Ed Levine's Serious Diet, Week 124: Eating Hell Week Strategies

"True friends are not afraid to tell you when to say when when it comes to fried chicken, barbecue, potato chips, or chocolate chip cookies."


Patrick Martin's pork sandwich at Big Apple Barbecue Block Party. [Photograph: Josh Bousel]

I'm going to come right out and say it. The past seven days (eight, really) constituted hell week for this serious dieter. An extremely pleasurable hell week, but a hell week nonetheless.

Why do I say that? Consider the following:

Last Thursday Alaina and I checked out three extremely serious, distinctly Southern eateries in Nashville for the Serious Eats book (thank you, John T. Edge): The Sands Soul Food Diner for some miraculously crisp on the outside, tender on the inside pancakes, eggs scrambled soft as ordered, and a thick slice of dee-licious country ham; celestial, uniquely Southern fried chicken at Bailey and Cato; and the ultimate meat n' three roast beef plate at Arnold's Country Kitchen.

Saturday and Sunday were spent at the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party showing lots of folks around and saying hello to my pitmaster friends. Highlights: Mike Mills' ribs, Chris Lilly's pork shoulder sandwich, and most notably, strands of moist, succulent, insanely porky pork belly plucked from whole pigs by Nashville-based pitmaster Patrick Martin.

All of this and I hadn't even made it to Monday yet.

So you haven't heard the half of it. And when I'm finished I think you'll agree that not losing in this particular case represents a big win.

Monday, SE editor Erin Zimmer and intern Aaron Mattis convened a kettle-cooked potato chip tasting at world headquarters. Do you know how much I love kettle-cooked potato chips? Actually, you probably do. Erin did some serious potato chip editing and gave me the four highest-rated chips to sample.
Tuesday night my wife and I headed up to Food Lab columnist's J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's apartment for a crispy plaintain with squid and mussels, beef taco, bean, and fresh watermelon juice dinner topped off by a serious slice of apple pie Kenji made for our book. I limited myself to one taco, some beans, and a sliver of pie.

Wednesday Erin brought in special guest and columnist Kumiko Mitarai to conduct a taste test of ten batches of her insanely delicious chocolate chip cookies, each made with a different kind of chocolate chip. Once again, I only tasted the four finalists.

Thursday Kenji made sliders in the office with ten different kinds of American cheese. I only tasted the two rated highest by the rest of the tasters.

But you know what? I didn't just toss in the proverbial pork fat-stained towel. I just tried to taste everything without pigging out on any one item, no matter how delicious the fried chicken or the country ham was.

I was also helped immeasurably by my dining companions, serious eaters all, who knew that I was trying to lose weight. True friends are not afraid to tell you when to say when when it comes to fried chicken, barbecue, potato chips, or chocolate chip cookies.

And yes, there was the ever-present thought that I was going to be weighing myself in public this morning. Now that's what I call the ultimate weight loss technique, the fear of public humiliation.


Sometimes not gaining any weight represents a big win for a serious dieter, and I think that staying even from where I was two weeks ago, 222, would be a huge win. Here we go: 222. Same as two weeks ago. Being that I was flirting with 221 last week I'm feeling pretty good about my chances of getting there by next Friday.