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    The Grub Street Diets of your favorite fictional characters.

    Brittany Allen

    May 22, 2024, 10:00am

    Fiction and fine dining are having a moment. In April, New York magazine put out a nostalgic ode to scene-y restaurants known for their literary patrons. And seemingly on the same tide, the novelist Gary Shteyngart wrote a much-circulated New Yorker piece about his quest for the perfect martini (among other vittles).

    But appetites and art regularly collidefor a certain milieu anywayin the Grub Street Diet. For the uninitiated: in this vertical, celebs who are Having a Moment painstakingly narrate a week’s worth of their edible intake. Some Diets are flexes, hinting at lives of epicurean splendor on par with Shteyngart’s. Others may bum you out with their commitment to a leftovers-based naturalism. Either way, the Diet’s a pretty fun slice of life.

    Inspired by the trends (and a recent high density of writers accepting the Grub Street challenge), I’ve been dreaming up some hypothetical food diaries for the fictional. Bon Appétit!

    The Grub Street Diet of William Stoner (from Stoner

    Woke up with the sun, but lingered in bed this morning due to a sense of looming dread. Edith boiled me an egg, which was unusually kind of her. I chased that with some too-bitter black coffee and dry toast. She watched me eat in a grim, charged silence, but did not partake herself.

    Was teaching back to back sessions all day, so couldn’t get much of a munch in. I did manage a few cups of campus coffee at my desk, and my new colleague Lomax dropped in to offer a handful of sustaining peanuts just as I was getting lost in a book. Lomax reminded me of the faculty party we’re meant to throw this evening, which I’d completely forgotten about. I called Edith, who tensely informed me that it had all been taken care of. All I had to do was pick up a few bottles of gin from the bootlegger on my way back.

    I arrived home to a fine display of “sliced cold ham and turkey, pickled apricots, and [a] varied garniture of tiny tomatoes, celery stalks, olives, pickles, crisp radishes, and little raw cauliflower ears.” All great snacks, but without a centerpiece I feared our guests would leave hungry. My colleagues trickled in, and many did get soused. But Lomax took the (metaphorical) cake. He and I wound up talking deep into the night about everything under the sun: our lonesome childhoods, our body shame, our senses of looming dream. I felt a bolt of kinship. But in the morning, the portal is closed. For my friend was gone.

    Edith was also in a foul mood when the sun rose again, so did not make me eggs.

    The Grub Street Diet of Fermina Daza (from Love in the Time of Cholera)

    Jumped out of bed well before dawn, because 1) I have chores and 2) it’s my birthday!!! Decided to start the day off with some trusty favorites: chamomile tea and soup. But then my husband insisted I let him take over the day’s meal prep, because he wanted to treat me. This was very moving, but also concerning? Because before this morning, I was not sure he knew how to boil water on his own.

    The good doctor wound up exceeding my expectations in the kitchen. He whipped up a huge brunch of eggs and cafe con leche. I was so moved by the gesture I didn’t see the need to remind him of my lactose-intolerance. For dessert, we had guavas, which were sweet and evocative, but not as sweet as I remembered them being when I ate them straight off the tree, in childhood. But I suppose this is the way of getting older. The second time around never tastes as sweet…

    The rest of my birthday was pretty dull. I did chores, beginning with cleaning up the mess Dr. Urbino left me in the kitchen. And then I prepared our dinner, which is always a taxing prospect. (My husband is great, but in addition to being a non-chef, he is a very finicky eater. He claims to be able to tell when a meal has been prepared “without love,” and has a weird thing for out-of-season vegetables.) But as it was still technically My Day, I decided to make this eggplant dish, because I went to a gala last week where they served this amazing pureed eggplant, and now it’s all I can think about. Which is very funny, because I used to really hate the texture.

    We ate our mains on the terrace, then followed dinner with brandies and some “little imperial cakes and candied flowers.” The doctor fell asleep before me, as usual. But I had stranger dreams.

    The Grub Street Diet of David (from Giovanni’s Room

    Woke around 3 p.m., hungover. The holy trinity of coffee, cigarette, and cognac for breakfast did the trick.

    Took a late lunch with friends at a “rather nice restaurant on the rue de Grenelle.” Had a vin chaud and some good bread. I think we also had a piece of fish? But I was distracted from the main course, because I was preoccupied with finding the most polite way possible to ask my host for another 10,000 franc loan. Sweet Jacques complied, of course; we went to the bar after, to celebrate my staying in Paris. There, cognac followed cognac followed cognac followed another vin chaud; I lost track, to be honest. But I made a diverting acquaintance in our waiter, who joined us at the end of his shift. He insisted on drinking a Coca-Cola while I had another cognac. (Just because.)

    Our set was kicked out of the joint at five o’clock in the morning. But by then we’d gotten hungry again, so we piled into a taxi towards Les Halles. The morning streets were bare and dingy. I saw the greengrocers setting up their fruit stalls. We wound up facing the dawn at a dreadful, chic place. One of those overhyped, expensive tourist joints where young Americans guzzle wine at a zinc counter. I ordered my holy trinity, but this new friendGiovanniinsisted on a new kind of breakfast, for champions. Champagne and “a few dozen oysters.” He claims “that is really the best thing after such a night.”

    From the next day’s perspective, I’m not sure if I believe him. (Woke up hungover. And with very bad breath.) But I plan to see Giovanni again. You know, to test the theory.

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