The Andy Warhol New York City Diet
Warhol’s obsession with the Automat and his dream to start a restaurant chain of his own.
Warhol’s friend Maxime de la Falaise, the former model, food editor of Vogue, and author of Seven Centuries of English Cooking, had designed the menu for the restaurant, which was to feature entrées such as shepherd’s pie and Irish lamb stew, key lime pie for dessert, and the signature “nursery cocktail” of milk on the rocks. Warhol’s tastes and Americanness inclined him to celebrate what was satisfying and unpretentious, what was tasty, not what was necessarily expensive. Again from The Philosophy of Andy Warhol:
In Europe the royalty and the aristocracy used to eat a lot better than the peasants—they weren’t eating the same things at all. It was either partridge or porridge, and each class stuck to its own food. But when Queen Elizabeth came here and President Eisenhower bought her a hot dog I’m sure he felt confident that she couldn’t have had delivered to Buckingham Palace a better hot dog than that one he bought for her for maybe twenty cents at the ballpark. Because there is no better hot dog than a ballpark hot dog. Not for a dollar, not for ten dollars, not for a hundred thousand dollars could she get a better hot dog. She could get one for twenty cents and so could anybody else.
After Warhol’s death, an auction of his belongings was organized, and it was noted that he had a large collection of cookie jars. But in Warhol’s world, these could have been places to stash valuables, small velvet bags of uncut gems, for example, rather than baked goods. To be found with one’s hands in the cookie jar would mean that you had been caught stealing, an Americanism Warhol would have grown up with. His eating habits may have been simple, but with all his self-confessed fondness for sweets it’s surprising that he was always slim (and that he never suffered from scurvy).
Usually when artists—especially male artists—make a lot of money, they start to get wider and more rotund, their success visibly tipping the scales, and not in their favor where physique is concerned. This never happened to Andy Warhol. Warhol’s secret to staying in shape was easy enough: When you go to a restaurant—and he dined out frequently—never order anything you’re actually interested in eating. Once again you have to keep in mind that while Warhol was forthcoming with reporters and in his writing, he wasn’t always truthfully so. Better to offer an evasively interesting response and tell a good story or come up with a quotable one-liner than to answer a question directly and be completely honest. And yet on the subject of what he identified as his New York Diet in The Philosophy, you can’t help but give him the benefit of the doubt.
... [W]hen I order in a restaurant, I order everything that I don’t want, so I have a lot to play around with while everyone else eats. Then, no matter how chic the restaurant is, I insist that the waiter wrap the entire plate up like a to-go order, and after we leave the restaurant I find a little corner outside in the street to leave the plate in, because there are so many people in New York who live in the streets, with everything they own in shopping bags.
So I lose weight and stay trim, and I think that maybe one of those people will find a Grenouille dinner on the window ledge. But then, you never know, maybe they wouldn't like what I ordered as much as I didn’t like it, and maybe they’d turn up their noses and look through the garbage for some half-eaten rye bread. You just never know with people. You just never know what they’ll like, what you should do for them.
So that's the Andy Warhol New York City Diet.
Warhol, who wasn’t straight, and never had a life partner, and lived long before gay marriage, somehow felt obliged in The Philosophy to identify a perfect mate, whom he referred to as a wife. As a man who always felt that he was the one who had to be the provider, he wished that the tables were turned. And of course he still wanted to be famous. As he writes:
My ideal wife would have a lot of bacon, bring it all home, and have a TV station besides.