The New York Diet

Novelist Porochista Khakpour Drinks the Kool-Aid at a Hare Krishna Temple

“Café Sabarsky is obscenely soothing.”
“Café Sabarsky is obscenely soothing.”haha Photo: Melissa Hom

In Porochista Khakpour’s debut novel, Sons and Other Flammable Objects, a coming-of-age story that may make its Iranian-American author the next Zadie Smith (the Times Book Review, Radar, and Paper are planning profiles), Khakpour, who grew up in Los Angeles before moving to New York, describes the exasperation of stern father Darius Adam at discovering that his wayward son Xerxes keeps little more than Fruity Pebbles in his Manhattan apartment. “Xerxes offered potato chips,” the passage goes, “which his father looked at as if he had never seen a Pringles can before, awestruck at his son’s supposedly adult living conditions.” Given that the novel is loosely autobiographical, we wondered about the living (and dining) conditions of the young novelist.

Thursday, August 30
My summer insomnia drove me to extreme measures this morning: the Upper East Side, a real trek from my apartment in Park Slope. My favorite morning spot is Café Sabarsky. I dragged my friend Donald Antrim who offered me counsel on my latest debut-writer woes. I had eggs (served in a martini glass), too much bread, and cake. Café Sabarsky is obscenely soothing — very old New York, ancient bitter ladies in Chanel suits, old dignitary-looking couples, eccentric Europeans. I go there and get reminded of winter, the only season when I am not depressed.

I felt too full for lunch, so I made a mad dash to a Pinkberry. Their green-tea flavor with raspberry topping is like eating an old Japanese cherry-blossom print. It is the type of lunch only a person from L.A. can justify, which I am.

Wednesday, August 29
For breakfast I went to Brown, the best spot in the Lower East Side. The first time I went there, Hedi Slimane was sitting next to me, and he kept politely picking up my egg-yolk-snotted napkins off the floor. I feel like the place just makes everyone want to be a better person.

At Souen I had a garden roll, steamed vegetables, and soup. Sometimes the ambience of unstable big-sweater-wearing arts-and-crafty cat ladies there drives me nuts. I had to overhear a whole conversation about Burning Man from a septuagenarian.

For dinner, I “cooked.” I am not a natural cook. It was canned green chili, refried beans, parmesan couscous from the box, dill havarti, a dinner roll, and black seedless grapes. Aesthetically it was perfect (all yellow and brown), but tastewise it was very culturally conflicted.

Tuesday, August 28
I got a “Strawberry Blond” smoothie at Pure Food and Wine’s juice bar. The owner, Sarma, and I are very close friends. We are having a big joint party for my book launch and her 35th birthday there in a week.

Lunch was Subway, a six-inch “veggie patty” on wheat. I am a closet Subway obsessive.

At dinnertime, I was trying to wrap up a stressful phone interview with a major magazine while pacing on the street. I needed comfort food after that, so my boyfriend, Brian Frank, met me in Chelsea, and we “ended up” at the Chelsea Olive Garden. I also have a sick love of the Olive Garden. It’s their salty, soggy salad, I think. I love salad, it’s my favorite food. Anyway, there is also added incentive in dining there as my boyfriend and I have this ongoing prank — I mean, art project — where we ask for the autographs of Olive Garden employees. We politely have the waiter sign our napkin after the meal. They love it. We have a collection that we pretend will be worth millions someday.

Monday, August 27
Before the gym, I headed to Starbucks for my usual tall mocha Frappucino light. I just began drinking coffee recently, and I use it mainly for the gym, which definitely requires stimulants for motivation (I prefer chamomile tea for writing, to calm down my very jumpy, sometimes psychotic muses). As usual, they forgot the “light” part, forcing me to protest and be perceived as an anorexic bitch. In any case when they do this — all the time — they sometimes give you a bigger one and sometimes the non-light one as well, so I always end up going to the gym looking like the Frappuccino Fairy on the Stairmaster. Oh well, I am from L.A.

At lunch, I go to Guy & Gallard by my recent day job in midtown. I had a salad.

For dinner, I walked to the East Village and had a dragon-bowl dinner at Angelica Kitchen. I’ve been eating there for over ten years. Yet I always refuse to eat at the community table.

Sunday, August 26
I had a drunkover — not quite a hangover yet — so it began with a XXX Vitamin Water, followed by brunch at Teany. I had the Continental breakfast and an almond-milk teanychino. For some reason that wasn’t enough, and so we continued our vegan-café spree and went over to Babycakes and had vanilla-spelt cupcake tops.

For dinner my boyfriend and I decided to defeat the Sunday gloom by going to the weekly Sunday feast at the Hare Krishna temple in Brooklyn. My boyfriend was a former Hare Krishna monk, and he got me a bit interested in their wild world. The food certainly is a huge draw — and free! But the Brooklyn Krishna temple is very Brooklyn — hectic, loud, to-each-his-own in spirit. I meekly consumed a plate of rice, vegetables, bread, halvah, and a strange Kool-Aid-like juice.

Saturday, August 25
I woke up feeling nervous because the day before I fainted on Seventh Avenue in Park Slope. A strange Euro-hippy girl came to my rescue. I resisted her help. “I know,” she said, “I don’t have insurance either.” I ended up running out of the ER like a fugitive … and fell four more times that day! So Saturday’s priority was nutrition and hydration. Still, for breakfast I had chocolate-chip & M&M; cookies that my boyfriend’s mom sent us.

And, sad to say, I had Subway for lunch again. Same thing.

Then I went to the LES, where the boyfriend lives, and we had a snack at the Whole Foods on Bowery. Salad again. All the cool kids bitched and moaned at The Man taking over the Bowery — please — so as a concession, that Whole Foods plays punk rock sometimes and you can put your feet on the couches and everything.

For dinner we went back to Park Slope for a rather mature couple’s dinner at my friends Katja and Maurice’s apartment. We brought the Lambrusco and a fruit tart from Sweet Melissa, while Katja cooked a delicious neurotically all-organic dinner of frittata, salad, semolina bread, cheese, and crostini. I was a bar reviewer for years (for as well), and I never remember anyone drinking Lambrusco until this summer. To me it seems like a white-trash wine, or how you imagine wine to taste like when you are 6.

Katja also concocted cocktails made of tequila, Campari, and fresh limes. Exquisite stuff, tasted like August. We left in a lethal drunkenness.

Novelist Porochista Khakpour Drinks the Kool-Aid at a Hare Krishna Temple