Weekend Reading, 5.11.14
May 11, 2014

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

Happy Mother’s Day, friends! If you’re celebrating a special caretaker in your life, then I wish you a lovely time. I came to NYC for the night so that I could take my Mama out to dinner, and I’ll be headed back to DC in the morning.

It was a weekend of summery weather and fun in the District, thanks mostly to the annual Sweetlife festival, an all day music+food event in Maryland hosted by the same wonderful people who created SweetGreen salad. I got to catch performances by Fitz and the Tantrums, Bastille, Chromeo, and St. Lucia, and in between all of that I consumed many mini-VB6 salads (cooled quinoa and faro with organic arugula, shredded kale, organic roasted tofu, roasted asparagus, green and red peppers, shredded carrots, fresh basil, toasted almonds, and carrot-chili vinaigrette). Tasty.

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It’s my third year in DC (!), and this was the first time I got to attend Sweetlife. So glad I did.

And now, the recipes that have me drooling this week.

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In honor of Mother’s Day, a brunch item that would have anyone swooning: rutabaga and pear handpies. My goodness, Anya.


While we’re on breakfast, I love the look of Susan’s beany breakfast sausage patties–such a nice break from seitan sausages!


I’ve recently rediscovered couscous, and in fact I’m sharing a recipe for couscous salad tomorrow. But for now, feast your eyes on Eileen’s marvelous couscous salad with chickpeas, golden beets, and zucchini.


It’s incredibly rare that Laura creates a recipe that I’m not impressed by. But this avocado tartare? I can’t even.


I’ve made quinoa burgers in the past, and as lovely as they were, it took quite a while to get them to bind properly. So I know it’s not an easy task, which makes Sara’s vegetable and quinoa burgers all the more impressive.


1. Here on this blog, I try to put my most confident foot forward. This isn’t to say that I hide vulnerabilities; I talk about them at length when I write about my eating disorder past, and lord knows I shared plenty of them during my post-bacc. But I do my best to muffle some of the day-to-day low self esteem stuff: feelings of unworthiness, criticisms about my appearance, and glimmers of what is now popularly known as “imposter syndrome.” I used to put myself down all the time, and it’s a habit I’ve tried to curtail (except maybe when I’m in the company of my nearest and dearest), because I know that it sets a poor example, that it wears on the patience and goodwill of loved ones, and most importantly because it’s simply not how I want to be. But these feelings run deep, and old habits are hard to break.

Anyway, this is all a long preamble to saying that I enjoyed this interview with Anneli Rufus, author of Unworthy: How to Stop Hating Yourself. In particular, I was intrigued by her description of “negative narcissism”:

There’s a certain negative narcissism aspect to having low self-esteem. People who totally adore themselves are hard to love because they only see themselves and it’s hard for them to care about you. But people who hate themselves are also hard to love because they, too, are so self-absorbed that their own needs and miseries obstruct their view of another person. You can’t see into someone else’s heart if you are so wrapped up in yourself. If you’re sitting there, sobbing on the bed and there’s someone beside you saying, “But I love you,” and you reply, “No! I’m so worthless!” you’re basically saying ‘screw you’ to that person. If we can have compassion for ourselves, then we are inviting ourselves to have compassion for others, which makes relationships fairer and more equal.

While I can’t say that my self-loathing has ever eclipsed my appreciation of love (romantic or otherwise) in a way so dramatic as the theoretical exchange Rufus describes, I can relate to the idea of a self-absorption that comes of being overly self-critical. It reminds me quite a bit of the self-absorption that characterizes eating disorders: it’s rooted more in self-destructiveness than in self-celebration, so it my not come across as narcissism in a traditional sense. But it consumes emotional energy and attention in ways that can shut others–and the world–out. For me, recovery has been all about stepping out into the world, rather than allowing my fears and insecurities and perfectionism to keep me isolated. Like many people, I suspect that I’ll always be self-critical, and I suppose I ought not to make things worse by feeling overly guilty about it. But I can certainly afford to expend less effort criticizing myself, and to be less vocal when I do.

