Nobody wants to listen when I complain about eating for a living, but that's just what I'm going to do today. My post-James Beard Awards Dinner diet is now 48 hours old. I managed to survive my television-show taping this week, because the Atkins diet allowed me to sample both the rotisseried duck my co-host, Jeff Steingarten, made and the six kinds of mail-order bacon we tried (in case you're wondering, Nueske's of Wisconsin won). I was feeling pretty damned good about my diet when one of the production assistants on the show appeared with an entire tray of what turned out to be the best chocolate cookies I have ever tasted. They were a thank-you gift to Jeff and me from the Gramercy Tavern's incredibly talented pastry chef, Claudia Fleming, who had appeared on our show the previous week. Would my resolve be shaken by the sight of these moist and chewy, almost soufflé-like chocolate wonders? If I was in Overeaters Anonymous, an AA-like group, I would have called my sponsor. "Jack," I would have said to him, "I want one of these fabulous, not-too-sweet chocolate cookies so bad." Whereupon Jack would tell me to take the cookies to the bathroom and flush them down the toilet. Instead Jeff and his assistant Katherine took some, and I gave the rest away to the crew of the show. I went upstairs to my desk, only to find a Key lime pie waiting for me. A production assistant had it sent it to me by a transplanted Floridian in Brooklyn who has started making Key lime pies in his house and selling them to restaurants. I absolutely love Key lime pie, and this one was perfect, light and creamy, smooth and tart.
Again, I imagined my phone call to my sponsor, Jack: "Jack, I was just minding my own business trying to be good and they drop off a Key lime pie at my desk." Amazingly enough, after one bite, I gave it to the rest of the MetroGuide staff.
Yesterday, I went on a business trip for an airline. My first opportunity to slip was the all-you-can-eat, mostly carbohydrate breakfast I myself had designed for the company: bagels with cream cheese, bananas, cold cereal, and yogurt. Talk about being hoist by your own petard. I took one bite of the bagel and was relieved to discover that they were serving Sara Lee bagels that particular day on the plane (I found out later that the airline's usual, high-quality bagel supplier was not able to deliver that day). This was a bagel whose charms were easy to resist. When I got to my destination, I knew I was going to be tasting 15 business-class entrées, most of which were going to be egg-based breakfast items. I managed to get through those in good shape, because the Atkins diet allows you to eat eggs and cheese in copious quantities.
Just when I thought I was going to be all right, my clients announced that we were also going to be tasting 42 coach entrées. Once more, the call would have gone out to my sponsor: "Jack, they're trying to make me eat more than 50 meals in one sitting." Miraculously, I managed to get through this exercise by tasting only the protein and having one of my consulting chefs taste the starch in each entrée.
So, the next time one of my son's friends pronounces that my job is "awesome," I'm going to tell him it's not as easy as he thinks.