Children, listen: The best thing to read on the internet is New York magazine’s Grub Street Diet. Once a week, the site publishes someone’s food journal of the past few days — a culinary diary from people who range from minimally famous to Kristen Bell.
Of course, the great secret of the Grub Street Diet is that, often, it’s the random author you’ve never heard of or the CEO of a company you didn’t know existed that writes the best piece (spoiler alert, Kristen Bell’s diet sounds atrocious). The best of these diary entries read like the world’s best food writing from people who aren’t even food writers; they’re ridiculously entertaining vignettes of a few days eating around New York, San Francisco or LA. The worst Grub Street Diets are unfortunately bland, rote descriptions of food. And sometimes you find one that is, truly, impossible to explain — a great sentence to take out of context here is this: “I have a lot of calls to do this morning, so I pour a cold sugar-free Red Bull into a hot large coffee and gulp it.”
Obviously now, in honor of my favorite weekly content machine, I’ll try my best to recreate a Grub Street Diet for a couple of uneventful days. Let’s all be mindful that I’m in college, I was on the tail end of my grocery supply and I simply did not have the time to cook that much. I apologize in advance. (And now that I think about it, I take back what I said about New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings writing a shitty blog post. I’m sorry, Rashad. Much like playing with Eli Manning as your quarterback, this was harder than it looks.)
Monday, September 25
Keeping with the theme of “harder than it looks,” I wake up at 7:20, 10 minutes before my alarm is supposed to go off at 7:30. I hate that.
That’s a fitting omen: It’s going to be a horrible week! I have — and I believe this is the metric unit used around the world — a shit-ton of work, all due before Thursday and with no time to do it. But I must eat, of course, so after a solid shower, I head down to the kitchen and make some coffee. I look around for something, anything, before I find some honey. There’s yogurt in the fridge, so I slap some into a bowl and drizzle a bit of cheap, Trader Joe’s honey on top. The coffee tastes like ass. It’s fine. This is good enough.
Hungry and tired, several hours and a lot of hard work later I realize I need to head home to make myself a grilled cheese. I’d like to say here that, if nothing else, my grilled cheeses are fantastic. Even if I don’t have the ideal bread (pullman loaf, of course), I still always manage to put together a solid sandwich. It takes a slightly unhealthy amount of butter, that plastic Kraft American Singles stuff and, as I’ve learned, patience. I down a quick one made with multigrain bread, sliced into triangles, and then I’m off to the Espresso Royale.
Everyone calm down. Of course it’s the one on State Street; I don’t hate myself.
Despite a good 20 minutes of actual work and two hours of, well, not that, I feel in need of a treat. I pick up a small coffee and a blueberry muffin. Espresso’s baked goods aren’t the greatest, but they get the job done. And they fill you up!
Alas, dinner that night is a special one. I’m working production at the University’s most editorially and financially independent newspaper, so we all decide TK Wu is the way to go. TK Wu, on E. Liberty, is a staple of the last few years I’ve been at the Daily. There’s nowhere else on campus you can get such good shitty Chinese food, and at such an affordable price! And if you’re going to go bad Chinese food, you might as well go full bad Chinese food: I order the General Tso’s Chicken with white rice. It’s incredible for the first few bites, and then once you realize all that murky, red liquid at the bottom of the container may not, in fact, be actual food, you throw it out. It’s glorious. I’m only slightly embarrassed.
Tuesday, September 26
Mondays suck, of course, but Tuesdays are a great day of the week for me. I don’t have class until four, but again, since this is a week of endless papers and math assignments, I get up early in the hopes of getting it all done. I make another cup of really bad coffee (guys, don’t worry, it’s just that my coffee machine sucks), and then head to the gym. I make it back an hour later, shower, throw on a dope outfit, eat a banana and step outside. It’s still hot as nuts.
Nevertheless, I make my way over to my temple (the Espresso on State Street), and, sweaty and flustered, I order another coffee. I hammer out a couple essays of dubious quality. Bruegger’s, which is apparently the only place in Ann Arbor you can get a bagel, is across the street; I blurt out the classic line — “Can you watch my stuff real quick?” — to no one in particular and trot over.
My take on Bruegger’s fluctuates. It’s obviously not the greatest restaurant on the planet (you’ll notice I’ve lowered my standards for a lot of things this week), but they do serve smoked salmon. I order the sandwich with lox, cream cheese, tomatoes, red onions and capers. It’s good, and just filling enough.
Ethically, it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t cook at least one meal for this goddamn faux Grub Street diet. I’ve realized now that, again, I am in no place to criticize New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings for the quality of his internet writing. But I will say this: This is a pretty boring diary so far, to be sure, but I’m a college student in Ann Arbor with a limited budget. If you’re an East Coast media elite-type in New York City, you have no excuses. Buy that $4 fucking coffee and tell us how it tastes, man.
As for my own meal: Today’s dinner will be… chicken breasts! Ah, chicken breasts, that famous dish we all know and love. I’ve marinated them in a quick solution of olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, chilli powder, salt, pepper and then whatever else I could find in the spice cabinet. They all taste the same. Except for cinnamon. They do not all taste like cinnamon.
The first thing I do is get a good sear on these bad boys, because that’s crucial. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I pop them in the oven to finish off, because you’ve got to cook the meat, of course. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I microwave a bag of that Trader Joe’s frozen brown rice stuff, because that’s what I had time for. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. After a quick sautee of broccoli and mushrooms, I carefully compose a plate of one piece of chicken, a handful of rice and some vegetables. Nice! This is a good enough image to end on.