Eat, Memory: 2004 Diet vs 2015 Diet

Every Friday, New York Magazine‘s food blog, Grubstreet, puts out a feature called “New York Diet,” wherein one New Yorker chronicles everything that’s passed his/her lips over the past week. The Dieters tend to be chefs, TV personalities and actors, musicians, or writers, which makes for a fun bit of window-peeping. Often, the diets contain a lot of interesting and mouthwatering meals from trendy and/or high-end and/or cross-country restaurants — the novelist and memoirist Kate Christensen’s was a recent, brilliant example, and included one of my favorite Lewis Carrollian verbs, “snarfed.”

A diet that makes pit stops for Montauk crudo or postage stamp ravioli or oranges plucked straight from a Silver Lake tree is all very well and envy-inducing, of course, but it’s not exactly how the average New Yorker eats. Or is it? I found a 2004 predecessor to the New York Diet: eats from a gamut of 5 New Yorkers, ages 15 – 58, professions ranging from rabbinical student to dentist to IT project manager, and, well, they couldn’t have been more different from the diets Grubstreet posts today. Gone were the oysters, the kale juices, the uni toast and French 75s. Gone, for the most part, were the parades of dinners out at hotspots, or upstate, or out east, or in LA. Equal was happening — to the tune of three per 12oz coffee. Special K got some action. Powerade had its due. And, in the diet of the 15 year-old, meals consisted entirely of junk food and fast food and sugary drinks, eaten at irregular times. In all of the meals, there were maybe three I myself would happily eat today — and this is only eleven years hence!

The sharp contrast between the 2004 and 2015 dieters got me thinking about my own diets from both eras. Throughout the first half or so of 2004, I ate very heartily; by the summer, hearty had become sparing, with a lot of vinegar. In the spirit of honesty, I thought I’d list a sample day from both, along with one from this past Wednesday (weekday Claire) and yesterday (weekend Claire).

Q1-Q2 2004:

  • 6:30 AM ish: I legitimately do not remember what I ate for breakfast in this era. This was before I had my license, so I wasn’t going to swim practice in the mornings, or at least not often. And I hadn’t gone to Italy yet, so I wasn’t drinking coffee. Which means, I think, that breakfast would have been Life cereal. Life and an apple, maybe. Or, if it was a Thursday morning, I would have been at my father’s, in which case I would have had a Lender’s bagel with peanut butter and Swiss Miss hot chocolate.
  • 11:15 AM ish: Whatever hot meal the Dover Sherborn Regional cafeteria was serving that day. A chicken parm, or lasagne or, my favorite, Philly cheese steak subs. Plus or minus white cheddar Cheezits from the vending machine.
  • 3:00 PM ish: More Life cereal, eaten dry and by the multiple handfuls. Plus or minus a Balance bar.
  • 9:00 PM ish: Whatever my mother had made for dinner. Tandoori chicken was a frequent guest, as were osso buco, chicken marsala, and steak and baked potatoes.
  • 9:30 PM ish: Approximately half to a full pint of Ben & Jerry’s or Hagen Daaz. I wasn’t picky about flavor, so long as it wasn’t rum raisin.

Q3 – Q4 2004:

  • 6:30 AM ish: Amy’s frozen vegetarian burrito. It had black beans and squiggles of tofu. If I microwaved it just right, the folds would get a little crispy.
  • 7:30 AM ish: Thermos of tea OR styrofoam vat of Dunkin’s coffee with skim milk and absurd amounts of Splenda (unless my boyfriend picked up the coffee, in which case I pretended I liked it black).
  • 10:00 AM: Plastic baggie of Lucky Charms. I ate the cereal part first, like a good puritan.
  • 11:30 AM: Mixed greens salad with balsamic vinegar, low-carb wrap with turkey or fat-free feta and lentils.
  • 3:00 PM: Pria bar.
  • 9:00 PM: Sometimes what my mother had made for dinner, or else another low carb wrap, possibly dunked in a grueling combination of cottage cheese, brocoli slaw, and ketchup.
  • 9:30 PM: Cereal OR another low carb wrap. If you hadn’t figured it out by this point, I went through a real low carb wrap phase. Actually, they were called “lavash,” and they were square. I liked them on the gummy side, and threw hissy fits if my siblings ate one.

June 24, 2015:

  • 9:00 AM: Iced coffee with whole milk and one packet of raw sugar, purchased from the charming Italian cafe around the block from my office. I have a rule for weekdays that I can’t spend more than $3.50 per day on coffee, which means no cold brew. Many coffee shops offer both cold brew and regular iced coffee, but the regular is code for light brown water. Don’t do it. The Italian place only offers one type of iced coffee, and it is strong and bracing.
  • 10:00 AM: Oatmeal with blueberries, hunks of banana, dried coconut, and peanut butter. Delicious, and proof that not all purple breakfast foods should be avoided.
  • 12:00 PM ish: Handful of peanut butter pretzel nuggets.
  • 1:00 PM: Salad composed of: wakame seaweed, the last of the tomatoes and zucchini I roasted on Sunday, bowtie noodles (usually this would be bulgar or wheatberries), hunks of tofu, garlic hummus, soy sauce, and siracha.
  • 4:00 PM ish: Fuji apple.
  • 8:15 PM ish: Another seaweed salad, this one with peas, corn, more tofu, more humus, more siracha and soy sauce.
  • 9:30 PM: A plum, a peach, and more than my fair share of green grapes.

June 27, 2015:

  • 9:00 AM ish: Cold brew with soy milk and simple syrup from Bittersweet, inhaled while tugging my dog through the Fort Greene farmer’s market. The market is packed, enough so that I abandon thoughts of going past the first two stalls. I buy snap peas and thai basil and cherries–the regular sweet kind, though I do filch one sour one, after overhearing one woman proclaim its divinity. (It is not divine, but would be, I think, if pan-warmed with some sugar.)
  • 9:30 AM ish: Behold the return of lavash! But this one is not low-carb — it is thick and a bit griddled and yeasty. On it goes kalamata hummus, one half of a sliced tomato, arugula, tofu (shit, I ate a lot of tofu this week), a dollop of labneh, and a drizzle of really nice balsamic vinegar that we’ve been buying from Sur La Table because we have a massive gift card balance there.
  • 2:00 PM ish: More peas, more corn, some of the snap peas and thai basil, the rest of the argula, more kalamata hummus, more lavash.
  • 2:30 PM: Bowl of cherries.
  • 5:00 PM: Rest of the snap peas.
  • 7:30 PM: Glass of torrontes, a bruisin’ citrus Chilean white I quite like.
  • 8:00 PM: More torrontes.
  • 9:00 PM: Two chicken wings, bristle-fried in sugary fish sauce, a generous plop of pad thai, and multiple dripping forkfuls of water spinach with bird chilis and ground pork, all from Pok Pok Pad Thai.
  • 12:30 PM: One plum. So sweet and so cold.


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