Weekend Reading
February 18, 2024

I have a new—as in two years running—tradition of taking myself out to Valentine’s Day dinner.

I did this last year, and it turned into an incredibly fun and upbeat evening. I honored the tradition this past Wednesday.

My mood was a little more subdued this year than last, and the ritual was less of an unexpected surprise. Still, I had a great time.

Over dinner, I got to thinking about the role that restaurants play in my life and how grateful I am that they exist.

Looking back, the loss of restaurant life in New York City was probably the thing that hit me hardest about Covid lockdown. Of course I missed seeing my friends and my mom, and I really struggled with the loss of studio yoga practice, too.

FaceTime, however, was a big comfort while I waited to see my loved ones again. And I didn’t enjoy home yoga practice, but it was enough to tide me over until studios reopened.

Nothing gave me comfort as I watched the culture of my city come to a halt. My heart broke as I passed by dark restaurant, bar, and coffee shop windows on my walks.

I know many people who didn’t feel this way; in fact, they enjoyed increased domesticity. My experience was the opposite.

Prior to the pandemic, I might have told you that I’m a bit of a homebody. Within weeks of losing access to public spaces and communal activities, I realized how untrue that really is.

Above all, I realized how profoundly I rely on restaurants for community, connection, and joy.

The food is only a part of this. After all, I cook for work. It’s pretty rare that there isn’t something tasty that I can heat up and eat at home.

A restaurant meal is an experience, and much of the joy resides in simply being transported to a different environment. There’s joy in novelty, too: foods that I won’t, or don’t, make for myself. Wines I’ve never tasted.

Most of all, there’s comfort and life affirmation in being able to eat in the company of others, even if I’m on my own.

Of course I love meeting up at restaurants with friends. But I also love sitting on my own at the bar of a restaurant with a book, a glass of wine, and a bowl of pasta (or whatever) after a tough day.

I can be in solitude, processing whatever I need to process, without feeling isolated.

Instead, I feel the gentle vibration of peoples’ conversations from table to table. I hear the clanking of plates and glassware and occasional bursts of laughter.

I know that every person seated around me is surely going through something difficult.

But here we all are, out and about. We’re showing up for the city in which we live, showing up for food, and, in some sense, showing up for each other.

It’s a privilege and a gift that’s never lost on me.

I need to eat in order to live, but creating ceremony and celebration around food is a choice that I make. Restaurants are the place where this choice is the most evident.

When I moved a couple years ago, the place that is now my neighborhood restaurant happens to have opened the same week that I was busy unpacking.

After four consecutive days in a sea of boxes, I took myself to dinner at this spot.

I ate at the bar, chatting with some of the folks who work there. I had a glass of wine and ate squares of delightfully airy, thick, crusty-edged Sicilian red pizza pie. I couldn’t find my coffee maker, so the bartender pulled shots of espresso for me to take home and pour over ice in the morning.

Still reeling from the excitement, but also the disorientation, of moving, I was suddenly home.

I ate there again last night, after an uneasy two weeks.

I’ve had many meals there since the restaurant’s opening week, and some things have changed. It’s more crowded now, as it deserves to be, and some members of the team have come or gone.

Still, I was greeted with hugs. I ordered the dishes that I’ve come to know and love.

Once again, I came home.

Happy Sunday, friends. I hope you can find home in some space that isn’t technically home this week. Here are some recipes and reads.

Recipes

1. Vegan schnitzel made with celeriac is such a cool idea.

2. This shepherd’s pie does indeed look serious—and seriously good!

3. Puff pastry pizza pockets would be fun for entertaining.

4. Excited to make this simple patzarosalata (a Greek style beet salad) and pair it with my vegan feta cheese.

5. How cute are these strawberry sugar cookies?

Reads

1. I was really touched by Amy Rogers’ essay about Joni Mitchell. Rogers took inspiration from Mitchell’s music in adolescence. Today she’s taking inspiration from Mitchell’s recovery from a brain aneurysm in 2015.

Mitchell’s description of having to “relearn everything” has supported and encouraged the author as she adjusts to life with rheumatoid arthritis.

2. This is probably an idiosyncratic point of curiosity, but have you ever wondered where the term “continental breakfast” comes from? Or how the breakfast spread that goes by that name came to be?

I have, and this article gives a history.

3. A case study that speaks to the importance of taking herbal supplements in appropriate dosages. It also illustrates why it’s important to share vitamin/supplement use with primary care providers, along with current medications.

4. Burnout is sort of a buzzy topic, but I really do agree with Josh Cohen, who’s quoted in the article that I’m linking to, that it is a “small apocalypse of the soul.”

On that note, Psychology Today offers some strategies for overcoming it.

5. There are situations in which it may be important for a doctor to weigh you, including medication dosing or imminent anesthesia. There are also many medical visits that don’t require a weigh-in.

In either case, some folks don’t wish to know their weight. For many people in eating disorder recovery, it’s not appropriate for the number to be shared.

Scales aren’t a trigger for me now, but I stepped onto my doctor’s scale backwards for years, and it was the right choice for me at the time.

I can’t encourage you enough to advocate for yourself if you wish to not be weighed or to be weighed blind. This post offers some direct, matter-of-fact scripts if you’re struggling to know what to say in the doctor’s office.

Wishing you a peaceful Sunday afternoon and evening. I’ll be back with a new dressing recipe and a new bowl in the coming week!

xo

 

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