Lili Anolik’s Grub Street Diet

Lili Anolik and her favorite fruits.
Illustration: Margalit Cutler

“Food is something I can’t pay attention to,” sighs Lili Anolik, the vanity lounge writer and podcast host, most recently working on Once upon a time… at Bennington College, which our friends at Vulture call “piquant with pulpy literary gossip”. One thing Anolik isn’t is she’s a foodie: “If I go to a restaurant and the person I’m with asks a lot of questions about how the salmon is prepared or whatever, I’m going to show a face smiling, but inside I have hostile thoughts. Instead, she prefers to focus on the essentials: “I eat the same old shit”, she laughs.

Thursday February 3
We ordered pizza last night and I had one slice too many. So this morning, instead of having breakfast, I drink it: a Pepsi Zero Mango, which is a Pepsi Zero except much, much sweeter. I prefer bottles to cans, only bottles are hard to find. I only know of one place in town that carries them, a 7-Eleven in the theater district. I could order the bottles online, I guess. But that would be cheating. Besides, I can’t have too many at home. (Not self-control.) I always have a soda – usually a diet, though sometimes regular – when I wake up because I crave the caffeine but can’t stand the coffee.

Even though I’m skipping breakfast today, it’s still on my to-do list because I have two young sons: Ike, in third grade; and Archie, first. I know they’re probably piling up junk at school, so I try to get a lot of fruit in the morning. Only I have to be sneaky about it, at least with Ike. I let him read my paperback copy of You’ll never have lunch in this town again at the table. While he sounds “Joel Schumacher” and “quaalude”, I put bites of banana and strawberry in his mouth.

I spend the rest of the morning at my desk. I write about…well, I can’t say what I’m writing about; not yet anyway. Lunch is two containers of coffee and Chobani Greek yogurt cream (I don’t like coffee, but I like the flavor of coffee, go figure) in a bowl tossed with grape nuts. I’m eating it airing a season two episode of The Hills: A New Beginnings, which Rob, my husband, refuses to watch with me. The hills is the only reality show I’ve ever really loved, and there’s no way I’m not checking out the reboot, even though they clearly should have been pretty much left alone. A sweet Spencer Pratt with a dad body and a failing crystal business is endearing but also depressing.

Around 4 p.m., while running to the bank, I find a packet of Wheat Thins, crushed, at the bottom of my shoulder bag. I eat them.

I clean but don’t cook, as a rule (my mom also cleans but doesn’t cook, so I guess it’s in the blood), and COVID plus winter and feral children make restaurants a tricky proposition. So for dinner, we order from Westville: turkey burgers for the boys; a veggie burger for me; a steak sandwich for Rob.

For dessert, there are frozen Look bars. (Explanatory parenthesis: A few years ago I wrote a book about writer-artist Eve Babitz. Eve passed away while on vacation. Two weeks ago I flew to LA for her memorial. The sister of Eve, Mirandi, bought me a bag of mini Look bars, a candy bar that Eve, a teenager in the 1950s, bought at the hot dog stand on Roadside Beach. Eve insisted that the Look bars They were only good if frozen. Eating them at room temperature would dishonor her memory, so I’m keeping the bag in the freezer. I thought Eve was overselling them, but they’re really delicious.)

friday 4 february
Parasitic thought: Every time I dutifully record an item in my food diary, I flash on Patsy Stone’s fantasy in absolutely fabulous — a journalist from Salvation! magazine saying, “Patsy nibbled on a humble salad and drank an Evian water,” then Patsy saying, “I like to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

This morning, it’s Coke for breakfast. (I like Diet Pepsi, regular Coke.) I open my Sub-Zero. The Coke is on the bottom shelf, backed by a platter of veggies-vegetables-with-hummus from Whole Foods. It’s not something you typically find in my refrigerator. And, in fact, it shouldn’t be in my fridge. It was destined for Caroline Calloway’s fridge. I was supposed to go to Caroline’s apartment on Tuesday for lunch. She texted me that she would provide the espresso and cocktails, and said I should “bring something with veggies”. But then she canceled the morning of. (I didn’t feel well.) I was disappointed. We had only spoken on the phone, we had never met in person. She told me she had her kneecaps removed years ago. I was curious to see.

With the coke, I have an oat bran bagel, toasted, dry, and a Chobani coffee yogurt.

