personal essay

I Ate Like a Gilmore Girl for a Week and Here’s What Happened

published May 27, 2020
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Gilmore Girls food
Credit: Netflix; Julie Tremaine

If you have ever watched and loved Gilmore Girls, then you know how important food is to Rory and Lorelai. They love sugar in all its forms, they drink coffee by the gallon, they avoid vegetables whenever possible, and they put away food like no one else. After a hangover brunch in Season 5 where Rory eats a mashed potato, mac and cheese, and biscuit and gravy plate combo, Logan says, “Half the fun of being with you is the horrified looks on the waiters’ faces.”

How they’re able to eat that much food remains an unsolved mystery in the show. “There’s nothing in here but ice cream, candy bars, cookie dough, and canned frosting. Why are you not 450 pounds?” Luke asks Lorelai when he looks in her cabinets. “I know,” she responds. “Scientists call it the Lorelai Paradox.”

You’ve also probably watched them eat meal after meal of perfect diner food at Luke’s, and seen Sookie whip up her award-winning risotto or her famous lemon-blueberry pancakes at the Independence Inn, and wished you could have what they were having. Me too, my friends. Me too. 

So I decided to attempt the near-impossible: I ate like the Gilmore girls for a week. I might not live in Stars Hollow or have a coffee shop as great as Luke’s around (who does?), but I was willing to get creative to make it work. Here’s what happened.

Editor’s note: This story was written before the pandemic. It contains lots of references to spending time with friends and eating out at restaurants — all activities that were considered safe prior to the start of COVID-19.

Credit: Julie Tremaine

Day 1: Thursday

I go into this week with almost no food in the house, in the truest Gilmore form. For breakfast, I make a Toaster Strudel and a giant to-go cup of coffee. I don’t know whether I’m starving or I just haven’t had one in a while, but man, that hot little frosting vehicle is delicious. 

For lunch I had planned to get a sandwich from the café in the building I’m working at that day, but the café is closed! So I improvise and raid the vending machine. My bag of cheddar and sour cream chips gets caught as it’s coming down. What would Lorelai do? Keep buying food until something knocks the chips to the bottom. It’s the first of many times I will use “WWLD” as my guiding principle this week. 

I choose cookies, then gummy snacks. On the Gilmore diet, they’re a serving of fruit. Instead of getting water, I refill my coffee. Gotta stay caffeinated if I’m going to work obscure ’80s references into every conversation. 

Back at my desk, I spill coffee everywhere. Oy, with the poodles already!

I cut out of work early — again, WWLD? — and go shopping. When I feel like there is actual fire coming out of my eyes, I realize I’m hangry. I beeline for the pretzel stand, and power up enough to buy two pairs of shoes and an enormous amount of frozen food to live on for the week.

For dinner I go full Rory: macaroni and cheese, eaten while I power through a pile of work. As I eat, all I can think about is when Paris and Jess crash Rory’s night with the house to herself in season 2. Paris calls her Portuguese nanny to say she’s staying for dinner, exclaiming, “Hay mucho mac and cheese!” That’s Spanish, Paris, not Portuguese. You’re never getting into Harvard that way.

Credit: Julie Tremaine

Day 2: Friday

I can’t go to Luke’s for breakfast, a fact that causes me no small amount of sadness on the regular, but I can go to a diner in my own New England town and order the 4-3-2 breakfast: 4 pancakes, 3 slices of bacon, 2 eggs. 

Despite eating a breakfast that will keep me full until dinner, I make frozen pizza for lunch. Five minutes later, my heartburn is raging. How do they never need Tums? Sheer force of will, probably. Lorelai refuses to take those “amateur pills,” even when they eat four dinners on Thanksgiving.

Friday night dinner is everything Friday night dinner should be: a really good steak and a Caesar salad, in a near-exact replica of the dinner Lorelai and Emily have in season 2 when they break free of their spa weekend and its tofu-heavy menu. The only differences are that my company never once judges my life choices, and that my red wine is in a wine glass and not, inexplicably, in the champagne flutes they’re always using at Richard and Emily’s. Of all the things I can’t explain about Gilmore Girls, the world’s most-mannered woman using the wrong place setting on her table is at the top of the list. 

I go home and ponder the mysteries of proper glassware over a handful of Oreos.

Credit: Julie Tremaine

Day 3: Saturday

I wake up to sugar-induced zits — that’s what sheet masks are for — then dive into some coffee and Pop-Tarts. I survive the rest of the afternoon on leftover pizza and Chinese food that’s just shy of too old. Even though I am perfectly capable of using the stove, I feel totally paralyzed by the idea of procuring edible food. Admittedly, this is not all that different from my normal Saturday. 

“I eat tons of pizza,” Lorelai says at her graduation. “It’s one of my four major food groups.” So I see no issue with having pizza for a third time in two days, and join some friends for movie night. On the way, I stock up on snacks: two kinds of chips, six boxes of candy, and three varieties of cookies, including “Most Stuf” Oreos, which are double the double-stuffed size. At the register, I realize I’ve spent $50 on junk food. The cashier is trying not to judge me and only partly succeeding.

