The Chicago Diet

Zombie Writer Scott Kenemore Loves Green Smoothies and Slicing Open Large Gourds

Kenemore drinks Dracula's Blood at Little Bucharest while Vlad the Impaler looks on.
Kenemore drinks Dracula’s Blood at Little Bucharest while Vlad the Impaler looks on. Photo: Nick Kindelsperger

“Zombies are the monster of the recession,” says Scott Kenemore, and he should know. As the author of five zombie books — including the upcoming Zombie, Ohio — the Chicago resident is turning into an authority on the undead brain-eaters. “See, vampires wear jewelry, seduce women, and live in castles. Zombies wear tattered clothes. They are the Joe six-packs of the monster crowd.” It shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise that he likes the Romanian food at Little Bucharest Bistro, though he says we should come back on the weekend when things get a little crazier, “I’ve seen people throw glass bottles against the wall. It’s amazing.” He likes to splurge at Russian Tea Time. “I like the harshest, most abrasive vodka,” he says. “I may look like any other Midwest tourist, but then I order the horseradish vodka and the waiter immediately knows I’m serious.” Click through to find out how he starts every morning, and to learn the strange pleasure he finds in cutting up gourds.

Thursday, October 21
For breakfast, I have my usual, which is a green smoothie made with 2 bananas, spinach, chard, and a big splash of lemonade. The taste and aroma are somewhere between a typical fruit smoothie and a freshly mown lawn. (A friend turned me on to these things a few months ago. Now I probably eat more raw dark greens in a week than I previously did in an entire year. For a while, I put protein powder in them too, but I seem to be allergic to protein powder.)

Throughout the morning I eat handfuls of raw almonds, and also citrus flavored gummi brains that are dyed an alarming bright blue. (People I know give me zombie-related gifts year-round. At Halloween, though, it’s candy.) I drink 2 coffees that are about ¼ skim milk.

For lunch, I meet a friend at Ponte Fresco, a design-your-own-salad place in the Loop. I get chestnuts, teriyaki chicken, black beans, chickpeas, and broccoli, with oriental sesame dressing. It is awesome.

In the evening, I give a reading at the DePaul Center Barnes & Noble. I emerge depressed because (in my opinion) it’s under-attended. A friend suggests we restore my spirits by adjourning to the rooftop bar at the Plymouth, which we do. As dinner, we share an order of creamy spinach dip with pita chips, and chicken quesadillas (which are large and quite gooey, and come with salsa and good guacamole). I have three Spaten Oktoborfests and a Manhattan made with rye.

As the evening wends on, I learn a friend from Cleveland is unexpectedly in town. I join him at a bar called Crocodile in Wicker Park where I drink a Murphy’s Irish Stout (a beer I have liked since college).

Friday, October 22
Start the day with a green smoothie. (I have a hangover today. On a deep, constitutional level, I know with absolute certainty that a green smoothie isn’t going to cut it, but having one still feels like the right thing to do.)

Perhaps an hour later, I give in to my hangover-urges and get a Venti Vanilla Latte with skim milk and a cheese danish at Starbucks. That’s better.

More handfuls of nuts and gummi brains in the late morning. For lunch, a BBQ Chicken burrito with extra cheese, tomatoes, green salsa, beans and rice from Burrito Beach. It is marvelous. The barbecue sauce is what does it.

My early dinner is two whole-wheat pitas and an entire container of Tribe-brand “Forty Spices” hummus. And a very large glass of orange juice. And sleep.

Saturday, October 23
I start the day with a green smoothie, and several cups of coffee with skim milk. Perhaps an hour later I’m still hungry, so I make scrambled eggs with 4 egg whites and 1 egg yellow, and top it off with mango salsa and green pepper hot sauce. It is spicy and satisfying.

