Weekend Reading
December 11, 2022

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

On Thursday, I met up for an early drink with a friend who had knee surgery about a month ago. She’s now venturing out for PT appointments weekly, and she’s finally strong and steady enough to plan something with a friend right before or after.

My friend lives alone, like I do. As we sat together and caught up, she said how wonderful it was to be sitting at a restaurant with another person, surrounded by city sights and sounds.

We talked a bit about the isolation of convalescence from injuries and illnesses. That period of healing time can be difficult for solo dwellers in general. We agreed that it’s even more difficult now because it evokes memories of the solitude and social isolation of 2020.

My friend also mentioned that her recovery has underscored some of the ways in which living in a city can be practically challenging. She lives in a walk-up building, so of course it’s been hard for her to navigate stairs with crutches. Everyday things, like getting a package up a few flights, are suddenly impossible without the help of neighbors.

Though I haven’t experienced recovery from a major injury, I could relate. I lived in walk-up buildings for eighteen years and have many memories of trying to lug boxes up the flights to various apartments. Any illness or physical limitation would make it harder.

A little while later, my friend made her way to and back from the restroom. At this point it had gotten busier and more crowded in the restaurant.

I glanced up from my phone as she returned to our table, and what I saw warmed my heart.

A man who was seated at a table near ours had gotten up and was helping to gently part foot traffic in the restaurant, so that my friend could get back to her seat.

The person who was seated at the table next to us reached out to slide my friend’s chair out, making it easier for her to sit down.

One of the servers, who had been chatting with us all evening, took hold of the back of my friend’s chair as she got seated, keeping it steady for her.

Everyone who had been involved in this series of movements smiled at each other. “Teamwork makes the dream work!” we exclaimed.

As my friend got situated again at the table, we couldn’t help but comment on how that tiny exchange was a reminder of how friendly New Yorkers can be, in spite of any stereotypes to the contrary.

Along with all of the haunting memories of stillness and isolation, I remember having this same feeling of neighborly appreciation during Covid, too.

It was sweet and reassuring to see folks striking up little chats while respectfully maintaining social distance in grocery store lines. I was surprised and moved when my neighbors knocked to ask whether I needed toilet paper or any other supplies. In the evenings, when we all gathered outside our windows to give thanks for healthcare workers, I felt grateful for the community of my block.

As someone who has lived alone for many long periods, I’ve received lots of help and goodwill from strangers. This has been amplified by the fact that I share my life on this blog.

When I moved to DC, for example, the relationship that I had relocated for fell apart pretty quickly. I found myself in a new city, struggling through a grad program that I didn’t feel cut out for, newly single and more than a little disoriented.

I was surprised, in a lovely way, when people living in the DC and NOVA areas reached out to me over email. Many offered a coffee date or yoga class in case I needed a new friend. One person who had been reading my blog for a long time even invited me to a dinner party. I went, and it was really fun.

When I moved this summer, I couldn’t believe how gracious and friendly my new across-the-hall neighbors were (and are). I was thankful that tenants in my old building offered to keep an eye out for any mail that might get forwarded.

Each time I travel or go out to dine alone, I’m thankful for the folks who will strike up conversations with me over food or drink. Each exchange is a reminder of how curious we humans are about each other, how we can’t help but lean into connection, even as we do things independently.

Much is said about goodwill and the giving spirit during the holidays. Yet this time of year is also so busy (and sometimes stressful) that it’s easy to forget about humanity—big metta—as the season’s animating principle.

That little moment at the restaurant on Thursday was a reminder to me.

As I walked home after helping my friend to get into an Uber, I thought about the opening lines from Danusha Laméris’ wonderful poem, “Small Kindnesses”:

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.

Happy Sunday, friends. Here are some recipes and reads.

Recipes

These garlic breaded mushrooms look so crispy and good.

A sumptuous, celebratory salad for winter, with kale, Brussels sprouts, and apple.

I’d love to make this vegan roast ham as a holiday centerpiece.

Such a fun idea to do a BBQ treatment of whole roasted cauli.

Perfectly rich and creamy vegan chocolate hazelnut mousse.

Reads

1. Just in time for the annual surge of diet messaging, Isobel Whitcomb outlines some sensible and healthful goals with food and eating that don’t involve going on a diet.

2. Norovirus is one of the most common causes of foodborne illness. It’s famous for breaking out on cruise ships, but it can erupt anyplace. I got it around 2011 when I was working as a hospital volunteer, along with many other nurses, volunteers, and patients.

A new study has indicates that norovirus infection may create susceptibility to Crohn’s disease in people who already have a genetic predisposition. I suspect that the findings may apply to other infections “triggers,” rather than norovirus alone. But in any case, what they could help to reveal about gut immunity is really interesting!

3. Bee Wilson loves her microwave, and boy, do I love mine. One day I’ll write a vegan microwave cookbook.

4. A portrait of a nursing home in France that’s modeled after a small village, rather than a hospital. It aims to give those living with Alzheimer’s greater autonomy and more pleasurable experiences than they are often afforded in longterm care.

5. A whole generation of kids spent a portion of their early development in relative isolation. How will this affect their microbiomes? We don’t know yet, but this article explores the question.

In comparison to last weekend, this weekend has felt grounding and steady. And I’ve actually got real recipe content to share in the coming week, which feels good.

Speaking of sharing, The Vegan Week comes out in exactly 16 days! I’m of course behind on promoting it properly, and I’m nervous about how people will like it.

But it’s exciting, too. A big thank you to those of you who have preordered and supported the book already.

Wishing you a restful, wintery Sunday,

xo

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    2 Comments
  1. Hello,

    I review books, including cookbooks, through NetGalley and post reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Happy to review your new book to help promote it. Let me know if you can either email it to me, or make it available on NetGalley.

    Thank you for all your thoughtful posts and recipes.

  2. Hi Gena, I don’t comment often but I always read your Sunday roundups and I just want to say they are always a pleasure to read! I appreciate the sincerity on your part and the interesting articles you always find 🙂

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