It hit me when a previously picky friend dug into an appetizer of ramps and mozzarella at Bar Blanc, a restaurant in New York’s West Village: Almost everyone I know has become a full-blown foodie. My husband orders bone marrow as casually as he does chopped liver. Another girlfriend, who could once be counted on to wolf down such pedestrian snacks as spinach-artichoke dip, now indulges with a few slices of pork belly—a dish that is becoming as ubiquitous on Manhattan menus as the once exotic tuna tartare. Even I, who subsisted on grilled cheese and buttered noodles for the first 16 years of my life, have started making my own chicken stock and frequenting the Union Square Greenmarket.
But all these culinary revelations are not without caloric consequence. For every pound of pasta that’s fatto in casa, a girl’s skinny jeans go up one size. Thirty bowlfuls later, those jeans aren’t so skinny anymore. There seem to be some women, however, with both a yen for offal and an ability to wear Hervé Léger bandage dresses. They are what I like to call the Thin Foodies—those who, against all odds, can have their sweetbreads and eat them too.
Gwyneth Paltrow embodies the type. In September she appeared on Oprah to discuss driving and eating her way through Spain with Mario Batali. “I eat everything,” she gloated, her macrobiotic days long gone. “I eat wild birds.... I eat cheese.... I’ll immediately gain five pounds just by thinking about cutting out dessert.” Before dismissing her as too genetically blessed to count, Paltrow admitted that her indestructible appetite is countered by the two-hour-a-day, six-day-a-week workouts she does with her “pint sized miracle,” trainer Tracy Anderson. “I just cannot diet,” she told Winfrey.
Neither can food writer Melissa Clark. On the afternoon we meet, I notice that Clark, despite being eight and a half months pregnant, has the sinewy arms of a teenager and a size-two frame. “I care too much about food [to follow a diet],” says Clark, who has written cookbooks with David Bouley and Daniel Boulud and spends her days testing recipes for Bon Appétit and The New York Times. She even cowrote a personal bible of sorts, The Skinny: How to Fit Into Your Little Black Dress Forever. Her eating philosophy breaks so many tried-and-true dieting rules that I wouldn’t believe a word of it if she didn’t claim that she’s stayed within the same four-pound weight range for the past decade. While eating out, Clark enjoys bread (“Only homemade bread, with homemade butter and fleur de sel”) and gets salad with the dressing (“You’ll eat much less if you just let them toss it in the kitchen”); she advises ordering what calls out to you the most, whether it’s osso buco or macaroni and cheese, as long as it’s accompanied by a generous side of vegetables. The trick, she says, is learning to recognize when you’re “just full enough” and then putting down the fork for good. “You don’t actually get full in the moment,” she explains. “You get full 10 minutes later, and you can do a lot of damage in those 10 minutes.” Most shocking of all, though, is that she recommends getting doggie bags from even the finest of dining rooms. “I’ll take home food from Daniel; I’ll take home food from Alain Ducasse,” she says without embarrassment. “And in fancy restaurants also—a lot of people don’t know this—you can take the petits fours home.”