The public is very fickle in a stupid way and Pippa Middleton is an excellent example of this. One minute you (Pippa Middleton) are wearing a beautiful dress at a wedding and everyone loves you and thinks you have a nice bum. Then, the next minute, you are in an extraordinarily small car with a group of handsome Frenchmen and one of them is holding a toy gun and suddenly you are the object of censure. What is a woman to do in such circumstances but write a reviled book about celebrating called Celebrate, and then later pen an exercise column in the Telegraph? The public had driven her to do it.
I, for one, have always been a fan of Pippa’s lifestyle journalism and of the can-do spirit that allowed her to take her bum and turn it into a brand. I very much defended her when she was in that car with all those Frenchmen. They were all so handsome and she had just gone to a historical ball with them.
Thus, it was with a particular pride that I decided to take up the diet and exercise regimens that fueled Pippa’s rise to the top ranks of lifestyle journalism. If the Daily Mail is to be believed and the Middletons really are relentless social graspers and achieved their current position through hard work and patience, then I want them to teach me their dietetic secrets. Because I know nothing about any of those virtues, and I would like to marry a king.
My diet will trace the life cycle of a Pippa Middleton, as that is truly the only way to understand how she has reacted to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. I will start my diet with the diet that Pippa followed right before her breakthrough appearance at the Royal Wedding: the Dukan Diet, a best-selling French program (the French — ALWAYS the cause of one’s rise and one’s downfall!). I go ahead and buy the book on Amazon. It looks both cheerful and scary at the same time. But I am not done! To complete my Pippa transformation, I buy her 400-page cookbook Celebrate. This I will use to throw one of my famous dinner parties. I also discover all of Pippa’s coverage of health fads for the Telegraph — a partner in arms! I will attempt every single one of these exercise fads, even though Pippa is definitely a better athlete than I am.
The Dukan Diet is basically a French version of the Atkins Diet, an entirely protein affair with occasional breaks for dry and oil-less vegetables. Despite being a woman who loves diets and embraces them with two fists, I have never done any super-high-protein diets except for my brief dalliance with the diet of America’s fattest president, William Howard Taft. And that was a disaster of epic proportions.
Dukan himself even seems ambivalent about bringing his fun French diet to the uncultured land of the free and the home of the brave. He starts his book off with a fun story about how he likes Americans because they saved the French from the Nazis, but eventually he confesses that Americans “scared him somewhat” because we were so fat. Luckily, he eventually realized that within “every North American citizen there is a human being who longs to respect the essential relationship between a healthy body and a healthy mind,” and he decided to give us the diet after all.
I have decided to do the three “phases” of the diet in the next three days. Sure, this is quick, but I feel it will give me the lay of the Dukan land. The first phase of the diet is the “attack phase.” In the attack phase, you can only eat protein the entire day. This is actually completely fine because you don’t have to do portion control; you can eat as much as you want. I have two eggs in the morning, a huge helping of sashimi for lunch (with only a splash of soy sauce), and several filets of fish for dinner (I do cheat slightly and have a dumpling, too). It feels great, honestly. No deprivation at all. Just a vague hatred of fish.
Today I am in the “cruise” phase of the diet, a.k.a. the day when I can eat both unlimited amounts of protein and a series of unsatisfying vegetables. Really good vegetables such as potatoes are somehow never included, which is very annoying. For lunch, I am weirdly starving and have two grilled chickens breasts and some soppy mushrooms stewed in their own juices. At the end of this repast, I am full but bored.
For dinner, I decide to try one of the staples of the Dukan Diet — the infamous oat bran galette, which is a pancake or “galette” (French!) that is made out of bran, Greek yogurt, and an egg white. (I put some garlic in there, too. Mistake.) Dukan once served it to his daughter Maya and reports that she felt “completely full.” Despite the fact that the pancake in its uncooked state looks a lot like yogurt with some garlic bits in it, the end result (after cooking it in an oil-less pan) is not that bad. It ends up looking like a regular pancake with some garlic bits in it. I top this with salmon and low-fat cream cheese. It’s not half bad. It reminds me of an extremely tasteless bagel made out of cardboard.
Today is a “consolidation day,” i.e., a day in which I eat both protein and the occasional slice of whole-wheat bread. I have my slice of bread in the morning with my egg. To be honest, I really did miss carbs, but not as much as I have missed food on other diets. I weigh myself and realize this particular undisciplined sort of eating does not work for me. I weigh the same. I celebrate this with the “celebration feast” Dukan allows in the cruise phase. At this dinner, I eat three different desserts because I am celebrating. I wonder, slightly, if this is what Dukan intended me to do.
