Weekend Reading
June 11, 2023

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

I spent last weekend in upstate New York with my best friend and her kids. It was a low-key, happy few days in a place that I associate with feelings of safety and home.

Weekends with Chloe and her family always fill my cup, but they’re tough to return from. Whether we go someplace together or I visit them, I come home to some melancholy.

It passes, of course. But it can be poignant, and that’s how it was early this week.

Between that, my general mood, and dystopian skies in New York City on Wednesday, I was prepared for a very quiet birthday night.

That’s not exactly how things went.

I walked to my favorite neighborhood restaurant with my neighbor. She was being sweetly festive in spite of the pall and sense of unrest that a smoky atmosphere had cast over the city.

The restaurant was abuzz. A large table nearby was also celebrating a birthday. People were smiling. I breathed a sigh of relief. City activity always has that soothing effect on me.

My neighbor had a lot of encouraging, hopeful, wise things to say, and our conversation lifted my spirits. Food and wine were both great.

In the middle of the meal, folks who work at the restaurant surprised me with big hugs and a few extra nibbles.

They told me that they almost conspired to bake me a cake; I said that the hugs were even better.

Thirty minutes later, I felt a tap on my back. Turns out, a close friend of mine had been eating dinner next door. He got wind of the fact that I was nearby, and he came over to wish me a happy birthday. I was really happy to see him.

When Chloe and I were hanging out last weekend, I mentioned having neighbors who’ve become friends in my building. I’m also lucky to have a bunch of friends who live nearby.

“Good,” she said. “You’ve found your block.”

”Block” is a reference to the block she lives on in her home city of New Orleans.

Chloe has caring neighbors, who have become her friends. Their kids are friends with her kids. They’ve created a proverbial village, those pockets of community that help us to flourish.

And Chloe’s right: I have a village now, too.

I had every intention of hiding out for most of the week when I got back to New York on Monday. I thought I wanted a week of quiet and privacy.

Life didn’t let me hide, though. Instead, it winked at me, giving me all these reminders of how connected and supported I am.

Years from now, when I recall turning 41, I’ll probably remember that the skies were menacing and uncertain.

But I hope the main thing I’ll remember is the feeling of those hugs, the delicious bites of food, the laughter, the company.

I’ll remember coming home and lying down after dinner. I put a hand to my heart, and I thought to myself, “I’m OK.”

Hope you can tap into that sensation of being OK in the days ahead. Happy Sunday, friends. Here are some recipes and reads.

Recipes

How cozy does Amanda’s vegan hamburger helper look?

Jessica’s roasted cauliflower steaks have a perfect level of crispiness.

Lindsay’s gochujang chickpeas make a perfect addition to her rainbow quinoa salad.

Firecracker vegan lettuce wraps—courtesy of another Lindsay—will be a perfect summer lunch.

I used to love strawberry shortcake bars! And I’m loving Christina’s recipe for a homemade version.

Reads

1. This article explains why allowing forests to grow old, rather than merely planting more trees, is essential for mitigating the devastating effects of climate change.

2. I love this reflection on the joys of being bad at something. I especially love that the author uses bread baking as her central example.

When I was learning to bake bread, I told myself that no single loaf ever had to be good, or even edible: each one was an opportunity to practice. If worse came to worse, I could make breadcrumbs.

To this day, I experience a special kind of freedom and pleasure when I bake, because it feels more like a hobby than an extension of my job. I post some of my baking creations, but I’m not a baking blogger.

When I bake, the best case scenario is that I create something delicious or learn something new. The worst case scenario is that I have a dense cake or dry muffins or crumbly cookies to laugh about. No harm, no foul.

What a relief!

3. Good information on how vegan athletes can source adequate leucine, an amino acid that supports muscle synthesis, in their diets. Leucine is most abundant in animal proteins, so it’s helpful for active plant-based eaters to pay some attention to it.

4. A fascinating look at our evolving understanding of the relationship between autoimmune disease and mental illness.

5. Finally, author Kristin Wong’s essay on untranslatable words is so lovely. Most touching of all are her reflections on how these words have connected her to her mother. But the whole piece is something to savor.

I love this:

“M se dak fan” is a Cantonese phrase that translates to “revenge sleep procrastination.” In English, these are just three random words that mean basically nothing. In Chinese, revenge sleep procrastination is refusing to go to bed because you want the day to last longer—a way of protesting your responsibilities during the day. It’s a common Chinese phrase but one that also feels unique to my mother: a woman who values hard work but also defies the constraints of work in her own life. She finds small ways to experience joy, even when joy comes at the expense of her own comfort. For me, “m se dak fan” also feels like those Friday nights with my mother.

Speaking of, my mom and I celebrated her birthday belatedly yesterday. I spent the night at her place after, so that we could stay up late watching TV and talking.

It felt a little bit like “m se dak fan.” And it gave us both joy.

Hope you find joy in what’s left of the weekend.

Till soon,

xo

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