I suffer from panic attacks, and in the late morning I start to feel one coming on. (For me, panic attacks are not the mania you see portrayed in movies — where a harried worker or housewife is overwhelmed by tasks and expectations. Rather, they are a very quiet sense of “You know…you’re probably about to die. You’ve never died before, so I’m not 100% that this is correct. But it feels… about right.”) Anyhow, the remedy — when I feel one coming on — is heavy, bready food. Accordingly, lunch is two beef pinwheels with enmeshed Swiss cheese and spinach, eaten between white hamburger buns, with a large glass of orange juice. It is all wonderful. Panic subsiding.

About 3 p.m., out of sheer boredom, I have a small container of supermarket sushi — eel rolls. It is disappointing, even for supermarket sushi. The rice is dry and the seaweed is tough. (The eel is fine, but there is too little of it.)

Vaguely unsatisfied by the “sushi” I have just consumed, I finish the small container of gummi brains.

My simple dinner is salmon cooked in butter and lemon juice with zucchini, and three doughy cubes of Hawaiian bread. The nourishment is palatable.

Sunday, October 24
Green smoothie for breakfast.

For lunch, my lady-friend joins me and we make butternut squash soup. As someone who thinks about brain-eating zombies a lot, the murderous aspect of slicing into head-shaped gourds is never lost on me. However, though there are many autopsied pumpkins in my past, this is my first time cooking with butternut squashes. In appearance, they are like small, pale pumpkins with large protrusions (often, of approximately phallic proportion). Dissections quickly reveal that the best meat is in the phallus. The recipe I have selected also calls for fresh apples, apple cider, and ¼ cup of apple brandy. The resulting broth is accordingly apple-y, and warm and wonderful. We enjoy it with slices of white sheep’s cheese and French bread. It is a perfect fall meal.

Around 3 p.m., we go to a Bonjour Café in Hyde Park, and I have a large coffee with skim milk.

For dinner — in a refrigerator-cleaning-out sort of move — we prepare enormous salads with spinach, corn, sliced chicken, tomatoes, black beans, red peppers, shredded cheese, and avocado. For dessert, we have Stroopwafels topped with chocolate jalapeno gelato. I like the bite that the jalapeno provides, and the Stroopwafels remind me of living in Belgium as a little kid. Satisfying tastes and memories ensue.

I pour myself an apple brandy on the rocks before bed, but it is just sort of “meh” so I don’t finish it.

Monday, October 25
Green smoothie for breakfast. Then handfuls of almonds.
Lunch is a big bowl of leftover butternut squash soup and several slices of French bread. Both still taste marvelous.

When the mail comes, I learn that a prestigious writer’s retreat in the UK has rejected my application for a 2011 residency. By email, a friend suggests a more modest retreat in central Illinois. I peruse the retreat’s website. While it says that meals are provided, it notes that writers are served “1,500 calories a day.” This seems oddly specific to me. And also completely inadequate. I write an emphatic email to the retreat, asking how serious they are about this calorie count, and pointing out that most doctors suggest consuming 2,000-2,500 calories per day. I do not receive a prompt response. (I think they think I am joking. I am not joking.)

About 4 p.m., I have a small cup of Quaker oatmeal.

For dinner, we get takeaway — for me, four steak tacos with cilantro and onions — from Taqueria Moran, a small Mexican restaurant in my neighborhood. The steak tastes like it has been simmering at the back of the grill all day. It is exactly what I want.

Tuesday, October 26
Green smoothie for breakfast. Two coffees with lots of skim milk.
Lunch at Ponte Fresco. Chicken, mandarin oranges, carrots, chickpeas, and corn. Fat-free honey mustard dressing. Not bad.

Another green smoothie when I get home. (I make it with all chard and no spinach, which increases the odor of a topiary project). Later in the evening I have an expensive pomegranate juice, scrambled eggs with four egg whites and one egg yellow, and a big bowl of oatmeal.

Zombie Writer Scott Kenemore Loves Green Smoothies and Slicing Open Large Gourds