Weekend Reading, 4.9.17
April 9, 2017

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

This past Friday, Angelica Kitchen, one of New York’s oldest and most beloved vegan restaurants, closed its doors. The eatery had served seasonal, farm fresh, and affordable plant-based food for over 40 years. It was one of my favorite places in the city, a cozy refuge where traditionally prepared legumes, grains, and vegetables were always on offer.

This week, I’m sharing James Oseland’s elegy for Angelica, among other reads. Oseland remembers the restaurant with fondness, and he mourns the fact that it is one of many eateries being forced out of business by high rents and a rapidly changing cityscape. He writes,

Angelica Kitchen was both a marvel and marvelous: one felt a connection to the past there even though the restaurant sat firmly in the present. You’d see people new to the city, younger faces, but also plenty of old-timers like myself. The clientele flowed through, but its soul was frozen in time. It had been updated — it moved to a new location, it became larger and leaner and fancier than it had once been — but by and large it was the same restaurant it had always been.

It’s all true. There are new plant-based eateries in town, but I doubt that any of them will be able to fill the hole that Angelica is leaving behind. A lot of the newer spots are upscale, focused on small plates and elegant vegetable preparations. I appreciate that these restaurants are challenging mainstream notions of what vegan dining looks like, but the food feels a little fussy to me. I’ll miss Angelica’s simple, heaping plates of grains, beans, tofu, and greens.

I’ll miss what Angelica represents, too: community, nourishment, and a back-to-basics, time-honored approach to cooking. It always seemed as though the restaurant would be there forever, a welcoming fixture in an ever-changing neighborhood. I’m used to watching businesses come and go, but I’ve been surprised at how much this closing has affected me. Or maybe it’s just my mood these days.

Steven and I are broken up. It’s been about a month now. I wasn’t going to write about it, at least not for a while, but it’s starting to feel a little disjointed to show up here each Sunday and chat about the spring weather and new recipes without at least acknowledging the thing that’s mostly on my mind.

I’ve been through enough breakups to know that the process will run its course, that feelings will ebb and flow, and that everything will be OK. But it would be dishonest to say that this breakup feels like any other I’ve experienced. The sense of loss is so much deeper. There’s more confusion to sift through, more blame and self-doubt and regret. Whereas other breakups have seemed to run a predictable course—a mourning process that gives way to hope and even excitement at the prospect of a fresh start—this one is proving volatile and bewildering so far. I’m taking care of myself, going to therapy, reaching out to friends. Still, I’m incredibly lonely, in a way I never have been before.

At one point I thought I’d mention the uncoupling in my birthday post this June. I’ve always used those posts as an opportunity to reflect on the year behind me, and I suppose I hoped that, by then, this story would have a beginning and a middle and an end. I thought I might be nearing closure of some kind, that I’d have wise and philosophical things to say.

I can’t predict how I’ll feel in a few months, but right now it’s hard to imagine that I’ll have reached a stage of wise philosophizing. Instead, I suspect that I’m at very the start of what will be a lengthy process. So for now, the best I can do is simply say what’s happened. I’ve talked about authenticity a lot this year, and one of my own challenges in being authentic is to express myself without wrapping all of my feelings in elegant words or neat narrative scaffolding—to let my sentiments be rough-hewn or even incomplete. This post is a part of that, I guess.

Angelica Kitchen was Steven’s and my favorite place to eat together, our cherished spot for date nights and spontaneous outings. This adds an even more poignant layer to the restaurant’s closing. I suspect that many New Yorkers have their own special memories of Angelica, their own associations and reasons for holding the restaurant dear. It’s been really heartening to see how many folks came out to support the eatery in its final days, the outpouring of love that sprung from the community here.

Food has been an enormous source of comfort in the last four weeks, and I’m particularly excited about the recipes I’m sharing today. Hope they inspire, entice, or offer you comfort, too.

Recipes

 

Jodi’s fig anise cookies are sort of a cross between a cookie and a sweet cracker, and I can’t imagine anything nicer to nibble on with a cup of afternoon tea or coffee. Perfect for edible gifting, too. So excited to try them.

It’s not quite berry season here in NYC, but as soon as the time is right, I’ll be making Emilie’s bright and colorful quinoa and spinach salad with raspberry vinaigrette.

Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but Cadry’s artichoke pesto pasta is a perfect recipe for all of the spring months. It’s the sort of recipe that feels fancy enough for company, but is so easy to make.

I’ve had a recipe for mapo tofu bookmarked in Fuchsia Dunlop’s book, Every Grain of Rice, for ages now, but Amanda’s vibrant mapo tofu recipe is now giving it a run for its money. Amanda describes the recipe as being “a little bit spicy,” which is just perfect for me. And I love the addition of mushrooms for umami.

Next week, I’m going to be sharing some thoughts on my recent adventures in homemade bread baking and why its becoming a cherished domestic ritual. For now, I’m sharing Kimberly’s beautiful red onion focaccia, which is so perfect for slicing and sharing.

