Weekend Reading, 4.22.17
April 22, 2017

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

Happy Earth Day, everyone! In honor of the day—in honor of our planet and the sentient creatures that inhabit it—I’m sharing a few articles about animal rights and sustainability in today’s Saturday roundup.

It’s been a long week here. I’m not sure what I expected to happen once I came clean about the breakup, but I guess I was secretly hoping that writing about it would invite in some sort of clarity. It hasn’t. I keep wanting to feel things that are wiser and more composed than what I’m actually feeling, which is a ragged combination of anger and abandonment and hurt. It’s raw stuff, stuff that brings up fear and vulnerability. I had to cancel a few things this week because depression and anxiety had gotten the upper hand.

I hate being like this—how unhinged I feel. I wish I had calmer, more rational feelings to report, a mature perspective or optimism to share. I wish there were a lesson I could distill and write about, instead of writing this. A lot of it, I know, is my ego smarting: to be able to congratulate myself for how well I’m handling the breakup would be a small consolation, albeit a shallow one.

And yet this wintery mix of emotion is what I’ve got. As I learn to coexist with it, I continue to be buoyed by things that do feel real and solid and familiar. Cooking especially.

Slow Cooker Tomato White Beans | The Full Helping

I wrote about bread-baking earlier this week. It’s quickly becoming a new hobby, thanks to inspiration from my friend Ali and her new cookbook. Interestingly, I don’t think I could have had a hobby like this one five or six or even three years ago. I was less solid in my anorexia recovery, and one indication of that was how rigid I was about the cooking I deemed worthy of my time. It would have seemed ridiculous to me to expend energy on something like bread-baking—something unessential.

I guess bread isn’t unessential to me, since I eat it so often. What I mean is that my younger self would have felt that the only suitable kitchen projects were those that yielded balanced, healthful, complete meals, or important weekly food staples. I wouldn’t have felt that homemade bread—something that I could just as easily purchase in an equally “healthy” form, which contained no virtuous leafy greens or vegetable matter, and which I could easily muss up on any given trial—was justifiable.

I was recently chatting with the lovely Erin about how I learned to cook, and one thing I mentioned was that, at the beginning, cooking challenged the part of me that needed to have all of my food intake feel “worth it.” Because I was so scarce with myself, each and every morsel served a purpose or met a goal. There just wasn’t any space for a culinary hobby—something pleasurable, yet superfluous.

Cooking also challenged my aversion to risk and unknowns. The kitchen space is pitted with trial and error, and annoyingly, you only learn by messing up. This is not easy for someone with an ED to accept: when every calorie has been meticulously allotted for, each meal planned with razor-sharp precision and perfect arithmetic, failure is not an option.

Of course, when you approach cooking this way there’s also no room for unexpected triumphs or discoveries. The more you insist on food being reliable and precise, the less likely it is that you’ll accidentally put unlikely flavors together and realize that they work, or take the time to master a process—like baking bread—that demands a learning curve but offers up great rewards. To stick to recipes that are a sure thing appeases the part of you that feels as though each and every meal is precious, a last supper. But it comes at a price.

I’m glad that I have a solid and steady enough foundation with food today that I can afford to take risks and have things turn out imperfectly. When they do, the worst that happens is that I lose ingredients and a little time. It may be momentarily disappointing, but it’s no big deal.

I’m glad, too, that not everything I cook is sensible, serves a nutritional purpose, or offers me some putative health benefit. Sometimes taking care of myself means cooking a dish that’s nutrient-dense, rich in protein, and chock full of veggies. Sometimes it means making something because I’ll enjoy the process, or because the finished dish holds sentimental value, or because it’s tasty and I want to eat it, plain and simple. It’s taken me a while, but I’m finally eating to live and living to eat.

No matter how muddled I’m feeling right now, I’m certain that big, beautiful plans can fall through, but there are always small, beautiful things to celebrate. Lots of them. This week, I’m celebrating the fact that I can (finally) approach cooking with curiosity and playfulness. I can afford to go off exploring, because I’m not busy trying to survive. Bread-baking may sound like a simple pastime, a little thing, but it speaks volumes about how far I’ve come with food. I’m holding it in my heart as a symbol of growth and resilience.

I hope you’ll enjoy this week’s collection of lovely and seasonal recipes.

While we’re on the topic of trying new things and leaning into unexpected flavor pairings, it’s the right time to share Steven’s super intriguing PBJ & J from The Nut Free Vegan. PBJ & J stands for peanut butter, jelly, and jalapeno. I love the idea of combining those sweet, salty, and spicy flavors, and I’m going to give it a whirl soon.

Leave it to Alexandra to create the most beautiful, vibrant-looking dish with the simplest of ingredients. Her spring green salad features radishes, peas, avocado, garlic, and a flavorful wild garlic and avocado sauce.

More spring salad! This is Amanda’s sunshine turmeric potato salad, which features a spice blend of turmeric, black pepper, lemongrass, and ginger from Big Heart Tea. So vibrant and pretty.

I love jollof rice, and Lisa’s vegan version looks spicy, flavorful, and easy to make. Win, win.

