Happy Sunday, all. It’s finally cooling off a bit where I am, thanks to some rain, which has also been a good excuse to spend much of the past two days indoors, reading. My project of slowing down and creating quiet continues each day.
I’ve spent quite a lot of time training myself in how to do more: how to be more productive, how to schedule my time efficiently, how to pack more into each day. It was an enormous project of my past year, and it involved poring over books and blog posts and podcasts. Interestingly enough, nearly everything I’ve read about productivity has at least implied that being more productive has little to do with allocating more time to one’s work; rather, it’s about making good use of the time one has, identifying the difference between important and unimportant tasks, conserving energy, and recharging as needed.
I’m giving thought to how I can shape my time in a way that accommodates both the work I love, and also the unstructured space I need to peer inward and feel restored. Without such time, my creative energy dwindles and my anxiety takes over to such an extent that I hardly get much done, anyway. Work aside, I keep thinking back to Annie Dillard’s words–“how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives”–and I see much opportunity for me to spend my days more mindfully.
In other news, I love this week’s roundup of recipes, which includes tofu tacos that are coated with crispy quinoa (!), a wonderful vegan quickbread, and Mexican spiced “falafel bites” that would be a perfect, all-purpose plant protein to keep handy in the fridge.
Summer may not be the time when most of us are dreaming about root vegetables in baked goods, but an enthusiasm for all things sweet potato is with me year-round, and so I was immediately struck by Izzy’s beautiful sweet potato cinnamon breakfast bread. It seems to have the perfect texture for a morning baked good–moist, but just a little crumbly.
Speaking of breakfast, congee is one of my favorite breakfasts, and this week Amanda’s silky mushroom congee with roasted radishes caught my eye. It’s beautiful and easy to prepare, and what a cool idea to add sweet roasted radishes to an otherwise savory breakfast dish.
Lindsay seems to have a special instinct for creating recipes that people will crave and make again and again. Her latest and greatest idea is Mexican-spiced falafel bites, made from chickpeas and cauliflower. The idea reminds me of my Mediterranean chickpea oat balls, which have become a staple. It will be fun to have a new, versatile chickpea bite to play around with!
I love the way Renee can take a traditional recipe and infuse it with some sort of offbeat, creative twist. This time it’s baba ganoush that’s whipped together with miso paste–a silky, salty creation that I can’t wait to try with summer eggplant!
Finally, I’m dying to run out and pick up some tortillas so that I can make a batch of Alyssa’s awesome crispy tofu tacos with vegan lime crema. Alyssa’s recipes always feature quinoa in some way, shape, or form, which is part of what I love about them. Here, the quinoa is a crispy exterior to the tofu bites–sort of like a more nutritious spin on breadcrumbs. The resulting tacos have a perfect mix of texture and taste.
1. I know next to nothing about the inner workings of parenting, but I did take interest in this Huffington Post op-ed, which is a meditation on the book Simplicity Parenting. The central idea of both the article and the book that inspired it is that today’s kids are often overbooked and overburdened with obligations and expectations. The result is an approach to child-rearing that seems to have forgotten the specialness of childhood itself–a time of life in which curiosity, dreaminess, and play can be encouraged as valuable avenues to growth and self-discovery.
My mother has been a Waldorf educator for nearly as long as I can remember, and this is a position I’ve heard her articulate many times and in many ways. We don’t agree about everything: for example, we tend to butt heads over the role of technology in kids’ lives (I see potential, whereas she sees it as a problem).
Yet my mother’s insistence on the specialness and importance of childhood play has always felt very right to me, and I’m grateful to her for not having over-booked me as a kid–or indeed taken any measures to thwart my introverted, dreamy temperament. That I had the time in those years to dream, read voraciously, and make believe strikes me as a remarkable gift.
I can certainly imagine that kids have different sorts of dispositions, and there are children for whom more structured activity is a gift, too. But whether a child is inclined toward more or less play, I think it’s important for us adults to help preserve childhood, to protect it against busyness as best we can.
2. The placebo and nocebo effects are well documented, but how and why they work remains somewhat mysterious. This week the Wall Street Journal presents some new research into their action and their potential as treatment for a wide variety of illnesses.
3. Also in healthcare news, a physician’s tough-minded reflections on how medicine is failing the obese population. Her central point is this:
The obvious advice for obese patients suffering from chronic joint pain, compromised respiratory function, and other problems is this: Lose weight. And we tell patients to do so by monitoring their diet and exercising regularly. But what can we do when their shortness of breath, joint pain, and back pain precludes their exercise efforts and this frustration leads them to abandon their healthy diet habits as well?
