The Strawberry Fields Whatever Diet: Everything We Ate for an Entire Week, by Laura Jane Faulds & Elizabeth Barker

Monday, September 9th

LJ: I woke up at 8 in the morning and it was chilly in my bedroom and, even indoors, you could feel the autumn in the air. I thought it was romantic.

I made myself a Bodum-ful of terrible coffee. I honestly make the worst coffee. It’s a real chore to force it down.

I am avoiding gluten right now because my stomach is fucked all the time and it seems like the thing to do. I also already don’t eat dairy, because I’m lactose-intolerant, so that’s fun.

For breakfast I ate two different gluten-free cereals mixed together: one was Nature’s Path vanilla poppyseed grain-free whatever, which is crunchy and seedy and wonderful, and the other one is kinda bullshit, I don’t know its name and never will. It’s nothing. I enjoyed this melange of breakfast cereals with my favourite brand of coconut milk yogurt, “Maison Riviera,” which is a ridiculous name for a dairy-free yogurt brand. It sounds like the name of a drag queen whose schtick is being a parody of a French person.

I always eat breakfast while doing the New York Times crossword. The Monday crossword is so easy a damn cat could do it.

I quit smoking and juuling and everything but I’m too lazy to go through nicotine withdrawal so I’m constantly popping nicotine lozenges. I guess I “eat” them. I think it’s very charming of me. I like thinking about the story of my life and flashing back to a picture of my nineteen-year-old self chain-smoking cigarettes, you would see it and think, “Oof, this girl is going to have to quit smoking one day; she’s not doing much to make that very easy on herself,” and then you’d cut to a scene of today me covertly shaking my blue plastic vial of Nicorette things over my palm in the middle of hanging out with someone, or at work, and you’d think, “Oh, wow, she did it. But she’s still that same person.”

I ate a stupid protein bar before going for a run. I impulse-bought a box of these “plant-based energy bars” in the flavour “nutbutter superfood with baobab” without having tasted one, and it turned out I didn’t like them, so it’s been a real hassle, getting through the box. But today I ate my last bar, which was a real victory. On the bar wrapper it says “Crashproof your day!”— ridiculous. I do not consider my day “crashproofed” because I absently fed myself that nothing piece of garbage.

In the afternoon I had therapy and engaged in my classic post-therapy ritual of going to Whole Foods and spending an absurd amount of money on a salad I’ve thrown together out of an assortment of non-complimentary ingredients from the salad bar. For no reason, today’s salad was moderately more composed than usual. I used arugula as the base and my major takeaway from eating that salad was that arugula is beautiful— so elegant, and very self-confident for a leaf. My cacophonous salad was disrespectful to arugula.

I was tired but had missed my coffee-drinking window for that day (I don't drink coffee after 3 PM) so I drank a lemon iced tea and then went to Pilot for a Cascara Tea, which is my new fav non-alc. Cascara Tea is also called Coffee Cherry Tea, which is a lovely word-order, and is made out of coffee bean skins. They have it on tap at Pilot and it’s kind of fizzy. Also tannic & floral & caramelly.

I got to work and ate a peach. I drank San Pellegrino all night. Near the end of service I ate another stupid all-natural protein bar: it wasn’t very good. What I liked about this protein bar was that its flavour name was Sticky Squirrel, and I am simply not the kind of non-idiot who could ever say no to a thing named Sticky Squirrel. The thing tasted mostly of molasses, a flavour I don’t love.

Before I left work I ate two mini saucisson secs, which are complimentary to my aesthetic. They are a food I would very much like to be seen eating.

I came home and drank a glass of chilled Beaujolais-Villages. I thought Beaujolais was going to be my thing for September but, mid-glass, I’m realizing I’m kind of over it now. 

