Ed Levine's Serious Diet, Week 126: Eating in the Car: Do Car Calories Count?

"All in all, it was perhaps the most successful car trip, serious diet-wise, that I'd ever taken."


Will stop for lobster rolls. [Photo: Ed Levine]

Yesterday we rented a car (like most Manhattanites, we don't own one) and drove from New York City to Woods Hole, Massachusetts, on our way to Martha's Vineyard. Usually this trek takes five or six hours, about half of which I devote to eating. What kind of eating, you might ask. The self-destructive, mindless kind, I'm sorry to say. The kind that forces me to offer up the following rhetorical question to serious eaters: Do car calories count?

The eating takes a minimum of two forms. First I load up on junk food and sandwiches that I pick up during the three block walk to my neighborhood Hertz location. I rationalize this car carb-loading by telling myself that I'm being considerate by buying food for Vicky and Will for the trip, and by convincing myself that we will save time by having enough food in the car to enable us to drive straight through to our ferry at Woods Hole without stopping.

That whole process is obviously an exercise in serious diet futility, but believe it or not, the whole car eating things only gets worse after we actually get into the car and start driving.

Road Trip Eats

How? Because even though I usually bring along enough sandwiches and chips to feed a family of six and still have leftovers, I also never leave home without a list of three or four potential serious eating stops that I have convinced myself I must try.

Yesterday was a perfect example. Right before I left our building to pick up the car, I e-mailed myself directions to three fried clam and lobster roll joints. So I was preparing myself for another ridiculous day of car overeating. But miracle of miracles, I didn't indulge myself the way I had countless times in the past.

Second thing I did right: I stopped at our local magazine shop on the way to the Hertz counter and picked up the tabloids, a caffeinated drink, and a bottle of water for the trip. But somehow, some way I managed to avoid buying any food: no M&Ms, no kettle chips, and no pound cake. So we had no food in the car when our journey started, except for two bananas, which we consumed by the time we made it to the George Washington Bridge (ten minutes).

Then, since Vicky was doing the driving, I started reading e-mails on my Blackberry and returning phone calls—I got so busy I didn't even realize that we had gone past the exits for our three designated food stops.

Lunch Stop?

We were starving by the time we hit the three hour mark, so we did manage to find our way to Abbott's Lobster in the Rough in Noank, CT, a magical spot overlooking the water just south of Mystic, CT (No, we didn't stop at Mystic Pizza: I liked the movie more than the pizza.) But I ordered downright abstemiously there: one hot lobster roll, one cold lobster salad roll, and one bowl of clam broth-based chowder (no cream or bacon or butter).

I had a few bites of each, which were surprisingly delicious (the last time we went to Abbott's the view was better than the food), Vicky ate the rest, and we went on our merry way. I contemplated stopping at the ice cream and dessert shack on the way out, but somehow managed to avoid taking that lethal, serious diet-killing step.

We stopped for gas right before we made it to Wood's Hole, and I even managed to resist the siren call of the gas station store junk food.

All in all, it was perhaps the most successful car trip, serious diet-wise, that I'd ever taken. Maybe I am learning a little more about how to control myself, and maybe it had something to do with this trip taking place on a Thursday, the day before I weigh in. A little bit of both, I guess. I can only surmise that this newfound discipline falls under the category of "Whatever it takes, serious eaters. Whatever it takes."


I hope my successful car trip is going to be reflected on the scale. Interim weigh-ins during the week were encouraging, but given the number of cupcakes, pies, and seriously yummy sandwiches that managed to find their way to Serious Eats World HQ this week (thanks to our fantastic interns) you never know. Here goes: 221, same as last week. One of the times I jumped on Thinner this morning he registered 220, so I think I'm definitely headed in the right direction. In or out of the car.