Our last meal spiraled around four plates around the black coffee table. A flour-dusted baguette cut into perfect, inch-thick slices piled into a small mountain next to pickled red peppers, slippery from olive oil, and the largest artichoke hearts I’d ever eaten. Finocchiona, soppressata, prosciutto and bresaola – all meats which would have made my proud Italian parents prouder – folded over itself on a plate next to a wooden cutting board of Fontina, Bouche Bonne goat cheese, harbison and (my favorite) Comte. We clinked our wine glasses through which blood red Cabernet Sauvignon breathed and, laughing, took a vow to say goodbye to all things not-fruit for the rest of the weekend as a marathon of Game Of Thrones launched in the background.
Recently I interviewed Michael Arnstein, the celebrated fruitarian and ultra-marathoner who once lived in Brooklyn before moving to Hawaii to feed his fruit-only eating habit. During the peak of his marathon training, he used to run 15 miles to work and 15 miles home, eating 15 oranges for lunch (or maybe 20 if they were good). To this mono-eater, cheating meant only one thing: a salad (no dressing) for dinner and steamed vegetables to pair. Once I discovered that he allegedly sweats no body odor, never gets sick, runs wicked fast and his feces is indistinguishable from pureed orange pulp, I thought: This way of life may not be so bad. But truth be told, Arnstein didn’t inspire so much as intrigue me into taking this vow of fruit-chastity. And I didn’t take an honest vow so much as convince myself that this was something I had to do. And I didn’t convince myself this was something I had to do so much as my boyfriend convinced me that this was something I had to do (as a writer, he clarifies). And maybe these are just the thoughts I’ve convinced myself to believe in the diet’s wake to avenge my less-than-sweet success. And as the Tralfamadorians so wisely say, so it goes.
As we blithely tore apart pieces of bread, mashing lavish amounts of curdled lactic acid and piles of dried meats on top of them, it was beyond our narrow field of vision to imagine the agony that would accompany the replacement of palette-cleansing sips of wine with stomach-cleansing mouthfuls of sugary produce. (Read: ignorance.) By the time the sun rose and we overcame our cheese hangover, climbing out of bed six hours later, only one of the things from the night before would remain the same. Here’s a hint: It was neither the laughing nor the food.
Our first grocery run (we went every four hours) left us with what we thought would be plenty of options: a bunch of bananas, apples, cantaloupe, mangos and blueberries. And had we bought double or triple this amount, it would have been. At 1:30, Ian chose a banana, correctly theorizing that it would be a more filling form of sustenance. I chose a banana. And then we boiled Japanese green tea, cut up a mango and forked cantaloupe working our way through the first season of GOT. Maybe it was the sugar rush or maybe it was the cups on cups of real green tea, but within two hours I was banging away work on my laptop on a high that hither-to-now I had not experienced without the supplementation of at least 20 milligrams of Adderall. Needless to say, the first three and a half hours went well.
But within the first twenty-four hours of our food-diet-journey, there were many things that we wouldn’t be able to predict. That our stomach hardly growled but we never felt satisfied, for one. Or that the once brightly lit basement of Ian’s three-story apartment would slowly grow darker, the light squeezed out of it by the dimmer adjusted to the caliber of our
withering moods, as it groaned and turned into a dark, hopeless cave. Or that the rediscovery of avocados would become the apple of our stomachs and eyes. Or that the mind’s manifestation of nothing-but-fruit would convince us of the pleasure of agoraphobia, and worse – of preferences to be completely alone, causing Ian to gradually stop communicating as he buried his face into a corner of the couch in the cave (or maybe, that was my fault). But as we took off in his red Honda CR-V for Foodies at noon that Saturday, we had no inclinations about basement-morphing-caves nor of resuscitation by avocados.
At 4:00pm we ate “lunch.” Blueberries, apple slices, and banana slices in a bowl to split. Res-steeped tea. More GOT. At 6:30pm the downward spiral began.
At 6:42pm we considered going out for some nuts which, according to Arnstein’s diet, is technically cheating. Real treat. In reality, true fruitarians only consume about 70 percent or more of fruit, allowing items like seeds, nuts and vegetables in their diet (and in some cases, even peanut butter!). It was settled: We had to make second grocery trip, as the only fruit we had left was a rind-covered orange, a banana and a couple of apples. We agreed that Ian could have a cup of coffee. Alas, this time we knew what we were doing. We came back with two packages of strawberries, blueberries, two mangos, almonds and roasted soy beans for Ian’s mental health, three avocados and something called jimeca which I picked out for fun and reminded me of raw radish or parsnip and which I would never eat again.
We split an avocado for dinner and munched on blue berries, bananas and strawberries in a bowl. I was feeling great: My stomach had grumbled once, though I wouldn’t have minded some carbs. Within two hours of polishing off the berry bowl with me, we had begun to grow cranky irritable. Needless to say, we spent the next hour on separate floors of his apartment.
A few hours later, we reconvened and I decided to share wine. We got jittery drunk off three glasses like we might of the first time we had ever drank. In the morning, we woke up fairly refreshed and began again. This time the fruit prep was truly a labor of love. As I chopped strawberries and sliced avocados, I hoped I wasn’t maiming something else – our desire to go the extra mile to eat healthy. Our confidence in the extreme fitness world. For the rest of the day, I kept these doubts to myself, realizing that cleansing can only set you up for failure. It’s too uncompromising and intolerable too last. Even if I were to have made it for more than 1.75 days, I would still feel guilty every time I put something in my mouth that wasn’t full of seeds. As for me, I was falling prey to my own fantasies, voicing my dreams of cheese covered pizza and pasta and sandwiches. By the time he had dropped me off at the train station, I had a Whole Food’s box of lettuce, quinoa, pasta salad and imitation meat in my belongings and I knew: there was no going back.
I now know several enlightening things: avocados are my new favorite fruit, while raspberries, my ex-favorite fruit, serve no sustaining purpose. Mangoes are mouthwateringly good. There truly is little need to consciously drink water. You do naturally have a ton of energy. You will also go through painfully predictable bouts of fatigue every time you consume something that isn’t fruit afterwards. I call it withdrawal. Just 24 hours after breaking my day-and-three-quarter-cleans, my body was confused. It wanted everything and nothing. My head was tired when I wasn’t not eating, but exhausted when I was full. My stomach didn’t growl for three days straight until I worked out on Tuesday.
Would I do it again? Maybe. But truth be told, the only foods in my diet that are not technically fruitarian-acceptable are yogurt, granola and occasionally cookies.