2. I’m sure I’m not the only vegan woman who has been warned–outright or subtly–that veganism won’t be sustainable through old age. If you’ve ever had this concern, or heard similar skepticism, you’ll enjoy Sharon Palmer’s excellent post on vegetarian diets for older women (with lots of feedback from the wonderful Ginny Messina).

3. In honor of Mother’s Day, a cute little post from the staff of Bon Appetit, featuring bits of kitchen advice that their mothers gave them. My favorite?

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Biddy says, “A peanut butter and jelly sandwich tastes really good when someone else makes it for you.” Essentially, it’s the thought that counts.” —Dawn Perry, senior food editor

Yup. If five years of writing about food, making food, daydreaming about food, photographing food, and sharing food has taught me anything, it’s that all of the cliches about how love is the most important ingredient of all are true.

4. Not sure why, but I found this video, in which photographer Isa Leshko discusses her series entitled “Elderly Animals,” incredibly touching. Learn more about Isa and her work at IsaLeshko.com.

5. My friend Rose has profiled four incredible young women who emerged from the foster care system–often with enormous odds stacked against them–with an “astonishing capacity for forgiveness, breathtaking resilience, and an irrepressible ambition to define their own lives, rather than let them be defined by what’s been done to them.”

I can’t imagine a better way to commemorate Mother’s Day than with a reminder that, with or without the presence of traditional family structure, human spirit is resilient, compassionate, and capable of meaningful, loving connection.

Have a lovely evening, all. See ya tomorrow.


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  1. I’m so glad that my comments re: self-loathing (re: my new book Unworthy: How to Stop Hating Yourself) were helpful to you. As an eating-disorder survivor myself, I agree with your insights. Self-destructiveness vs. self-celebration is a sadly perfect way of characterizing that process, and oh man is the obsession around eating and not eating a lethal time-sucker. Eating disorders “reward” the afflicted with a sense of victory which feels real at the time (I know) but later is revealed as tragically false. Switching off the inner critic is like training for a marathon, and maybe not 100 percent possible, but we must try & try. Cheers & thanks & all the best to you.

  2. Gena for some reason I haven’t been getting your posts:( I checked my subscriber list in Wordpress and it says I’m still subscribed? Not sure what the issue is, but I just resubscribed so hopefully I can catch up!:) Hope you are doing well!:)

  3. Gena
    This is a wonderful post -I especially love the quote that Abby commented on.Self-celebration – what a wonderful concept! I remember when I first met my husband … many moons ago… he told me that if I shrugged off or rejected a compliment or expression of love, that it was actually an insult to the other person. That I am saying their opinion is wrong or does not matter. He said ‘you don’t have to agree with it, but you can say thank you and accept that it is how the other person feels’. That really shifted my ability to graciously accept kindness from others…and in doing so , it allows some of those positive thoughts to be absorbed. Unfortunately, despite the fact that that was years ago – I am still too strong on the self criticism and I completely see how it sucks energy away from a vibrant life and truly intimate, fulfilling relationships.
    Thanks for your honesty and inspiration Gena

  4. Gena sweetie, I’m glad to hear you voicing those thoughts because you are not alone in the self-criticism department and it’s something really tough to deal with- both personally and knowing the effect it’s having on others attitude towards you. When I was very ill my Mum called me “selfish” and that was the worst thing ever for me to hear but in a sense eating disorders ARE very narcissistic, though of course it’s not intentional.
    Thankfully I’ve come a long way in being kinder to myself and I’ve definitely noticed the impact on how I interact with others and they me.
    Big hugs xox

  5. Gena, I’ve been a silent reader on your blog for about four years, and I must say, the weekend reading section is probably one of my favorite things you have done and any food blogger has done. It gives such a four dimensional aspect to you and your blog and I absolutely love it. Thank you for posting Anneli Rufus’s interview. I someday aspire to be somewhat like you, successful in sharing my vegan lifestyle with others and I know that I have a long road ahead of me and many things I need to learn before I even come close to what you’ve accomplished. Oft times I feel less than worthy because I am still just learning many things that you, and many other food bloggers/cookbook writers learned a long time ago. I often have to remind myself not to compare my journey to yours or anyone else’s and that I will get there because that is where I want to be. Thank you for the inspiration.