Now done with the Dukan Diet, I decide to attempt Pippa’s current career as a nutritional and lifestyle journalist (really, the best kind of journalist). Pippa writes fairly frequently for the Telegraph. In each column, she does crazy fad exercise regimens and then an unseen photographer takes pictures of her in weird outfits. In one of her more recent columns, she attempted a new French craze sweeping England called “hydro-spinning,” which is essentially a spin class in your own personal jacuzzi. As Pippa puts it, “I like cycling. I really like Jacuzzis. But cycling in a Jacuzzi?” (This really is a good column, I have to tell you.) Unfortunately, we do not yet have the particularly French pastime of cycling in a Jacuzzi in New York City, but we do have the ability to do a spinning class in a communal pool with other people, which I eventually decided to do. We call it aqua-cycling.
Unfortunately, I happened to show up at this aqua-cycling studio right in the nadir of the polar vortex. I am going to tell you something: I did not want to aqua-cycle during the polar vortex, even though I had to for science. I did not want to pay $40 dollars to be submerged in a freezing pool. I had been wearing an outfit made entirely of fleece for several weeks. However, it wasn’t that horrible in practice because I forgot about the temperature when I realized how hard it is to bicycle in water. I could barely stay on the bike or move my legs. It reminded me a lot of what it is like for me to ride a bike normally.
After going down to New Haven to see my friend star in a production of My Fair Lady (Pippa would have done the same, I felt), I return to triumphantly hold a “Burns Night” for my friends. “What is “Burns Night,” you ask? I found out about it when I read Pippa’s book, Celebrate. A Burns Night is a night that celebrates Scotland. You are required to eat “haggis” at it, which, according to Pippa, is “minced heart, lungs and liver of a sheep or calf mixed with beef fat, onions, oatmeal and seasonings.” Delicious! Haggis happens to be illegal in New York City. Apparently, you can’t eat lung here. This is not the land of the free.
Before I even decide how to find illegal haggis (the streets?), I invite all of my friends to a dinner party and send them a picture of haggis I found on Wikipedia. It looks like a huge piece of intestine with a hole in it. Everyone is excited about it, especially when I tell them I will order pizza if they come to the party. Eventually, I end up purchasing a legal version of haggis that does not have lung at a British grocery store.
Despite the fact that Celebrate is several hundred pages long, it is sometimes surprisingly vague. Pippa has no directions for the haggis other than heating it up in a pan and serving it with a turnip-and-potato mixture. I am wary of putting the haggis in a pan — it recently emerged from its tin in a series of congealed brown clumps — but it fries up rather nicely.
When my guests arrive, I give them a Scottish cocktail that involves oatmeal juice (oatmeal soaked in water and strained), honey, whiskey, and heavy cream. It is called Atholl Brose and is universally despised, but I sort of like it. It tastes like an old sweater, which is a comfort after all the aqua-spinning. Luckily, however, the haggis was beloved. It tasted like a saltier version of corned beef hash. One of my especially ambitious friends even composed an “Ode to the Haggis.” I still ordered pizza like I promised, however.
This morning, I decide to do a Zumba class at 9 a.m. It is a horrible existential experience. It reminds me of when, for Pippa’s 30th birthday party, she decided to do a flamenco dance for everyone that she had ever known. She described it thus: “ I stomp my heels, I spin — I’m a little dizzy but before I know it, my hands have stretched to the sky, my head turns to one side and I pout dramatically as I hold my final position.” I don’t know about flamenco, but I cannot imagine doing public Zumba at my 30th birthday party.
Still hopelessly following Pippa’s Telegraph articles, I decide to take a boxing class. This is even worse than Zumba. I can’t remember any of the boxing combinations, the instructor keeps yelling “No!” at me, and all the men in the class are very handsome in the style of men in a car in France. They never forget any of the combinations.
After boxing, I decide to make Pippa’s post-boxing meal, which combines spinach, pomegranate seeds, Peppadew peppers, feta cheese, allspice, and chicken. Weirdly, it is not all that bad. It’s actually the best thing I have had on the diet and much better than the oat bran galette. It tastes like a very healthy version of sweet-and-sour chicken. I might make it for myself normally.
For my last night of Pippa, I wind up going to Catch, the restaurant she visited in New York when some people thought she was going to move here. It’s so glamorous, like a club with food. There were so many lights!
Now that I’m finally off Pippa’s punishing regimen, I must admit that I did enjoy it. Her recipes certainly weren’t Gwyneth-level (what is?), but some really were surprisingly delicious. I never thought pomegranates would taste good with allspice, but they did. Also, I think a muscle is appearing in my leg.
In conclusion, Pippa could be riding around all the time with French people in motorcars but instead she is out there, trying to develop muscles in her legs. You got to give the girl some credit.