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[Photographs: Robyn Lee]

In New York City, Manhattan to be precise, jury duty is not only a civic obligation, but a gustatory one as well. Why? Because the courts in Lower Manhattan are located a stone's throw from the Manhattan Chinatown, so when the officer of the court gives you a ninety minutes for lunch, it can spell big trouble for anyone's Serious Diet.

Do you know how much caloric damage you can do in ninety minutes in Chinatown? A lot, a ton, even more than a ton. Because those narrow streets are filled with temptations that even the most disinterested eater could not resist.

So what do you think happened when I got a long lunch break yesterday?

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I walked out the back door of the courthouse, and just like the court officer told me, I was in Chinatown. I walked down Bayard Street, past a noted soup dumpling place that I've always been meaning to try, past New Beef King, a fantastic Malaysian beef jerky place I have tried, past a bubble tea place, past a Häagen-Dazs store.

They all were whispering my name, but I somehow managed to resist. I was headed to Famous Sichuan for some string beans and maybe a few bites of Chengdu double cooked pork, and that's where I ended up a few minutes later. Robyn Lee had been touting this place for some time, and yesterday was the perfect time to try it. Both dishes, part of the ridiculously low-priced $5.50 lunch special, were delicious.

I ate a little bit of each dish and walked back to the courthouse. I think my discipline and self-control were residual effects of last week's epiphanies about getting back to Serious Diet basics: portion control, portion control, portion control.

The Weigh-In

It has not been an easy week, with my little Chinatown adventure, the James Beard awards, and a pie tasting at the office that featured ten pies—but I never gave in or threw in the towel.

I remained hyper-aware of everything I was eating. Let's see what happens when I get on the scale. The interim weigh-ins have been kind of a wash, and if I just stayed the same after last week's three pound loss I will be happy. Here we go: 223. Same as last week. Beard award celebrating, Chinatown wandering, pies are squared—you can't get me. At least you didn't get me this week. It's all good.

So maybe all roads in Chinatown don't have to lead to trouble.

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