Weekend Reading
October 19, 2020

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

Well, hello!

It’s obviously not Sunday, but this is the weekend reading post that I meant to write yesterday. Last week, after I shared my broccoli Caesar, a wise friend gave me the reminder that we’re all exhausted and emotionally pummeled by 2020. It’s important than for us to be more forgiving of ourselves than usual.

I needed to hear it. I’ve been giving myself permission to work and create slowly, to spend some time away from my computer and phone. But I’ve been feeling guilty about it, too.

All of that said, the last couple weeks have been valuable. Professionally, they’ve made me realize that I’d rather create recipes slowly and deliberately than quickly and carelessly. The latter isn’t ever my intention, of course, but it happens when I feel as though I have to keep up with a certain pace.

And of course, it’s been important to focus on things outside of work. My main priority has been to support my mother. But I’ve also realized just how tired I am, how seldom I unplug in order to recharge, and how much that slows down my productivity in the long run.

Encounters with mortality tend to make us pause and consider how we’re living. For me, the pandemic this year has already been a call to do that. But the sudden death of someone close to me is yet another invitation to ask myself tough questions about how I’m spending my days. I fixate constantly on things about my life that I want to change. I brood about what I don’t have. I download and read books about transformation and growth. I make lists that are meant to be organizing and motivational, but which ultimately amount to a set of expectations that I can’t live up to.

It’s all so well-intentioned. I’ve got plenty of patterns and habits that I can identify as being counter-productive to my own happiness, and I want to change them. But why is so much of my energy directed toward what isn’t working?

The last few weeks have felt like a jolt, a reminder that any day could be the last. It’s human nature to dwell on the past and future, but the present is all we’ve got. I often let it to slip past me, sometimes unintentionally and sometimes out of a stubborn refusal to accept who and where I am.

My mother lost a dear friend two weeks ago, my godmother. In the few days after I found out that she was gone,  I thought about the fact that my mother has always been blessed with strong, enduring, close friendships. My godmother was one of a small circle of friends that my mother has known since childhood. Mom has many other close friends from subsequent phases of her life.

They say that kids do not what their parents say, but what they model. I’m so lucky that my mother has always modeled the art of making and sustaining friendships. And it is an art: keeping a friendship healthy requires effort and attention. It’s not an easy thing to do when life is busy and preoccupying. I know for a fact that mental health challenges can get in the way of sustained efforts at connection, too.

Last weekend, I put my computer down and went upstate to visit my friend Ali. It’s something we’d been meaning to do, and it felt like the right moment to actually make the trip, which isn’t far. It was a wonderful couple days, full of homemade bread and chatter over hot cups of coffee and Ovenly chocolate chip cookies. I didn’t look at my phone very much, except to check in on my mom. I breathed fresh air and enjoyed being away from my four walls in Manhattan.

I came home rested. I resisted the urge to make a laundry list of new initiatives to improve on my every day. Rather, I felt a quiet commitment to living with an awareness that life is short and worth enjoying however much I can.

Happiness and peace don’t always come easily to me, and the last few years of my life have been a lonely, difficult time. But 2020, with all of its unanticipated tragedy, has reminded me that I love being alive. The past three weeks have shown me that I love not just life, but my own life, no matter how often I pick at its flaws and mourn its empty spaces. It’s the life that I’ve created, and its beautiful in its own way.

This life of mine is populated by some wonderful people. That includes you.

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


Speaking of Ali, I want to make these dinner rolls of hers immediately! They get baked in a muffin pan. As Ina Garten would say, how easy is that?

Never not on the lookout for new, go-to tofu recipes, and these crispy triangles look amazing.

Love the look of this tomato three bean salad.

Brit’s already got me thinking about Thanksgiving options with her beautiful stuffed acorn squashes!

Finally, I love the look of this creamy, plant-based brussels sprout pasta.


1. More than you ever wanted to know about the true lifespan of Twinkies.

2. A look at common disparities in how male and female cardiac patients are treated.

3. An important article from The Atlantic‘s Ed Yong on how we frame and describe the experience of being sick.

4. More on the long-term effects of Covid-19. I appreciate that this piece focuses on the lived experience of “long haulers,” or patients who experience symptoms long after they’ve survived the worst of coronavirus infection.

5. And, for a little laugh, some cheeky and charming social distancing signs from around the world (scroll through the Twitter thread for more!).

Hope your week is off to strong start. I’ll be back soon with a flavorful, fast, semi-homemade recipe!


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  1. Gena,

    I have been turning your post over in my mind all week, thank you. I enjoy Ed Yong’s writing and his article was spot on, in my opinion.

    I am sorry about your family’s loss. And in the middle of the pandemic too. Not easy. But you also took a little vacation which I hope balances things a bit.

    Your writing made me consider how many of us are always striving to better ourselves, to improve things, make plans or even get things done. How we spend our time in other words as you suggested but also, I think, how we see ourselves as a work in progress. It seems linear to me, like a scale or spectrum. Like at some point, you will have arrived and things will be just right. I feel like this sets us up for a kind of failure. If we just do this or that we will be better. I am starting to feel that we are our best selves right now, even with our imperfections. We are alive and breathing and that is a lot. Waking up in the morning is maybe 99% of the battle. The rest is just water under the bridge, mud in your eye, or icing on the cake, depending on your viewpoint. I just want to dwell in that 99% and be my best self every day, flaws and all.

    Anyway, your posts always add to my week and I sure appreciate them. I hope things are going well for you.
    Thank you,

  2. Hi Gena! I found your website when I was looking for a vegan carrot mousse recipe. I read your post and you mentioned Ali! I was like, it can’t be the same Ali. It was! Ali got me into bread baking and I have taken her virtual cooking classes and she is so awesome and wonderful. I just wanted to send you some virtual hugs. Life is tough right now, but we will get through this!

  3. Hi Gena,
    This is a long overdue thank you. I have been reading your weekend readings for a long time and really cherish your thoughts. I see so much of myself in you and your experience and I have learned about myself by reading your thoughts and feelings. It is a great comfort to know others have similar experiences and helps to ease what sometimes can feel like a solo journey. It is also a gift to start to really understand yourself and why you act the way you do! Thank you for your thoughtfulness, vulnerability and compassion. Keep up the fantastic work!

  4. Happy Sunday indeed 🙂

    I know you’ve been having a tough time lately, and I’m very sorry about the loss of your godmother. I don’t often comment, but I love receiving your newsletter – it’s always a joy to read. I’m glad things are looking up for you. This post was really touching, especially the part about loving life, your own life

    I haven’t tried the recipe you linked, but I really recommend roasted brussel sprouts pasta to anyone who likes one or both of the main ingredients. It’s delicious! I don’t know why, but it is! They go marvellously together and roasting really suits sprouts.

    That article about the twinkies is hilarious. I never thought I would read a sentence like “The researchers used a bone marrow biopsy tool to sort of drill through the tough outer layer of the gray, mummified Twinkie.” And the “marrow” of a twinkie, good grief!

  5. Dear Gena, Thank you. That last paragraph toward the end starting with “Happiness and peace don’t always come easily to me. . .” was a treasure and just want I needed to read at this moment tonight. “I love being alive” and how 2020 has been such a vivid messenger for that realization for me as well. I really appreciate it. Reminds me of the end of the Desiderata: “With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it’s still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.” Only now, in the midst of having to be careful are those wonderful follow-throughs of making connection, like you did when you went to visit your friend Ali. It’s still a beautiful world–perhaps the losses and heartache make the beauty even more precious.Love you

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