the grub street diet

Author Lauren Oyler Is Always Eating Little Treats

“All the chocolate-chip cookies have flaky sea salt now — it’s not special anymore!”

Lauren Oyler among the cookies. Illustration: Margalit Cutler
Lauren Oyler among the cookies. Illustration: Margalit Cutler

As a book critic, Lauren Oyler become notorious for writing the sort of reviews, according to our friends at the Cut, “that nobody wants to write anymore but that everyone wants to read.” And now Oyler has published her first novel, Fake Accounts, which explores the very current, somewhat uncomfortable feeling of being very online. The book’s narrator shares often humorous details about food that capture the way we now see ourselves through our preferences and consumer decisions, one kind of millennial behavior that Oyler is sharply critical of. “I think there’s a temptation to really see them as super, super-meaningful,” Oyler says of these choices. “It’s connected to this general idea of consumerism as being a relevant political act.”

Friday, January 29
A very glamorous day. Big book-signing day!

I woke up and had half a coffee from the Keurig. Usually, we live in Ithaca, New York, but we are staying in an Airbnb in East Williamsburg so I could go to a couple of bookstores to sign books, and there’s a Keurig here. Obviously, we all hate Keurigs, but the coffee isn’t the worst. Usually, we use an AeroPress, which makes the best coffee, or a Chemex, which I am scared of and resist learning how to use. I don’t think that much about coffee. I like coffee that tastes good.

Ran to Prospect–Lefferts Gardens to sign books at Greenlight. I stupidly went to Cinnamon Girl to get an almond croissant and a coffee, but it was absolutely freezing so I couldn’t eat or drink them outside. So I went into the bookstore with a coffee that I couldn’t really drink and a croissant that I couldn’t really eat because of the mask.

When I finished, I ate the croissant pacing in front of the subway even though it was freezing. They very nicely said I could stay in the bookstore, which wasn’t opening for 30 minutes, and eat it there, but I didn’t want to make them uncomfortable!

Around noon, I had to sign books at the Strand and then made the same mistake again: I got a small coffee from Blue Bottle that I immediately could not really drink. So I had another half-coffee.

At four, I went to the Odeon with my editor, Kendall, and my agent, Alia, to celebrate “in whatever way we can in these times.” Great outdoor seating! Not even cold, really!

I’ve only been to the Odeon one other time, for another publishing lunch thing. I think it has this historical glamour that I can’t fully access, but I understand that it is meaningful.

I got a hot buttered rum, because that’s delicious, and we had an order of french fries to share. But I was also starving, and they kept talking about how neither of them ever had any business expenses anymore because of the pandemic so I was like, “Is it weird if I eat dinner?” They had places to go afterward, so they had soup. I had a steak with garlic butter and more fries. Like I said, I was really starving. We had a bottle of Côtes du Rhône that I realized, as it was being poured, I used to buy for like $14 at either Olivino or Heritage Wines in Clinton Hill even though I didn’t really like it. Classic restaurant experience.

I was sort of doing Dry January, but I guess it ended early.

Saturday, January 30
Since we moved to Ithaca, I’ve had a beloved ritual on Saturdays, which is that I go to the farmers’ market and buy a bunch of weird vegetables and flowers and whatever and then I get breakfast burritos from this stand called Solaz. They are fantastic, and they are now on holiday until April(!). Sometimes we get them during the week, usually from this perfect restaurant Cafe DeWitt, which is in the basement of a mall (not really a mall, though) that used to be Ithaca High School. I have a nice routine with the manager: When I call in the order and he finally gets to the portion where he asks, “And can I get a name for the order?” I say, “It’s Lauren,” and he says, “Oh, hi, Lauren,” in a very friendly way. Solaz also sells frozen burritos through the co-op, which are extremely difficult to heat through in the oven, but I persevere.

Anyway, all this is to say I didn’t do that because I was in Brooklyn and there were no breakfast burritos around the Airbnb, as far as we could tell, and every Saturday I think about breakfast burritos. What I actually had for breakfast was half a Lavazza Keurig again and oatmeal with blueberries, peanut butter, and honey. I love oatmeal. I had a real oatmeal streak a few years ago, and at one point I tried to use it to make my own face mask, which didn’t really work out. When I recounted this to a friend, he replied in his great Liverpool accent, “You put porridge on your face?” It remains a mantra.

I had to go to Community Bookstore in Park Slope to sign some books. It was very cold, but I walked back to East Williamsburg, which was really nice, and when I got back, I stopped at Variety Coffee to get a small coffee and a chocolate-chip cookie. All the chocolate-chip cookies have flaky sea salt now — it’s not special anymore!