Speaking of quick and spicy recipes, I’ve also got my eye on Michael’s Thai green curry. Check out the super short ingredient list; this one would be perfect for any weeknight meal, or even a speedy lunch.


1. First, more promising research into the potential of plant-based eating patterns. A new study from Finland suggests that plant protein intake is associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, while persons with a diet rich in meat have a higher risk.

2. Professors Jessica Pierce and Marc Bekoff make the argument that, while science continues to indicate how deeply we’ve underestimated the mental lives of animals, our treatment of them continues to demonstrate apathy and disregard.

3. Marla Rose interviews the brave and compassionate Jo-Anne McArthur. McArthur’s photography documents the commodification of animals in the human world. She captures not only abuse, but also neglect, loneliness, and isolation. The images are often heartbreaking, but they’re important.

I really love what McArthur has to say about her activism. When asked what she thinks the most effective means of communicating a vegan message is, she says,

I have a “let them start the conversation” approach. Spend a few minutes with me and you’ll see what’s on my plate, you’ll have found out that I’m an animal rights photojournalist…and these are interesting things! I’m friendly and happy, which allows people to feel comfortable asking me questions about what I do, what I eat, and why. The conversations happen inevitably, and they can see that my choices are a joy, not a deprivation.

I’ve always found that one of the most meaningful ways to start a constructive dialog about veganism is to allow one’s passion for the lifestyle to shine through. I also like what McArthur has to say about effective communication:

My short answer is that people like to think they are coming to a decision on their own. They feel more empowered. Do your best to let them. More showing, less shoving.

4. A heartbreaking story about Osmin, a captive sea turtle who died last month as a result of consuming more than 11 pounds of coins—coins that had been tossed into her tank by onlookers. What gives me hope is that journalist Margo Pierce uses this tragedy as a chance to talk about the veterinarians who performed emergency surgery on Osmin, and whose understanding of how sea turtles’ bodies work is now deepened because of the procedure they performed. She writes,

…the field does have dedicated men and women performing life-saving procedures on a species we haven’t shared a common ancestor with in a few hundred million years—and that’s nothing to sniff at. While there are plenty of procedures that don’t end up working, and patients like [Osmin] who simply can’t be saved, there are also lots of success stories. In 2014, the Juno Beach facility treated 106 sea turtles. Of those, 45 patients were swimming in the ocean again later that year.

It doesn’t take away from what happened to Osmin, but as Pierce suggests, it’s something.

5. Finally, it seems that human beings are creating a new geological layer through our production of waste. Scary stuff (and sort of fascinating, too). My hope is that the energy and momentum that surround Earth Day and the March for Science will help to create consciousness and change.

Alright, friends. That’s it for this roundup. I’ll be back on Monday with a light, bright, springy socca recipe. Thanks for listening, and be well.



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  1. I love Tumeric Potato Salad! In fact, It’s terrific on baked or mashed potatoes too! Thanks for sharing these recipes. I can’t wait to try the others.

  2. I have been unknowingly reducing my time on social media, reading blogs and everything which probably started sometime last year for many reasons. I keep coming back to your space to read up and appreciate your thoughts, shares and so much more. The site design looks amazing and your food and photography keeps getting more and more beautiful. The weekend reading, the stories and articles are always a favorite.
    I am so sorry about the tough time right now. Sending you loads of hugs and love.

  3. Thank you Gena for curating such interesting, thought-provoking reads & commentary. You are such an inspiration & I am thinking of you during this very difficult period of sadness. Hugs from Chicago!!

  4. Oh Gena, sending big hugs out to you. I’ve just caught up of these past several posts, and I have so much admiration for your courage to share your struggles and be transparent. I’m a fairly private person and writing about loss and grief is difficult for me, so I especially appreciate when others are willing to share. While we’ve never met in person, I know you to be a beautiful person for the character you exemplify through your writing and in the ways you so kindly reach out to others. You amaze with with your abilities to cook up nourishing and beautiful food in every season of life.

  5. Dear Gena, what serendipity to read bread-making is bringing you comfort in this difficult time of transition. I had to back track and read the post about the vegan toast and the peasant bread recipe. What a fun and easy way to bake bread! I felt instant affinity because I have been up to bread baking again myself. I even restarted a new spelt sourdough starter. Easter Sunday I baked my first loaf in a a couple of years. I love “growing” the yeast and the comfort and homey beauty of the finished loaf. It’s all so comforting and stabilizing. Mine has to wait overnight, but like the peasant bread, it’s really a simple process. I loved your idea for black bean toast. I was putting an adzuki bean mixture on mine last week. In other starches, I had never heard of jolla rice–that’s sounds delicious! My heart broke to read of Osmin dying from eating coins. We have so much to learn about how to treat animals. And, too, McArthur’s approach to conversations about veganism and vegan activism are so spot on. I feel what a difficult time with is for you, and I want you to know how much you are loved and appreciated. My reading and cooking and feeling life is so much richer because of this fantastic Weekend Reading Series. Thank you always, for coming to us with such honesty, eloquence, and a patchwork of delicious dishes and truth to power.

  6. Gena, your honesty and openness are such a comfort. Thank you for sharing. Thinking of you. So looking forward to your socca recipe!

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