Reads

1. Most of us have read about, or even experienced, some of the dangers of yo-yo dieting. These include an increased risk for disordered eating and a greater likelihood of future weight gain. A new study suggests that yo-yo dieting can also have grave consequences for cardiac health.

The study indicates that yo-yo dieters have more than twice the risk of death, heart attack or stroke compared with people who maintain a relatively stable body weight; for each 1.5- to 2-pound fluctuation, the risk of a cardiovascular event increases by 4 percent, and the risk of death by 9 percent. The lead researcher, Dr. Sripal Bangalore of NYU’s Langone Medical Center, posits that fluctuations in weight place stress on the body, and that it might also cause hormonal changes that affect the heart.

Experts note that yo-yo dieting might be an indication of larger health complications, which could help to explain study findings. But in any case, the study presents yet more evidence that dieting and weight change should be approached seriously and with expert support, if possible.

2. I suspect that many of the food lovers reading would say that food food counts as health care. But a new study is aiming to prove it.

3. During my post-bacc training, and especially as I observed physicians at work in the hospital setting, I learned that diagnosis is a medical art in itself. The question is now emerging of whether sensitive diagnoses can ever be automated or generated by artificial intelligence.

4. A new study suggests that race is a greater determinant of future diabetes risk than weight. The study found that, in a sample of 803 individuals, Americans of South Asian descent were twice as likely as whites to have risks for heart disease, stroke and diabetes, when their weight was in the normal range.

Similarly, Americans of Hispanic descent were 80 percent more likely than whites to suffer from the so-called cardio-metabolic abnormalities that give rise to heart disease, stroke and diabetes, compared with 50 percent more likely for those who were Chinese and African-American. Those characteristic risks include hypertension, elevated blood glucose, low HDL cholesterol (the “good cholesterol”) and high triglycerides.

Weight is often regarded as the major predictor of Type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome, but this study gives support to the idea that social determinants of health and epigenetics may play an equally, if not more important, role in the genesis of these diseases.

5. Finally, James Oseland’s farewell to Angelica Kitchen, a place that he says always made him feel “at home.”

It made me feel at home, too.

Thanks to you all for listening today. And speaking of feeling at home, I’ll be back with a homey soup recipe in a couple of days.

xo

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    21 Comments
  1. Hi Gina,

    I’m so sorry to hear of your break up. Each one is like a bereavement, so take care of yourself just as you would a friend. I thoroughly enjoy your blog and hope you know your friends out here are rooting for you. Much love x

  2. Hey Gena, I’m a little behind on my blog reading so I apologize for this being distastefully late but I still wanted to chime in with my well wishes. I know firsthand how difficult it is to experience a breakup of a long term relationship that was really special, and one that had been shared through my blog. It was about 2 and 1/2 years ago for me now and I’m still learning things about it, although it took 6 months or so of emotional recovery to get to the point of wanting to learn. If there’s anyone who is thoughtful enough, driven enough, and equipped with the tools to come to terms with this change then it’s definitely you. I have always looked eagerly forward to the perspective you share here each week; you’re a real inspiration to me. Sending you positive and peaceful vibes! -Shannon

  3. I don’t know you personally but as a fellow New Yorker and a woman I can say I’ve been there and it hurts. I’m sad to hear of your heartbreak. Food is certainly a comfort and to have lost a beloved eatery and a partner in the same time frame can certainly make it feel worse. Not to discount your pain at all but I’ve found that Caravan of Dreams has a similar menus, and same homey feel. Maybe we’ve seen each other there sometime. I’m the girl with the curly dark hair and the diamond shaped eyeglasses. Feel free to stop by my table and say hello.
    Sending you feelings of comfort and warmth and healing vibes all around.

  4. Thanks for your honesty Gena. I love your blog and read it often…I am so sad to hear about Angelica’s kitchen as well. I went there often when I lived in new york and worked at Beth Israel Hospital (not closed too!) One suggestion, I used to love Souen for the same reasons you mentioned…nourishing steamed bowls, not fussy, just good. Let me know if you try.

    • I love Souen, Tracy. And for the same reasons you mention, and for which I loved Angelica: simplicity, generous portions, hearty food. Thanks for sharing, reading, and reminding me that Souen is still around and still great.

  5. Gena, I am not reading blogs very often but I am so sad to hear about your break up. I appreciate your honesty on the blog during this difficult time. I hope you find the supports you need and come out stronger. 🙂

  6. Oh gena I’m so sorry to hear about both Angelica’s and you and Stephen. I spent several memorable meals at Angelica’s and share your sadness to see it leave the NYC scene. I enjoy the more upscale vegan eateries but the fussiness can indeed get tiring (not to mention not filling enough for the $$!).

