Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

A writer’s diet

with 4 comments

A writer's lunch

It was Larry Niven, I believe, who pointed out that there’s nothing more boring than hearing about somebody else’s diet. Which is probably true. Still, since this is my blog, I can talk about whatever I like—and since I’ve spoken at such great length about other elements of my routine, I may as well write a bit about how I sustain myself nutritionally throughout the day. Besides, my eating life, like everything else, has been shaped by years as a starving writer, which encourage a set of habits that are simple, frugal, and capable of being followed with a minimum of conscious attention. Writing is physically draining, but also sedentary and tedious, so I offer up the following suggestions as a guide to what works for one particular person who does most of his work at his dining room table. (With a baby on the way, I also suspect that my routine is about to be upended forever, so I’m writing this as much as a memento for myself as anything else.)

I’m generally up around a quarter to eight, and after a comically brief session on the elliptical, I settle in for breakfast. The first, crucial step is brewing a pot of green tea, using one of those lovely infusion teapots that used to be sold by Hues ‘n Brews, but seem to be rather hard to find these days. The tea itself consists of three scoops of loose jasmine leaves from Sunflower, which can be easily bought in bulk tins from Amazon. Breakfast tends to be an egg-white omelet made with salt, pepper, basil, and whatever cheese I happen to have lying around, usually shredded mozzarella. My beverage of choice is orange juice, with plenty of pulp, mixed with a shot glass of pomegranate juice, which is both rich in antioxidants and hideously expensive. It’s a light meal of four hundred calories or so, but it’s just enough, along with a second steeping of green tea, to get me through a blog post and a morning’s worth of writing. (And for real devotees, I can reveal that I also take a multivitamin, fish oil, and Vitamin D.)

A writer's breakfast

Lunch tends to come around 1:30, or after I’ve finished my first awful draft of the day. It’s probably a sign of my obsessiveness, or my essentially boring personality, that I’ve eaten the same lunch for years with little variation. It’s granola, soy milk, and blueberries—frozen is perfectly fine—and the result is simple and tasty enough that I’m still not tired of it. I also like to have about ten grams of spirulina, more out of fancy than for any proven effect, although it does seem to give me a necessary energy boost. Lunch, again, comes to about four hundred calories, which is more or less adequate to see me through until dinner. I also snack on dark chocolate throughout the day, preferably the cheap Hershey’s Special Dark kind that tastes so good when fresh, but soon turns crumbly and waxy when left around the house too long. Plus plenty of green tea, of course, and occasionally coffee on the weekends, or on days when I don’t have time for a rejuvenating nap.

And a big part of the reason why I’m so abstemious at breakfast and lunch is so I can indulge myself at dinner, in which anything goes. In practice, this usually turns out to be stir-fry, or fish or other protein prepared in a cast iron skillet in the broiler. (For this, I have this classic article by Mark Bittman to thank. I can honestly say that it changed my life.) Lots of greens, lots of white rice. Favorite recipes include classic baked chicken, sardine pasta with bread crumbs and capers, and spicy eggplant with ground beef. On the weekends, my wife and I like to make lots of waffles, using the secret method from The New Best Recipe, which calls for sour cream and seltzer water and immediately became a household tradition. And that’s pretty much it. I’m not sure if it makes me a better writer, but it’s tasty, healthy, suited for any budget, and leaves plenty of time for outlining. What more could anyone ask?

Written by nevalalee

December 11, 2012 at 9:50 am

4 Responses

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  1. I love learning about people’s diets, even before I became a dietitian!


    December 12, 2012 at 10:55 pm

  2. They’re definitely fun to write about. Glad you liked it!


    December 13, 2012 at 8:26 am

  3. Wow, very healthy :p


    December 18, 2012 at 9:22 am

  4. And very easy. :)


    December 18, 2012 at 10:02 am

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