now knowing what it takes. And how important it is to be appreciative of all the support and attention and food deliveries. That really matters. We get so many offers and just take everyone up on them.

What are some of the foods that are saving your life right now?

Jenna: One-handed foods like chocolate-covered pretzels, dried mangoes, banana chips, and bell pepper slices, and chocolate milk instead of coffee! Julian also makes us guacamole all the time.

Credit: Leela Cyd/Kitchn

YES to guac. What’s your secret?

Julian: My guacamole recipe is something I have perfected over the years and I take a lot of pride in it — I will go toe-to-toe with anyone. I’ve won some work competitions with it. We planted avocado seeds with Devon’s placenta in the yard. I got some seedlings when we lived in Sacramento and have been growing them in pots. They are now doing super well in Santa Barbara because this is avo-growing country. Anyway, that might be the secret.

  • Biggest challenge in eating? Time to prep and cook.
  • Percentage of meals you cook at home every week? Only dinner during the week and breakfast on the weekends, so maybe 20%? We both work full-time so breakfast is thin and on-the-go, and lunch is supplied from work or leftovers.
  • 5 things on your grocery list every week? Bananas, milk, avocados, coffee, chocolate syrup.
  • Where do you shop, primarily? Lazy Acres because it’s close and high-quality.
  • What’s the last food thing you splurged on? Wild Alaskan salmon, huge organic avocados, and McConnell’s ice cream.
  • Best underrated snack? Leftover ice coffee, with Hershey’s syrup and milk!
  • Favorite thing to eat while watching TV? Guac.
  • Favorite kitchen tool? Hand-press citrus juicer.
  • Best cookie of all time? Girl Scout Caramel DeLites and Samoas.
Credit: Leela Cyd/Kitchn

Okay, so I know life is anything but normal right now, but what is a “typical” day like?

Julian: My alarm goes off at 6:40-ish. I get out of bed and jump in the shower, get dressed, and grab a cereal bar or a banana. I pour some leftover coffee from a previous day that we’ve saved in the drink and make what I call a “Poor Man’s Mocha.” It’s cold chilled coffee with a little Hersey’s syrup and milk. I hit that in the morning and also have coffee at work. Then I get to the office and check in. Then I walk over from the Cancer Center to see my patients in the hospital. By 11 a.m. I am ravenous. We get supplied sandwiches and salad at our noon meeting so I’m usually gorging myself at lunch. Then I see patients until 4 or 5 p.m. when I try to get home and figure out if I’m picking up dinner or cooking.

Jenna: These days I wake up after snacking all night because you have to with breastfeeding. I try to have oatmeal in the mornings because it’s good for lactation. I’ll have a small cup of coffee too. For lunch, I’ll usually pick some leftovers that we have in the fridge. And for dinner, we usually pick up takeout. We are so fried.

Julian: I get home around six most days, so if I were to start cooking then, it would be too late. We’d rather eat around 5/6, so takeout it is.

Credit: Leela Cyd/Kitchn

What were your pre-baby days like at the Natural History Museum, Jenna?

Jenna: Before baby, coffee was my go-to for anything. Coffee and banana on my way to work. I have a great situation at the museum where I have a kitchen in the tower I worked in, so I could make lunch. They always had ample snacks around — for better or for worse — because they host tons of events. Then I would make dinner most nights, usually a healthy low-carb dinner. I love carbs, but we try to keep that to a minimum. I’d like to get back to that kind of cooking when Devon is a little older.

I assume weekends are pretty major for you guys?

Julian: We try to sleep in if possible. I like leisurely mornings unless I’m going to go out, surf, or bike ride — sometimes I make brunch at home. We’ll make breakfast tacos with leftovers and whip up some eggs, add fresh avocado, and Tapatio.

We also love hosting friends and having Santa Maria-style barbecue. Also, our house was built in 1939 and there’s a bar inside our house — it’s really old-school. My buddy gave us his kegerator and I have a burgeoning tequila collection.

Credit: Leela Cyd/Kitchn

That sounds epic. Tell me more about the house?

Jenna: We’ve only lived here for a year, but it’s Julian’s family home from when he was little. We have videos of Julian when he was Devon’s age and there’s this really cute one of him sitting on the ground eating his own cookie right in front of our sink. It hasn’t been updated since. It’s really amazing and it’s magical to have our daughter here.

Julian: Prior to living here we moved every year for 10 years for medical school, graduate school, fellowships, and more. So being here in the family home where I grew up is a trip.

Thanks so much for chatting, Julian and Jenna!

Editor: Ariel Knutson
Editorial Advisor: Leela Cyd

The Way We Eat is a series of profiles and conversations with people like you about how they feed themselves and their families.We’re actively looking for people to feature in this series. You don’t have to be famous or even a good cook! We’re interested in people of all backgrounds and eating habits. How do you overcome challenges to feed yourself? If you’d like to share your own story with us, or if you know of someone you think would be great for this series, start here with this form.