LIZ: I woke up in the Valley! My boyfriend Scott lives in Lake Balboa and had already left for the day, to meet a friend for breakfast at Lovi's Deli in Calabasas. In a cute kickoff to Strawberry Fields Whatever Diet week, I rolled out of bed to a text from Scott sharing his breakfast order with me: coffee, Greek omelette, sesame bagel, fruit, and "some of my friend's giant blueberry muffin." I drank a glass of water & transcribed an interview with a riot grrrl-ish songwriter woman who told me the touchstones for her new album are "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" by Belinda Carlisle, "More Than a Feeling" by Boston, and "9 to 5" by Dolly Parton, all of which I deeply support.

I got myself together and went to get breakfast at a place in Van Nuys called Heart's Coffee Shop, which I found by Googling "old diners in the san fernando valley." Heart's was a ghost town and I sat at the counter. For my breakfast I ordered scrambled eggs & sausage links and asked for a biscuit instead of toast, but you're not allowed to get a plain old biscuit at Heart's- it's biscuits-and-gravy, or no biscuit at all. All I really wanted was to jab my butter knife into the crinkly little packet of Smucker's strawberry preserves and then slather it onto some halfway-decent hunk of biscuit. But I went along with the biscuits-and-gravy plan anyway, because what are you going to do? The biscuits came up first and they were incredibly overwhelming, two fat biscuit-islands in a big sea of gravy. I ate one and then my scrambled eggs & sausage, which were good and greasy and plump and slick. The coffee was weak and blah in that perfect diner-coffee way, I drank 5,000 cups of it.

As I ate I read that special Charles Manson issue of Life, an impulse purchase at CVS, as part of a half-baked plan to make my Strawberry Fields Whatever Diet vaguely Once Upon a Time in Hollywood-themed (spoiler: I FAILED). I'd hoped for Heart's to be a weird cozy time-travel-y experience, but there was some creepy undercurrent to the whole situation- which partly had to do with being the lone customer at a creaky old diner in the middle of nowhere, but is mostly my fault for reading murder magazines at breakfast. My bill came to $12.45 for a massive amount of food, and I paid up and went to a Starbucks in Sherman Oaks to do more work. At Starbucks I drank a grande iced coffee, with a splash of half & half.

Then I went home and finished a work thing and then I went to the gym, where I drank my bottle of lemon water and listened to Starcrawler and JPEGMAFIA and Plague Vendor and Vanilla Fudge- their "You Keep Me Hangin' On" cover, from the soundtrack to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. After the gym I went to California Market, a humungo Korean grocery store near my apartment. In the seafood section they sell whole octopus and I almost bought one, mostly for the novelty of buying an octopus. But then I came to my senses, and got a bunch of veggies and lots of the little freshly packaged treats, like lotus root and radish kimchi and those yummers bean sprouts they give you as banchan. I went home and made a stir-fry thing with Chinese broccoli and baby bok choy and shiitake mushrooms and tofu and red onions and some of the kimchi + bean sprouts tossed in. It was fine, a B+ at best. Did you read that thing Adam Platt wrote about Sweetgreen and how everyone in New York is a salad zombie? Sometimes I worry I'm a stir-fry zombie. One day my life will be lovelier and I'll learn to cook grand things like paella and arroz con pollo and coq au vin and carbonara, but for now I'm just slightly a cut above all those Sweetgreen weirdos.

Tuesday, September 10th

LJ: I woke up too early, very hungry, and ate my same breakfast as yesterday, only the vanilla poppyseed flavour granola has been swapped out for a caramel pecan from the same brand. Breakfast is pretty much the only meal I ever eat at home. What can I say? I'm just a fast-paced CrossFitting sommelier on the go. 

In the early afternoon I went to a white Burgundy tasting at Paris Paris. Krysta gave me a cup of filter coffee in a seventies floral mug: it was a perfect cup of coffee. But from a wine person perspective, drinking a cup of coffee right before a wine tasting is not the most sensible move. I swished like sixteen glasses of water around my mouth to fix my numbed-out coffee-tongue and it seemed to do the trick. I tasted a lot of wonderful wine and I spat it all out because I’m a champion and didn’t want to ruin myself for CrossFit later. We had a bunch of Meursault back vintages: one of them reminded me of soggy canned green beans, another was a vanilla cupcake. One of them tasted like the smell of walking into a chain Italian restaurant in the shopping mall closest to my house when I was a kid: “salty Parmesan rind,” I said aloud, so as not to be disrespectful.