    • Allie, this is such a kind and thoughtful comment. Thank you so much for telling e that you like Weekend Reading — it means a lot for me to hear it! I wish you much luck and happiness as you continue to move toward more compassion for yourself.

  6. Hi Gena,

    Excellent Weekend Reading! I always look forward to this. I’d like to make a quinoa version of the couscous salad and try out the quinoa burgers. Thanks for the link to the great post about veganism for older women. At 58, I’ve been doing this for 6 plus years and it was nice to read that I’m on track with how I have had to really emphasize the whole foods. And I loved the quote about the pb and j sandwich. Thirty some years ago my cousin made me a peanut butter sandwich with that kind of love–it literally saved my life at a very difficult time for me–and I still remember how good it tasted. Thanks for the excellent eclectic combination of food and food for thought!

  7. The Rufus quote reminds me of a conversation we had a few months ago, the one about my mind-trick logic of “If this person, whom I think is incredible and radiant and strong and intelligent and awe-inspiring and hilarious and wonderful [i.e. you/a friend/loved one], and whom I trust in all matters, seems to feel the same way about me, then I have to trust them and believe it too to at least some degree, or else I’m contradicting my incontrovertible belief that the sun radiates from their wise soul, which I can’t do, because it does, ergo… I’m not worthless.”

    ps love you.

  8. Hi Gena…thought you may be able to help. I am going to new york this week…meeting friends for a lunch. I am vegan, they are not. Any great place you would recommend? I would love to go to Pure Food and Wine but that is too much. I was thinking The Butcher’s Daughter. Thanks!!

  9. what a brave little passage to write Gena and your honesty is sooo appreciated!
    The negative narcissism is something I’m VERY aware of in my own illness – and I have certainly told (or at least intimated to) loved ones that their love is worthless. I know a lot of behaviours are very attention seeking and emotionally manipulative. And you’re so right, it comes down to “is this the person I want to be”? Friends don’t mind supporting you but they want to see change in return, it’s not fair to always do yourself down and it runs the risk that if you say it enough times it might become true…
    anyway thank you so much!
    p.s. that tartare is delicious! I made it the day it was posted!

  10. I always love your Weekend Reading posts. You find the best looking recipes (though I’m usually too lazy to make them) and you find the best articles (which I actually do read). Surprisingly, this is the first I’ve heard about veganism not being sustainable in old age. I’m looking forward to reading that article!

  11. The passages highlighted by s and Abby in their comments above resonated big time for me too – great explanation of the psycholgical set point of many of us vulnerable to EDs/relapses. The article by Sharon Palmer was terrific too.

    I’ve been thinking about you, sweet Gena…so glad to hear you had a fun weekend w/friends and had an opportunity to visit with your mama at your home base. Much love!

  12. “It’s rooted more in self-destructiveness than in self-celebration, so it my not come across as narcissism in a traditional sense. But it consumes emotional energy and attention in ways that can shut others–and the world–out.”

    Wow. That hit home. As usual, great round-up of links, my friend!

  13. kind of random, but i’ve been struggling with a couple of (not food related) things, and this quote really resonated with me:

    “And for me, recovery has been all about stepping out into the world, rather than allowing my fears and insecurities and perfectionism to keep me isolated.”

    it’s difficult to break out of the comfortable mediocre feeling that excessive self-deprecation brings. but i keep learning that it’s probably not all that healthy to be that way anyway, so i think that doing the work to be part of the outside world (and not in my own little healthy bubble) is worth it.

    anyway, thanks for that food for thought. 🙂

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