If we want to try to curb any of the future devastating health complications our obese patients will face without weight loss, then we have to try to offer them something other than diet and exercise pep talks.
The author goes on to mention the possibility of drugs, bariatric surgery, and cognitive behavioral therapies as possible tools–depending on the patient and how likely he or she is to respond to each one of these methods. I think the article is raising an important point: of course weight loss is key for improving quality of life and potential health risks, but weight loss via diet and exercise may for various reasons feel inaccessible to those who have been struggling with obesity for a long time. No easy answers here, but I appreciate this physician’s call for medicine to keep pushing for more and better options.
4. As an introduction to their short, sweet, and inspiring blog post about developing kitchen confidence, Sonja and Alex summon one of my favorite quotations from Julia Child:
There is this awful American syndrome of fear of failure. If you’re going to have a sense of fear of failure, you’re just never going to learn how to cook. Because cooking is one failure after another, and that’s how you finally learn.
Truer words were never spoken–at least not about cooking. My path into being a home cook is strewn with remnants of the many, many recipes that did not go according to plan. Some were near misses, and others were fully formed disasters.
Given my perfectionist tendencies–that fear of failure Child mentions–I’m actually surprised that I’ve persisted with cooking. I guess the pleasure I take when something magical happens in the kitchen is so sweet and intense that I keep going in spite of the flops. Even with this latest round of cookbook testing I’m continually reminded of what I don’t know and have yet to master, but I’m trying to acknowledge that this is OK; it’s all just part of cooking.
Sonja and Alex have their own insights and advice to share, especially for the budding home cook, and their post is well worth checking out!
5. Many readers know Geneen Roth as the author of Women, Food, and God, which is a meditation, based on Roth’s own experience, on finding freedom from the prison of dieting–and the associated prisons of restriction, emotional eating, and food fear. I’ve always liked Roth’s straight-talking approach, and I especially like her eating guidelines.
In this blog post, Roth addresses the practices and everyday “work” that have enabled her to sustain a healthful relationship with food. It caught my eye because Roth’s advice is often distilled into the idea of intuitive eating, which I think works wonderfully for many people, and doesn’t work for some others. Here, the focus is on mindful eating as a practice that develops only through patience, time, and effort, and this strikes me as a fresh insight from Roth. She writes,
I decided to … invest my time and energy in acting on a positive vision of myself — the sane, powerful me I sensed was waiting in the wings. Every day I would wake up and feel the pull to go back to what I had been doing before: dieting, bingeing, agonizing. And every day, I would tell myself that change was possible and that I was following a new plan; I was eating when I was hungry, stopping when I’d had enough, and keeping written track of my food intake, hunger levels, and feelings before and after I ate. After a few months of paying attention in this way, my relationship with food permanently changed.
In the end, I can’t say whether the formation and pursuit of a positive vision of the self as it relates to food will prove beneficial for everyone. The longer I spend working in the realm of food and hunger, the more I realize that, just as the struggles we encounter with food are endlessly complex and personal, so too are the solutions. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all balm to the pain and confusion of disordered eating.
What I can say–and I think this echoes what Roth is saying–is that the power of practice and habit as healing tools tends to go unnoticed. So often it seems to me that people focus on the what of eating, rather than the how. We all know how this goes: if I adopt this diet, perhaps the struggle will end. If I eat more of this, and less of that. If I could only cut out this food, or quit that food.
Of course, there is plenty of insight to be gained from listening to the body and learning to recognize how different foods impact how we feel. But in the end, healing from disordered eating is about much more than what one does or doesn’t eat (indeed, Roth would probably argue that the food itself is the least important piece). So much of the process is learning to tune into hunger, to eat with consistency, to bring a certain kind of attention and presence to mealtimes, and these are skills that emerge only through practice. Practice, patience, and time.
In my dietetics program, we’re always encouraged to address eating patterns, rather than individual foods, because it’s patterns that ultimately govern peoples’ well-being. It seems to me that focusing on patterns invites us also to focus on practices, on the way we wake up and face the whole business of eating each day. I do think that healing is possible for all of us, but it may not take the form of an earth-shattering solution or insight. Instead, it may take the form of small actions that we repeat consciously over time.
That’s what recovery has felt like for me, anyway–a set of choices that I learned to make and have kept making (with some big insights thrown in along the way).
And that’s it for today. A fun new recipe–and a fun way to use it–coming up this week. For now, I wish you a wonderful Sunday.