Weekend Reading
November 10, 2019

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

There are a lot of things that should have gotten more of my attention than they did this past week. What got most of my attention instead was my bread baking. A set of new loaves every morning.

Bread baking has been a part of my life since the spring of 2017, when I was limping my way through a breakup and found Ali Stafford’s Bread, Toast, CrumbsSoon after, I found Emilie Raffa’s Artisan Sourdough Made Simple, and my love affair with homemade sourdough began. Together, these books gave me a foundation to start baking bread every week, and since then, I’ve continued to hungrily read more, research more, and learn more about the process.

There’s not a lot of instant gratification with bread making. It takes time and patience and the willingness to mess up or try things you won’t want to repeat with the next bake. But that’s good for me. Bread baking plays to some of my inborn qualities; it’s methodological, it demands planning, and there’s a fair amount of science woven into the learning curve. But it also requires me to be a person more interested in process than in mastery. That’s not easy at all, and it’s exactly what I need.

Beyond that, baking in general—not just bread, but all of the other vegan treats and desserts that I love so much—is something that I can, and do, give myself over to. It’s immersive, it’s fun, and there are always new skills for me to learn.

I need that right now. I think part of why the depression monkey has been on my back since the summer is that my internship, no matter how exhausting, was all-encompassing. It didn’t give me much time or space to dwell on my stuff, and that was a relief for me, an overthinker who has a hard time getting unstuck from pain. There’s a lot of work on my plate right now, but the schedule doesn’t compare to how things were a year ago.

I guess I’d like to be more at ease with stillness at some point, but until that day comes, I need to be pragmatic, too. For better or worse, I fare better when I’m either busy or immersed, and if I can be immersed in things I love, like baking, that feels like a meaningful way to stay afloat.

It’s also nice to be immersed in a hobby for a change, rather than in work. I guess all food preparation could fall into the category of work for me, but baking is only a small part of what I write about on the blog. For the most part, it’s a personal passion, something I do for myself, my neighbors, and my friends. Growing up, and all through my early adulthood, I shied away from activities that wouldn’t somehow pertain to either academics or work and my success in those areas. It’s taken me a long time, but I’m starting to appreciate the importance—and the pleasure—of a cherished hobby.

Wishing you the warmth and satisfaction that baking gives me through whatever activities give it to you. Here are some recipes and reads.

Recipes

A simple and savory mushroom soup for the season.

Miso glazed sweet potatoes are a genius idea!

I love the idea of a tempeh pot roast, and this one gets bonus points for coming together easily in the slow cooker.

This kabocha brown rice soup looks so cozy and comforting.

And speaking of baking, some droolworthy vegan chocolate chip walnut brownie cookies.

Reads

1. I found this article on eating disorders in queer communities so nuanced and thoughtful. It’s encouraged me to become better informed/aware for my work with transgender and non-binary clients who struggle with EDs and body dysmorphia.

2. Looks like sesame may finally join the “big eight” food allergens (milk, eggs, wheat, fish, shellfish, soybeans, peanuts, and tree nuts) in getting FDA-mandated food label disclosure.

3. I’ve worked with some clients with gastroparesis, and I’m always struck by how difficult it can be to manage and also how little mainstream attention the disorder gets. So I was pleased to see this article by an RD, with good best practices for symptom management.

4. Frank Bruni has done some incredibly raw writing in the past year or two about a sudden decline in his vision and the possibility of losing it altogether. This essay follows suit, not only as a perspective on what it’s like to participate in a clinical trial, but also as a consideration of acceptance in the face of a health challenge.

5. I like to think of veganism as a dietary choice, rather than a dietary restriction, but I know that it gets grouped in with specialized eating styles—like food allergies—that aren’t a matter of choice. I’m happy to share a sense of camaraderie with any and all eaters whose plates look different than the norm. And I liked Parade magazine’s article on accommodating friends with dietary restrictions/preferences at Friendsgiving. I was especially impressed at how sensitively and thoroughly it tackled issues like cross-contact.

Speaking of Thanksgiving and Friendsgiving, I was proud to contribute a classic vegan bread stuffing recipe to the New York Times cooking section this week! You do need to be a subscriber to get it, but if you aren’t, this cornbread stuffing is also a favorite. Hooray for stuffing, right?

Have a lovely evening, friends. I’ll be back this week with a nutritious holiday side dish.

xo

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    2 Comments
  1. It’s interesting how the Internet can sometimes lead us down a rabbit hole that, upon reflecting in retrospect and tracking the breadcrumb trail of how you got from Point A to Point B….or Point Z for that matter, you find it all coming back full circle, and at times in very coincidental timing.

    I just baked my very first loaf of sourdough this past Wednesday and -with much trepidation- cutting off that first slice and taking that first bite was, without exaggeration, one of the proudest moments of my life (is that sad? Haha)! Reading your musings above about baking sourdough and bread, I realized I largely have you to thank- you were my “Point A” in getting to my first loaf of sourdough! Because of an older post on your blog, I discovered Alexandra’s Kitchen, from whom I discovered Emilie Raffa’s sourdough book.

    I had won a sourdough starter in a silent auction about a year & a half ago, which both intrigued and intimidated me. More so the latter than the former, so it sat ignored and neglected in the back of my refrigerator. It did journey with us earlier this year when we road tripped across the country in a move from the west to the east coast, and then continued to be neglected in our new refrigerator. Until Ali Stafford’s words gave me enough motivation, courage, gumption, and inspiration to check out Emilie’s book. After thoroughly devouring everything in the book up until the first recipe for Everyday Sourdough, I felt ready….and timidly began the process of awakening my starter, that I was pretty sure was dead. Regardless, I set a reminder on my phone to feed it every day, and 12 days later, my care and attention was finally rewarded with a very bubbly and risen starter.

    I still was skeptical- mostly in my own skills as a beginner- through the entire process. Is the starter actually “ready”? Was the bulk rise actually complete? Did I shape the dough well enough? Will my hack of putting the dough into the oven with the light on actually be warm enough to yield a successful bulk rise/proofing? Did I score the dough prettily enough? Did I burn the crust? Will this actually taste right?

    Turns out my insecurities were unfounded. I could still use much more practice and honing of skills, but after taking that first bite, I almost cried with relief, pride, joy, and excitement. This all sounds so dramatic, but I have to honestly say that making your own loaf of sourdough from scratch, for the first time, is a revelation. Your words about how bread baking appeals to your inborn qualities resonated 100% with me. I’m a long-time knitter and I have always felt these exact qualities you mention are what appeals so much to me about the process of knitting. I’ve never been someone driven by instant gratification- rather, I have always been motivated by the process of “slow progression”, watching something develop over time, with patience: whether it’s growing houseplants, aging a fine wine, or knitting a blanket. I always joke with my husband that I would have made an amazing bench scientist. It’s obvious to me now, that sourdough will surely become a new weekly hobby.

    So: my point is that I have you to thank for this new venture! As I said, your post was my Point A, and now here I am at…Point C? Point F?….not sure, but it’s all come full circle: you post over the weekend about your love for bread baking, and my little neglected starter is now well-fed and relaxing in a beautiful new jar in my refrigerator, ready to be brought out to try the High-Hydration Sourdough recipe next. Thanks, Gena. 🙂

  2. The walnut brownie cookies look amazing. Very high quality on the pictures that you are publishing on this website. 🙂

    Thumbs up.

    I recently turned vegan (as an experiment) and I am almost desperately looking for some inspiration. Frankly, eating salad and oatmeal for every meal starts to become a bit boring.

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