The two wines that stuck with me most were a couple of cheapies: a 2016 Haute-Cotes de Beaune that tasted like hot smashed apple, made me think of the word ‘tawny’ and rust-coloured corduroy, going to this apple farm I used to go to on school trips as a child, in early October, a cup of Styrofoam cup of warm apple cider and the air smells like Hallowe’en. And a sweet, humble Bourgogne Aligote: “Always the bridesmaid, never the bride,” is my joke about Aligote. It tasted like Yellow Raspberry Jelly.

I ate a piece of prosciutto at the wine tasting.

I took myself out for lunch at Fresh and wrote the words Yellow Raspberry Jelly down in my notebook and tweeted the words Yellow Raspberry Jelly. I read from a book by Julia Child and it felt a touch sacrilegious eating my yuppie health food while she wrote about “the winey brown promise of rosy dark meat,” and so on. But, you know, whatever. I am a wine writer who is also the sommelier at a French restaurant. There are a lot of people in the world who are doing a way shittier job of honoring Julia Child’s legacy than this guy.

I had a Goddess bowl, which was: steamed baby bok choy, swiss chard, kale & broccoli, house-made taberu rayu (I don’t know what this is. I copy and pasted this description from the Fresh website), ginger chili tempeh, pickled ginger (the pickled ginger I could have lived without, even though I love ginger, it was a bit much here), sunflower nori gomashio (idk), and tahini sauce, on brown rice. I dribbled hot sauce all over everything. It was perfect. I haven’t eaten proper dairy in so long, and the tahini sauce was like this illicit hit of creaminess. It was such a soft, sunny, warm, nourishing meal: it gave my poor, troubled stomach a hug.

I also had a Green Detox smoothie, which was blueberry, apple, lemon, ginger, coconut water, kale, spinach and banana. A+ use of ginger on this one.

In the afternoon I had a shot of apple cider vinegar to calm my nightmare stomach. I listened to the last two minutes of the Donovan song “Bert’s Blues” over and over again, and went to CrossFit, where I did Russian step-ups and kneeling overhead presses and ran 1 KM and did a Tabata thing of 6 rounds of overhead thrusts, weighted step-ups, and box jumps. Box jumps are my favourite. You squat down deep and your arms help lift you into a nice jump onto a wooden box. You stick your landing like a gymnast, squeeze your glutes, and swagger down off the box like you are a hot shit gangster chewing chewing tobacco. A thing I love about CrossFit is how often it forces you to jump. When you are a kid you jump all the time, but when you’re an adult you never really jump.

After CrossFit I had a peanut butter banana protein shake with almond milk: you buy them from the CrossFit gym, and they are amazing. Then I went over to my friend’s house and we drank some kooky cider and split a decadent bottle of Franciacorta, which tasted like cream soda and vanilla Juul pods. So much vanilla wine today.

He made us a peach and kale salad. I did not drink enough water.

LIZ: At home in the morning I drank two cups of coffee I made pour-over style, with the gooseneck kettle I bought after I moved into my new apartment. I worked and worked and then went to get food at Sqirl, using the Sqirl gift card Jen May got for me when she came to visit in July. Sqirl is a 100% Strawberry Fields Whatever-beloved institution; when LJ was here in January we got lunch at Sqirl like 2 hours after she landed, and guess who was sitting next to us? Sally Draper! The star of so many Strawberry Fields Whatever Mad Men recaps. On Tuesday I got the Crispy Disco, which was LJ's order on Sally Draper Sqirl Day: a beautiful dish of crispy brown rice and an over-easy egg and mint and cilantro and scallion and "lacto-fermented hot sauce"- and also supposedly avocado and sausage, except there was no avocado and sausage in mine, which didn't really hit me until the moment of typing this sentence? Whatever: it was perfect, punchy and tangy and textually wow. I held off on letting the egg yolk ooze all over the rice and when I finally did it was a real showstopper moment. To drink I got a Ginger Lemon Fizz and it was all fizzy and frothy and the ginger created a cool dust over the big chunky ice cubes. I also bought a piece of vegan coconut loaf to go.