Now that my in-person obligations were over and I could worry less about superspreading on behalf of self-promotion, which would be bad, I had plans to go see my friends Erika and Pete at their apartment, and while I was waiting for her to text me, I ate a piece of salami. Eventually, I went over, and we had sandwiches from Regina’s Grocery. I had an Uncle Jimmy. I should have gotten a smaller one, but I love things that have a ton of ingredients. I also had a Balconi Mix Max, which I had never had before but WOW! Like a Little Debbie but fancier.

Eventually, we started drinking red wines, some of which I wrote down and some of which I didn’t, and we had dates and olives and then ordered pizzas from Two Boots. A cheese and a white pizza with garlic, tomato, and spinach. Great! Great, great.

I hung out there until the end of the night — it was just like old times! At this hangout, my friend told me many people plan their Grub Street Diets so that they eat especially cool and representative stuff during this period. I thought about doing this, but I can’t plan anything! So here we are.

Sunday, January 31
We were supposed to drive back to Ithaca, but the snow started there early so we decided to stay through Wednesday. Oatmeal again, peanut butter, banana, blueberries, honey. Two Lavazzas in the Keurig. Blah blah. I slept terribly, so I took a nap.

We made omelettes with feta, cherry tomatoes, spinach, and onions. I am really good at making omelettes. Then I had a Hobnob, an English cookie made of rolled oats, as dessert. That’s a great little cookie. I love treats. I’m eating treats all the time.

One feeling I’ve always had is Fuck, we have to eat AGAIN?? We have to make these choices and execute them AGAIN?? THREE TIMES A DAY? But in the pandemic, it’s especially bad. We ordered dinner from Sage Thai, which is nearby, and I walked to go pick it up. Pad see ew with tofu and extra vegetables, and green curry with tofu and extra vegetables. Normal order. Technically, I was back on Dry January. Finished strong. Imagine this diary is punctuated throughout with seltzer, usually lime.

Monday, February 1

Oatmeal again, two Keurigs, blah blah.

We were suddenly very hungry. We ordered from Mesa Coyoacan after trying to figure out what was open within walking distance, and I walked to go get it in the snow, which actually wasn’t that bad. We had an order of chips and guacamole and each got enchiladas verdes with chicken. Totally acceptable! My favorite Mexican restaurant, Pequeña in Fort Greene, closed during the pandemic, which is devastating, and I thought about it even though I couldn’t have gone there in the blizzard anyway.

This is going to sound so basic, but I like a little place where the food is good and it’s not too expensive but it’s also not cheap. It’s clear that the food is somehow wholesome. At Pequeña, they had these amazing nachos, but everything they had was amazing. It wasn’t mind-blowingly good Mexican food; it was just really solidly good. You knew what you were getting, the people were fun, and it was a cool little place to sit and have a margarita and nachos.

I never regret spending money on good food. It just makes sense to me that it should cost as much and the labor should cost as much. I really still hate getting delivery. Obviously, I do it, everybody does it, but I would prefer to go pick it up because it’s so exploitative. But then you get into this trap where you’re like, Oh, well, if I’m not ordering delivery, then they’re not getting their tips, and this whole horrible vicious circle that goes back to this idea that consumerism is a relevant political act. “The way you spend your money as a politically meaningful act” fallacy.

I also got a six-pack of Goose Island IPA from the bodega and had a couple over the course of the evening while panicking about various obligations and the fact that my book was coming out the next day.

Tuesday, February 2
My book came out, so my boyfriend went to SHM Bagel and Coffee Shop nearby to get a special breakfast, which was a toasted everything bagel with cream cheese and coffees from Rose Wolf.

I went over to my friend Callie’s to borrow her ring light for my Zoom launch. It was a terrible saga in the melting snow, but I got two more little coffees from Hungry Ghost on the way back. Then I couldn’t even use the ring light because it reflected in my glasses, so it was all for nothing.

Another terrible saga: We tramped around downtown looking for my books in the windows and then we were starving again and tried to just find anywhere that had their outdoor seating open, but no one did! Standing outside Taïm, which we desperately wanted but thought it wouldn’t travel back to Brooklyn, we were bereft and made the difficult choice to get back on the subway and eat in Brooklyn. Then we wanted to order stuff to pick up from Dar 525, which wasn’t open, and then we tried to go to Hummus Market right outside our subway stop, but it was too prissy. So we dejectedly went to Sage Thai again. It’s good, but, you know, we wanted falafel. We got the same thing as the other day but red curry, plus spring rolls.

I did my Zoom event sans comfort beer because I forgot to pick them up and ran out of time. My boyfriend went to his friend’s house to watch it for bandwidth reasons. He returned with beer for himself and a nice bottle of Champagne for me, and I drank the whole bottle myself, celebratorily. We shared the rest of the pad see ew from earlier, just cold, and that was nice.

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Author Lauren Oyler’s Grub Street Diet