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The New York Diet

What five of us ate in a week, down to the last peanut-butter-dipped celery stick.


Photos by Donald Bowers.  

What does a New Yorker really eat? In 2004, I set out to answer that question by photographing and recording everything I consumed. I did it because I thought someone should; after all, wouldn’t a complete chronicle of a typical turn-of-the-century diet make life just a little easier on some future anthropology student? (Chronicle Books has published the collected photos in Everything I Ate, available for $14.95 at all good bookstores.)

What I didn’t expect to learn was anything about myself. But I did—and what I found, I suspect, applies to plenty of my fellow citizens, too.

For one: I eat a lot. Seven or eight times a day, to be exact(ish). I eat even when I don’t need to. I thought I was chowing down for purely physical reasons—but eating turned out to be more emotional than logical.

For another: Like many New Yorkers, I live a high-low culinary life. Last year, cold pizza and cereal shared stomach space with fluke four ways from Le Bernardin and raspberry financiers from Café Gray. Most important: Food is everywhere. It happens not just around the table but in the street, at the office, in front of the television, even on the subway.

As an experiment to enlarge the sample pool, New York asked five compatriots to arm themselves with log books and document not just everything they ate but also where and when they did it, for one week in May.

Look quickly, and you’ll see more differences than similarities here. Some of us are scarfing Sour Patch Kids in class, while others dine on lamb shanks and grapefruit Bellinis at the Modern. But look closely and you’ll see that really, we’re all the same: hungry.

The Bachelor
Chris Drunsic, IT project manager at midtown law firm
Age 27
Home Midtown Manhattan

9:30 A.M. WORK 12-oz. cup of coffee with 3 Equals and half-and-half
1:00 P.M. HOME Large plate of fusilli pasta with tomato sauce; glass of water
1:30 WORK Stick of gum
3:15 Glass of water
4:05 Glass of water
4:35 4 Hershey’s Kisses
4:37 Stick of gum
6:45 CENTRAL PARK WATER FOUNTAIN Two sips of water
7:15 HOME 4 grilled chicken breasts; green beans; glass of water
8:10 Health Valley chocolate-chip granola bar
8:30 Glass of water
9:05 2 spoonfuls of vanilla
Jell-O pudding
9:35 Cup of chilled tea with milk and honey

6:45 A.M. HOME A few sips of water 7:20 Stick of gum
9:00 WORK Cup of coffee with 3 Equals and half-and-half; plain bagel with vegetable cream cheese
11:30 Stick of gum
12:40 P.M. home Small plate of fusilli pasta with tomato sauce; 2 peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches on white bread; glass of water
2:12 WORK Stick of gum
2:35 Glass of water
4:15 Bag of unsalted trail mix; glass of water
4:30 Stick of gum
5:07 Can of Diet Coke
6:00 THE BEER BAR AT CAFE CENTRO Bottle of Bud Light
8:15 YANKEE STADIUM Draft of Bud Light; 6 breaded chicken strips with barbecue sauce; French fries; hot dog
9:15 Draft of Bud Light
10:00 Stick of gum
11:18 HOME Glass of water

10:00 A.M. WORK Cup of coffee with 3 Equals and half-and-half; banana
1:06 P.M. Cup of turkey-potpie soup; chicken Caesar salad; glass of water
1:15 Stick of gum
1:55 Stick of gum
4:57 Glass of water
5:30 Health Valley fat-free chocolate-chip granola bar
6:00 GRAND SZECHUAN RESTAURANT 2 Heinekens; 3 glasses of water; cup of tea; string potatoes with vinegar; sesame chicken; 2 scallion-potato pancakes; broccoli with garlic sauce; 2 chicken skewers; pea-shoot soup dumpling; fortune cookie
9:10 Glass of water

4:36 A.M. HOME A few gulps of water
10:00 WORK Cup of coffee with 3 Equals and half-and-half
11:45 Stick of gum
12:15 CUNY GRADUATE CENTER 2 roast-beef sandwiches with American cheese on wheat rolls; pasta salad; Diet Coke
5:00 WORK Glass of water; bag of trail mix
5:40 Glass of water; stick of gum
9:00 HOME; TAKEOUT FROM TANAKA SUSHI RESTAURANT Chicken teriyaki; white rice; side salad; 2 steamed dumplings with soy sauce; cucumber roll; 2 glasses of water
10:30 10 pieces of celery with peanut butter
11:15 Glass of water

10:00 A.M. WORK Cup of coffee with 3 Equals and half-and-half; banana
10:30 Glass of water
12:45 P.M. HOME Turkey-and-ham sandwich with Monterey Jack cheese on white bread; banana; glass of water
1:30 WORK Glass of water
2:50 Can of Diet Coke
4:09 Glass of water; handful of Mike and Ike candies
4:54 Stick of gum
7:15 CORTINA RESTAURANT 3 pieces of Italian bread; 2 glasses of water; slice of tomato with mozzarella cheese and olive oil; large bowl of penne with vodka sauce and chicken; 2 glasses of red wine
9:20 Stoli and tonic
10:45 HOME Glass of water

9:00 A.M. STARBUCKS Large coffee with 4 Equals and half-and-half; low-fat blueberry muffin
10:30 HOME Glass of water
12:45 P.M. Turkey sandwich with American cheese on white roll; bag of spicy Cajun potato chips; pint of orange juice
1:45 CENTRAL PARK Stick of gum
2:40 HOME Glass of water
4:10 Glass of water
4:16 Glass of water; 4 pieces of celery with peanut butter
5:00 Powerade fruit punch
7:00 TAKEOUT FROM TANAKA SUSHI RESTAURANT Teriyaki chicken; salad; white rice, 2 steamed vegetable dumplings with soy sauce; cucumber roll; glass of water
9:17 Glass of water
10:30 FRIEND'S APARTMENT Bottle of Michelob Ultra
11:00 Bottle of Michelob Ultra
11:30 Bottle of Michelob Ultra

1:00 A.M. THE FALLS BAR Draft of Miller Lite
2:00 HOME Glass of water
3:00 Glass of water
12:30 P.M. PENELOPE RESTAURANT Ham-cheese-and-spinach omelet with a side of French fries; fruit with yogurt; cup of coffee with 2 Splendas and half-and-half; glass of water; glass of fresh orange juice
1:35 Stick of gum
3:00 CENTRAL PARK Can of Red Bull
5:30 RIVERSIDE PARK FIELDS Bottle of water
7:00 THE WEST END BAR 3 glasses of water; 2 drafts of Stella Artois; 12 tortilla chips with guacamole; a few bites of chicken Caesar salad
8:30 HOME Cheese fondue with 6 green-pepper slices; red-pepper slice; 12 baked-potato pieces; 15 small pieces Italian bread; 2 cherry tomatoes; 2 small carrots; glass of white wine; glass of water
9:15 Carrot-raisin muffin; 1⁄2 glass nonfat milk

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