the new york diet

Novelist Marisha Pessl Motivates Herself With Coffee, Rewards Herself With Cupcakes

"Even though I’m half-Austrian, I never really used to like German
or Austrian food."Photo: Melissa Hom

As Marisha Pessl has it, she got so carried away describing food in her best-selling novel Special Topics in Calamity Physics that certain passages had to be edited down. It’s no surprise then that beyond the eight or nine cappuccinos she used to drink while writing (she's now down to two or three) and the ’wichcraft cupcakes she rewards herself with afterward, the author and Tribeca resident is a self-confessed “absolute foodie.” Now that she’s between book tours and working on a second novel (the paperback of Special Topics comes out next week), she says she has “a license to feed all the time.” So how does she put it to use?

Thursday, April 19
I cannot eat breakfast. Today I had two or three cappuccinos I made for myself (I have this Italian cappuccino maker). I absolutely need them before I start writing. And it’s very easy to start steaming milk when you hit a wall.

Wednesday, April 18
I was meeting a friend at 71 Irving Place and had a toasted everything bagel and two cappuccinos. It’s a really cute café where a lot of people are writing novels. For lunch I was back in the apartment writing. I usually don’t like to interrupt myself so I order a roast-turkey sandwich from ’wichcraft with avocado and roasted red onions, without the bacon.

For dinner I was helping a friend with her film shoot. I had chicken soup at Square Diner at Leonard and Varick. We were in Times Square around midnight so I had matzo-ball soup at Roxy’s. I’ve had matzo-ball soup five times in my life, but the waiter was carrying it by and it just seemed like the perfect thing.

Tuesday, April 17
I had banana bread at Pecan, one of my favorite cafés in Tribeca — and three cappuccinos. Lunch was at Blaue Gans. I had moules frites. My husband, Nic, and I love going there on Saturday afternoons for brunch. On weekdays you can sit there by yourself, which is nice. Even though I’m half-Austrian, I never really used to like German or Austrian food, but I came back from Germany and now we go there even more.

Dinner was with Nic at Landmarc. I had roast chicken with crushed potato, green beans haricot vert, and dijonaise sauce. During the week, my husband gets home late so we order or stop in there — they deliver, which is wonderful.

Monday, April 16
I had two cappuccinos. I was writing, so again I ordered the roast turkey from ’wichcraft. Dinner was City Hall, a huge restaurant with very clean, healthy food. It’s nice to order in during the week when we don’t have time to cook, which is most of the time. We had grilled salmon steak and Brussels sprouts.

Sunday, April 15
We stayed in finishing our taxes. We snacked at lunch — oranges and a PBJ sandwich. Nic cooked —he’s incredible— and made spaghetti pesto d’olive from a Mario Batali cookbook.

Saturday, April 14
I had lunch at Le Bilboquet. The poulet Cajun is the best chicken dish in New York. Dinner was at Pylos, where we got the saganaki and poikilia. They’re appetizers that you share with taramosalata and melitzanosalata sauce. For the main course, we had baby lamb chops. We discovered this place through our really good friends who are Greek — it’s Greek traditional hardy food.

Friday, April 13
Lunch was a skate sandwich from Bouley Bakery. Dinner was at Balthazar — saffron risotto with squid, shrimp, and roasted peppers. I like red meat, but I eat a lot of fish too. I eat everything!

Pessl reads from the paperback of Special Topics in Calamity Physics (available April 24) on May 9 at the Chelsea Barnes & Noble.

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