Then I went to stupid Starbucks, the Atwater Village one, and did some work and drank a hot mint tea and a grapefruit Spindrift. At home I made myself the same stir-fry thing as Monday night, and had a cup of whatever bottle of Sauvignon Blanc happened to be in my fridge at the time. Later in the night I ate my slice of vegan coconut loaf, which had a cute little lineup of caramelized figs along the crust. I wanted to be madly in love with my vegan coconut loaf; I even ate it while reading The King's Daughter Who Could Never Get Enough Figs from Italo Calvino's Italian folk tales collection, in hopes of having some kind of life-changing fig-based revelation. Instead it was just a nice snack. The most exciting part of the whole scene was that my next-door neighbor- who always listens to everything psychotically loud, in a way that I relate to and heavily condone- was blasting the hell out of Norman Fucking Rockwell! all night long. I haven't properly listened to that album yet but it was a good way to absorb it for the first time: shamelessly blaring from the bedroom of someone I've never met, muffled and distorted by the ambient sounds of the L.A. night. I give it a 10.0.


Happiness Is A Neutral State


Eight years ago I loved the Clash and my nails were painted sparkly turquoise. I flew to New York City to sit around in rooms and bars and talk about the Clash with my Clash-friends. It was around Hallowe’en-time, and it snowed in October and on the news they named the snowfall “Snow-tober” and my friend Charlie said “It would have made a lot more sense if they named it Oct-snow-ber” and we all agreed that Yes, it would have.
        On the day it Oct-snow-bered, which might have been actual Hallowe’en, we went to a Hallowe’en party, and I half-assedly and insincerely dressed up as George Harrison. I wore a black & peach floor-length sari I’d cut into a jagged-hemmed minidress, black stockings, and Beatle boots. It was clearly not an outfit that George Harrison would have worn, under any circumstances, ever. I ignored the sign on the front door asking me to take off my boots and when the host called me on it, “They’re part of my costume,” I explained, and she said “Fine. We’ll make an exception if your shoes are part of your costume,” and I thought, “You’re silly,” which is what I thought Joe Strummer would have thought.
        I have had no interest in dressing up for Hallowe’en for the entirety of my adult life. The thought of deriving pleasure from engaging with that custom is so unfathomable to me that I cannot help but come across as judgmental of those who do. Because I am.


“All your favourite Clash songs are the ones that sound most like reggae,” said Charlie, and I said, “Yeah, you know, that’s true.” He said, “Maybe you should start listening to reggae,” and I said, “Yeah, you know, I should.”
        It was before iPhones then, I just had a little aqua Shuffle that clipped onto my jacket collar, and I deleted every song already on it and filled it up with Trojan Ska & Rocksteady compilations from Charlie and Nadine’s computer--
       It was a nothing moment, meant to mean nothing, which ended up changing everything.

Music, for me, is a companion: a beloved puppy, trotting alongside me, perking things up during life’s dullest moments. Reggae has been the most faithful of pets since I first found it, but I never want talk about it, because when I do, people either want to talk about it or not talk about it, and both outcomes are equally annoying. “Vibes are all there is,” I like to say, and reggae’s are the best. And I worry that if I take them outside of myself, they will be either diluted or dismissed.
        I have been hoarding these precious vibes in my heart for eight years. I am not so brazen to think that these words could match them; I hold myself to a much lower standard than that.
        All I want to do here is explain it.