    Please be gentle with yourself right now. Breakups can cause so much helpful self reflection but they can also cause so much self doubt and for me, a harsh internal very judgmental monologue. Please remember to be as kind to yourself as you would your best friend going through a breakup including the narrative on this in your head. Take good care of your mind body and spirit please especially as I know this kind of thing has the potential to be triggering.

    For me, I truly believe that every relationship was “worth it” even if or maybe even especially those that didn’t last. Each one changed my perspective a little and developed me further as a person. A relationship doesn’t have to be permanent to be important and profoundly impactful. It doesn’t mean it was a waste or ultimately will be a regret. Some people are meant to only be in our lives for one or two chapters – but it’s still important and lovely that we experienced those chapters. And you never know how this story/book will end for you. Characters can reappear or the loss of characters can open up space for new opportunities. Even in the midst of pain and confusion I hope that these thoughts can bring some comfort.

    Take good care…xo

  7. Dearest Gena,

    It hurts so much when we lose a beloved one. That’s just all there is to it. You continue to be such an inspiration to me and I cannot thank you enough. You are clearly a person who feels and thinks deeply. Often tears spring to my eyes as I read your posts and this post especially. Love cannot leave. You are surrounded by it and swimming in it, however, that can be hard to feel at times such as this. Even though I only know you through your blog, and you really don’t know me at all, please know that I am thinking of you and sending you and Steven deep love.

  8. Hi Gena,
    I’m so sorry to hear about your breakup. I think you shared a lot about the 2 of you on the blog, so maybe you felt a deeper connection because of that, and he wont be a part of the Sunday posts. I’m sure you had your routines as well. I’m so so sorry, again, and know it’s completely okay to feel how you are. Don’t beat yourself up. Continue talking to your friends and family. I hope you continue to blog and use your audience to help you recover as well.
    Lots of love <3 <3

  9. Dearest Gena, there’s so many ways this amazing post moves me, but first of all is your courageous presence and grace in writing it at all. I hold you in love and light as you continue to be present through all the many twists and turns of this powerful loss and transition. I was moved almost beyond words by James Oseland’s piece about Angelica’s Kitchen. He and I must be of similar age, because I, too, spent many a northern California time at The Good Earth. It was a place to go when nothing else would do. As you know, I am also processing the loss of place in my own past and world and the relentless push everywhere to erase what is slow, and kind, and human and smaller than a corporate idea of progress. Angelica’s reminds me of so many restaurants I loved in my youth, now gone: one in Sacramento called Pava’s comes to mind. My favorite place to eat in Portalnd is Proper Eats, with a menu very similar to what you describe about Angelica’s. Also, it seems as if what in Moscow Idaho people called the Moscow Food Co-op: a “third place”–not work, not home, but something familiar and nourishing, a place to meet, eat and greet, and place to feel something akin to being home. I am so sorry you are losing both the place and the person who shared it with you in what seems like one fell swoop. But I so cherish the way you described it all, and how James Oseland’s words made me feel like I knew and loved it well, though I have never been there. Outpourings of love to you, and to him and to all those who loved Angelica’s. We must continue to create these places as best we can, however we can, and hold the ones gone away close in our hearts, and speak of them to others, as you have done here, so they and all they offer will live on as a standard of how to be human in a difficult world. I am thinking of you every day and sending my love.

  10. Hi sweet Gena. I just popped over here to say thank you for sharing my favorite cookies, but that almost seems insignificant now. I also read about Angelica closing it’s door in an interview with Amy Chaplin, and while I have never been there myself, I can understand how you and a lot of others must feel with the closing of a place that like. Break ups, of all kinds, mark an end of something but also a beginning of something new – something we aren’t even aware could exist yet. I’ve been there. You sound strong but I also know the loneliness. You are not alone. I look forward to hearing your voice come June, I have a feeling it sound even stronger. Sending courage (and cookies), Jodi x

  11. Breakups SUCK! Honestly I can’t think of many things that are worse in life. So to know you’re going through one makes me a sad :(.
    There is little I can say to make the hurt away but I’ll try nonetheless if that’s alright with you…Every heartache I’ve ever been through made me a more reflective, empathetic and better human being. And each one ultimately led me to the person I was destined to be with; I’m pretty sure I’d not been able to find him had I not worked my way through through all those sucky breakups first.
    Sending you lots of strength from across the pond
    Kimberly:)

  12. Aww Gena, I’m so sorry. Both for the end of your relationship, and for the loss of a beloved eatery. I enjoyed the meal we shared together at Angelica’s so much, both for the great company and for the great food. Sending you love and light in this difficult time 🙂

  13. Every time Sunday rolls around, I always eagerly look forward to reading your astute, beautifully written description of your weekend reading choices. Today was no exception. I’m presently going through a breakup as well, and I don’t have any deep, wise words to share except that – no matter how much it feels like it – you aren’t alone.

  14. I haven’t been commenting, but I still read the blog faithfully. Thank you for sharing this with us, and lots of love to you as you re-equilibrate. <3

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