What follows is a classic Rory/Dean/Lorelai movie night: My friend and I introduce her husband to Steel Magnolias by quoting the best parts over the boring scenes, then telling him to shush when he tries to talk.

Credit: Julie Tremaine

Day 4: Sunday

Make that pizza four times in three days, actually. My boyfriend has a lunch craving that can’t be transformed into a sudden need for Buffalo tenders, despite my best attempts at persuasion. I don’t think I’ve eaten any protein in three days that wasn’t in the old bag of Christmas Peanut M&Ms I found in the pantry. My body is so full from not being able to digest all of the junk food I’m eating, and yet I’m still starving. 

We have Italian for dinner, a la Luke and Lorelai’s first date in season 4, when I cook enough chicken cutlets and pasta to feed six. Halfway through my second helping, I have to get up and put on looser pants.

Credit: Julie Tremaine

Day 5: Monday

Given that Oreos have been my intermezzo between every meal for the last four days — I am powerless against their siren call —  it’s no surprise that I wake up with a raging headache. WWLD? Pop-Tarts and coffee. I’m not giving up, even if I am fantasizing about running through fields of lettuce. My digestive tract is waging war against me, but quitters never win — not that I could cross a finish line (in a hypothetical world where I would do that) while being powered by red dye #7 and cheese in a can. Did I forget to mention I bought that? Given that it has some protein and almost no sugar, Easy Cheese is actually one of my better nutritional choices this week.

In the Stars Hollow in my head (which, make no mistake, existed long before I started this experiment) it’s Mexican week at Al’s Pancake World. For dinner, I make tacos and rice and beans, and for the truly Gilmore touch, some frozen taquitos. Why have one dinner when you can have two?

Credit: Julie Tremaine

Day 6: Tuesday

Let’s address the monkey lamp in the room: Mallomars. The Gilmores talk about those chocolate-dipped marshmallow cookies more than any other food. Rory even spells out “Happy Birthday Lorelai” in Mallomars on the kitchen table as a surprise in season 3. I’ve gone to five stores, and I can’t find them anywhere. I cave and Amazon Prime them for a painful $10.

Would you judge me if I told you I made Pizza Rolls for breakfast? If so, judge away. I’m fresh out of Pop-Tarts, and a hot breakfast of cheesy, saucy bites is exactly what I feel like I need to start the day off right. (It’s so successful that I repeat this on several mornings after the experiment is over. Try it. You’ll see.)

The rest of the day I spend the day free-range grazing. My breakfast blends right into my morning snack of cookies and more coffee, and right into my lunch of leftover tacos. At night, I break into my stash of frozen food, and have potato skins and boneless Buffalo wings for dinner. I want to love them. I usually do, but today has gotten to me, and I’m feeling pretty gross by the end of the day.

Credit: Julie Tremaine

Day 7: Wednesday

I celebrate the last day of the Lorelai and Rory diet with diner breakfast, but this time, a waffle with whipped cream. I’m so good at this game now that I don’t even look at the vegetable part of the menu. This, my friends, is how you live like a Gilmore. This is also how you go broke. I’m not even going to look at my bank account until my body has forgiven me. At this point, my guts aren’t mad anymore: They’re on strike. 

The Mallomars arrive in the afternoon. They’re actually pretty good. With the 20 in the box, I can only spell out H and A, and part of the P. It would take at least 10 boxes for the whole birthday message. I guess Doose’s Market has the inside track on where to get these babies in bulk.

For my final Gilmore meal, I’ve left the best for last: a cheeseburger with fries and onion rings, and a Cherry Coke. It’s Lorelai’s standing order at Luke’s, and it is hands-down the thing that looks most appetizing to me on the show. What I would give for a perfect Luke’s burger. But for dessert, I’m torn between a slice of apple pie or a piece of chocolate toffee cake. WWLD? Get both. And I did.

Credit: Julie Tremaine

What I Learned from Eating Like a Gilmore for a Week

I knew that eating like the Gilmores was going to be hard, and I especially knew that I wasn’t doing my body any favors by giving up the green stuff to live my best Stars Hollow life. But honestly? Worth it. Immersing myself in the Gilmore mindset, and watching a lot of the show while I did it, was really fun. The social aspect was especially great. If you think about, Rory and Lorelai almost never eat alone. I called in the troops to share meal after meal with me, putting way more effort into finding time to see my friends than I normally do, rather than putting off plans. We spent a lot of Gilmore-inspired time catching up over plates of pancakes and pizza, and I felt connected to them in a way I haven’t in a long time. 

The morning after it was over, I made myself a green smoothie and ate baby carrots by the handful. All the healthy foods I usually force myself to eat became foods I felt lucky to get to have again. It didn’t last forever — those Mallomars didn’t stand a chance — but it did make me a little more mindful.