Weekend Reading, 5.29.17
May 29, 2017

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

Happy Memorial Day, to those of you who are celebrating, and happy Monday to those who aren’t. It’s gray and cold here today, but the city had sun and perfect spring temperatures yesterday, and I had the very nice treat of having my Mom over for a simple supper at my place.

One of the bigger adjustments I’ve faced in this new chapter is no longer having someone to share my food with every night. It isn’t all bad, or all sad; I’ve used my dinnertime rituals as a way to think about self-care during this season of change. The whole experience has brought back other moments in my life when cooking helped me to heal: most notably my anorexia recovery, but also my post-bacc years in DC, where I experienced a different kind of broken heart. Without the demands of cooking for two, I’ve been tuning in very carefully to what I’d like to eat–what would feel nourishing and grounding–and there’s something to be said for that kind of autonomy.

Yet sharing food with a domestic partner had become one of my biggest pleasures, and it would be a lie to say I don’t miss it. As someone whose history with food is marked with isolation and overthinking, it was nice to take someone else’s tastes and preferences into account when I prepared meals. It felt new and different to regard the act of making dinner as a chance to listen and to give. I spent so many years by myself with food; it’s no wonder that it felt sweet to finally share.

I’ve been trying to enjoy the unique pleasures and rewards of cooking solo again while also heeding this impulse I have to feed other people and connect at the table. I’ve been trying to have people over more often, to welcome friends into my home, even though my impulse during difficult times is to turn inward. Cooking for my mom is a great place to start, not only because I cherish her company but also because it’s nice to consider how much we’ve grown in how we eat together.

My mom has always supported my veganism, but it was (understandably) a big adjustment for her at the beginning. Time has helped to expand her tastes, and I’ve met her halfway by being more sensitive and responsive to them. For a while, I made her meals that I liked, or which I thought were healthful, without considering what would be most pleasurable for her. These days I welcome our dinners because I can prepare stuff I know she’ll love; last night’s dinner, for example, which was the creamy orecchiette from Food52 Vegan, salad, and a lemon bundt cake with vegan ice cream for dessert.

I think part of being a culinary activist is knowing that there are some “foreign” ingredients that friends and family will probably love if you prepare them the right way; a lot of folks think they hate tofu, for example, because they’ve had it prepared blandly, but a great dish can turn them around. There’s also wisdom in recognizing that we all have strong connections and attachments to food, and people will often be more open to a new way of eating (like veganism) if you can bring the dishes they love to life without animal products. It’s all a give-and-take.

I hope I’ll be able to spend more time cooking for others this coming summer, reminding myself that the opportunity to connect through food hasn’t gone away. It’s just changing shape.

Here are some fresh, summery recipes I’d be delighted to eat solo or with loved ones. For more ideas, you can always check out what I’m bookmarking and saving by checking out my Pinterest page.


Lots of bright, beautiful salads this week. First up, I can’t stop staring at Jessi’s roasted beet and cherry tomato salad. So colorful and pretty, and these are all ingredients I love: beets, tomatoes, a tahini dressing, herbs, and pecans for a little crunch.

As usual, Maya is cooking up colorful fare with this minty spelt berry, purple cabbage, and brussels sprout salad. Spelt berries are one of my favorite addition to salads for their texture and chew, and I’m excited to try this combination. Love the spicy chili garlic dressing, too!

I haven’t made a zucchini ribbon salad in a really long time, but Jose’s beautiful courgette, avocado, and kale salad with almond dukkah is inspiring me. Can’t wait for zucchinis to start teeming at the farmer’s market.

There’s pretty much no limit on how many simple quinoa/veggie pilafs I can make and eat. I had to bookmark Anne’s quinoa with roasted veggies and chickpeas. Just a simple, straightforward, and colorful bowl of goodness.

At this point you’ve probably had your fill of Memorial Day burger, coleslaw, and pasta salad recipes, so how about something a little different to share with friends? I love Jodi’s toasted pumpkin seed dip with fresh herbs (and her elegant presentation).


1. A fascinating article that compares two seemingly oppositional states–hypersensitivity to pain and congenital insensitivity to pain–and explains how certain novel gene therapies might actually serve to modulate (or perhaps even cure) both.

2. Important reporting on the large percentage of black American women who suffer from fibroid disease, including symptoms and new treatment options.

3. I guess it had never occurred to me that sand might be finite, but these days I’m coming to understand how delicate and precious each and every one of the earth’s natural resources are. An interesting article on how the world may be running out of sand–and what the consequences could be.

4. This look into the loss of grip strength in the American population also raises some interesting questions about duration vs. quality of life; we’re living longer than we used to, but how well are our bodies adapting to and withstanding the aging process?

5. Finally, a harrowing look at life with chronic illness from writer Tessa Miller, who suffers from Crohn’s Disease. Miller’s article echoes something I saw and heard often when I was working with IBD patients in DC, which is that one can “pass” for “normal” while enduring constant physical distress–as well as the depression, burnout and anxiety that accompany living with an unpredictable illness and its recurrences. It’s a raw and often desperate piece of writing, but I think it’s important, especially because these kinds of testimonies can help those of us who don’t intimately understand chronic illness to see it from the inside.

On this cool, quiet, misty morning, I’m wishing you all well. I’ll be back this week with a tasty new recipe for dipping and sharing, as well as a nostalgic sweet treat on Friday.


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  1. Hi Gena, here’s hoping you had a good weekend and that the rain has stopped coming down. I always so appreciate you linking one of recipes because it brings me here to read your words. You sound strong. I’m happy to read about your outlook on cooking for one, take it as a time of nourishment and enjoy those times spent with family. You are such a gem. xx

  2. Gena, just want to thank you for another gem filled weekend reading post. I love your intro about the balancing act you are experiencing as you learn to cook for yourself again and also as you welcome the opportunity to invite friends and family in so you can continue to cook for others and share meals with them. I just did that with Sunday dinner this holiday weekend. As I was reading your frame and the mention of tofu, I realized I have been preparing my baked tofu inspired by a simple prep in one of your recipe posts in the last couple of months–lemon, (in my case) coconut aminos or Bragg’s and garlic. That’s what I baked yesterday. Your intro also brought to mind another essay in reads about remembering a departed Mom and her baked tofu. . .as time goes on your series connects me in more profound and wonderful ways into a web of healing nurturing through food and food activism. This week I loved the pumpkin seed dip and the salad with kale, “courgettes” and avocado. . .and I was facinated by the article about sand. I hope to read more, but just wanted to touch base and say thank you again for such a great series–it’s an important part of my internet “life.” xoxo

  3. OOF that IBD story hits me to my core (pun not intended surprisingly) and also makes me so angry and sad AND outrageously grateful. My friends understand. We talked about poop for years before I got sick. We routinely text from the toilet. Most of them have chronic stuff too so when we say “I need to rest” the other gets it, even if we’re also disappointed. I won’t hide this disease and I know that path isn’t for everyone but I’m glad it’s for me because it makes living with it easier.

    That grip strength story reminds me of Katy Bowman’s work with functional movement.

    And that pain story – sobbing by the end.

    ALSO you can invite me over for dinner any time you’d like. 😉


  4. Great reads and recipe inspiration, thanks. It’s so great that you have a good relationship with your mother, that’s a challenge for me sometimes as we age and she seems to stick more to “traditional” foods.

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