I meet James Wolcott, an old vanity lounge bud, at Odeon for lunch at 11:45 am, an early bird special – our lunches are never short, so I think we should start early. Usually I don’t do lunch because it disrupts my work schedule, but lunch with Jim is too much fun to resist. Odéon is my favorite restaurant in town and, lucky you, it’s around the corner from my apartment. When I go to the bathroom, I think of Bret telling me how he cocaine with Jean-Michel Basquiat in one of the cabins, and a little shiver of excitement runs through me. Jim and I chat indiscreetly about mutual friends and foes in the publishing industry, and two hours pass in the blink of an eye.

I haven’t eaten much for lunch – too busy talking – so when I get home I have Chobani coffee yogurt and raisin nuts in a bowl at my desk while I work some more on the thing that I can’t tell you about.

Keeping this diary made me realize how much coffee yogurt I consume. I consider it the pinnacle of stylish and sophisticated fun food. What I realize is strange. I’m trying to figure out why I think that. And then it hits me: in high school, I had a friend, Haven Ley, and Haven had a mother, Susan, even though I called Susan “Mrs. Dearborn”, and Mrs. Dearborn called me “sweetie”. Ms. Dearborn cut a dashing and glamorous figure. She was a career woman (interior design), and seemed to have a lot of husbands and was always very, very busy and very, very distracted and looked and dressed like Tippi Hedren in The birds – a skintight blonde in high heels and pale pink lipstick full of nervous restlessness. I remember Haven explaining to me and our other friend, Brina Milikowsky, how her mother stayed so thin: didn’t eat breakfast; a coffee yogurt for lunch; then a normal dinner. So this is it. Mystery solved.

Rob thought I ordered dinner, and I thought he ordered dinner. So, come 7 p.m., you have to vampirize. Rob slices apples and pears, and I make peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat, then open a bag of reduced-fat Baked Ruffles potato chips. I’m a kid of the 90s. I still believe in the concept of low fat, or better yet, fat free, even though I know it’s medically and metabolically unhealthy and I’m wrong. This exchange in Romy and Michèle’s high school reunionthe one where Romy says, “All I’ve had to eat in the last six days are gummy bears, candy, and candy corn,” and then Michele says, “God, I wish I had your discipline,” really resonates.

We eat while watching the first half of The lady disappears on Criterion.

Saturday February 5
Rob wakes up at 4 a.m. and heads to JFK to pick up a puppy – the family’s first pet – who arrives from Colorado with red eyes. The boys knew we were going to have a puppy, but they didn’t know when. So once Rob walks through the door, holding that crate, all thoughts of food go out the window. Not that we forget to eat. It’s the weekend and Rob cooks at the weekend and he’s a good cook. During confinement, he ordered a cast iron skillet. He treats it very tenderly, bordering on romanticism, always rubbing it with oil when he’s finished using it.

The idea of ​​preparing food seems weird to me – all that effort and then it’s all gobbled up in 15 minutes. The only thing I’ve ever cooked is pasta. But Rob loves to cook and it seems like a worthwhile activity to him. He really loves food and takes care in preparing it, which is why it tastes so good. I clean up after he cooks. So we’re very compatible that way.

Most of the time what we do is play with the puppy and argue about who can hold it and what we should name it.

I suggest Pony Boy or Buster.

Ike suggests Mr. Jones.

Archie suggests Liquor or Ping-Pong or Bugsy or Bugs.

Rob suggests Johnny Utah or Johnny or Utah. (Rob is a big Breaking point fan.)

No decision is made.

Foods eaten: bacon, eggs, cornbread, stir-fry. (All made by Rob, all on this cast iron skillet.)

Sunday February 6
For me, morning and afternoon are the same in terms of food choices: Pepsi Zero Mango, Grape-Nuts, Chobani coffee yogurt, etc.

The boys are still in a daze, so they let me give them lots of fruit. Rob is making pancakes in a cast iron skillet.

My parents, along with my brother, John, and John’s boyfriend, David, are coming over for dinner on Sunday night. So, in the late afternoon, I run to the Gourmet Garage for grapes and cheese. There are flies hovering over the grapes, but I buy them anyway. My dad brings in red wine and Rob brings out the Bellissima, Christie Brinkley’s sugar-free sparkling white wine, loved by John, also a 90s kid. I don’t drink wine or anything, though I take a lot of NyQuil (poor sleeper).

My dad and David make two huge salads and we order the rest of the meal from Poulet Sans Tête in the West Village: whole roast chickens, spicy cauliflower, sautéed Brussels sprouts and garlic baguettes. For once, my mother and I are not arguing, not even a little. It’s a great Sunday night dinner.

In other news, we decide on a name for the pup. It was a four-way tie, but Archie breaks it, supporting Ike’s selection. So it’s Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones’ Favorite Food: Wet Noses Little Stars Training Treats, Sweet Potato Flavor.

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Lucas E. Kelly