Weekend Reading, 6.11.17
June 11, 2017

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

I don’t have many photos of myself. If you were to enter my apartment, you’d find a few framed pictures of my mom and one of me at age eight or nine, all pigtails and missing front teeth, smiling directly to the camera. I love the lack of inhibition in the photo, the sweet confidence. I hang onto the image as a reminder that as a child, I was unashamed of being seen. I came into life with this quality, and it’s always there, no matter the tendency to get buried.

I’ve grown so much when it comes to body-respect, but I haven’t shaken off discomfort with having my picture taken. Even now, halfway into my thirties, I tend to squirm and grimace whenever a group photo is taken. I’m working on it. It’s actually not the reaction that troubles me so much as the absence of an archive, a dynamic record of my life. We take photos to capture moments, and many of my experiences have gone unrecorded.

The exception, of course, is food. I once joked to a friend that I have no visual captures of my college graduation, trips I’ve taken, relationships I’ve entered and exited, or gatherings I’ve been a part of. But if you’d like to know about what I’ve eaten for the last decade, there’s plenty to see.

This is actually less superficial than it sounds. The archive of food images I’ve amassed through blogging and Instagram say a lot about where I’ve been and where I’m going; they may say more, ultimately, than other types of photos would. They’re all animated by a passion for food, but as I scroll through them I see a process of evolution from hesitant and constrained habits to generous and inclusive ones. I see more sensitivity to cravings, more playfulness, more variety, more fun. I see the daily meals of a person who has learned–is learning, I should say–to listen to her appetites.

My growth with food is reflective of deeper shifts: figuring out how to trust myself. Shaking off walls of shame and fear. Realizing that not every decision or choice has to be a big deal. Gaining the tools I need to bounce back when things I perceive as being “mistakes” happen. Welcoming variety and change–inconsistency, even!–into my life. Learning to be curious and exploratory. It’s all connected.

This week, NPR reviewed Susan Bright’s new book, Feast for the Eyes, which tells the story of food photography in America. Bright describes how the “way that food has been photographed over the years is a reflection on the times we live in.” The article shares some particularly representative images from the collection, and it touches upon Bright’s analysis of how “our relationship with food has always gone beyond the merely ediblewhether it’s humorous, artistic or political.”

It’s a really interesting read for food bloggers, food lovers, or anyone who has had the impulse to capture a meal or a table setting in order to remember what really mattered about a moment in time. If you do check the article out, you’ll see that it details how photography style has changed with changing culture and times, from sumptuous still life portraits to highly technical, close-up captures. I hope you enjoy it, and the other links this week.

But first, some enticing food photos and recipes.


I mentioned recently that I’m having friends over more often, which means that I’ve got my eyes peeled for recipes that are good for sharing, making in advance, etc. All of this week’s recipes are party-friendly, starting with these beautiful sweet potato tempura rolls with avocado and teriyaki glaze. Erin’s recipes always look so elegant and professional!

Another great appetizer option: Melissa’s smoky tofu vegetarian potstickers.

I’ve tried and failed to make polenta pizza several times now, which means that I need the guidance of a really great recipe. I think this is the one: Malin’s polenta pizza with tofu almond cheese and grilled oyster mushrooms. I’m super intrigued by the idea of tofu almond cheese.

These springtime veggie tostadas are so easy, but they’re definite crowd-pleasers. They feature hummus, shaved Brussels sprouts, peas, and cilantro. Fresh, bright, and perfect for whipping up at the last minute.

Finally, I’ve been having all of the heart eyes for Jackie’s insane-looking swirled PB & J brownies. I might make these for friends, but I can’t promise how many I’d actually share 🙂


1. First, NPR’s review of Feast for the Eyes, complete with a few iconic images from the book.

2. A thoughtful, intelligent reflection on how failing in public settings can teach doctors about the importance of humility.

The very idea of failure in medical practice is complicated: the stakes are so high that we don’t always like to think about the very real possibility that doctors will make mistakes. The author’s point is that mistakes will be made simply because doctors are human beings. Medical training and culture should acknowledge this fact and create a meaningful dialog about vulnerability and learning from error. I particularly like author Bryan Vartabedian’s observation that:

The growth that comes from facing one’s limitations can’t happen alone. It requires a community intentionally committed to cultivating the soft skills of introspection and humility. This kind of realization and public exposure of our own shortcomings can be jarring to a young professional mind. Training environments that breed disregard for the process of human adaption to failure do their part to help young doctors miss the opportunity of learning about vulnerability.

I think that this observation can apply to many different types of professional training grounds, not just medicine.

3. A short but sweet reflection by an author who learned that her grandmother’s famous handmade birds, which were used for years to decorate the family Christmas tree, were in fact crafts that had been created while her grandmother was being treated in a psychiatric facility. Laura Johnson goes on to reflect about how powerful crafting can be for those who suffer from depression and anxiety.

4. Such an interesting article about what mummies—specifically, the bodies of 23 mummified human beings who lived in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries—can teach us about diseases as they presented in past centuries. I was interested to read that atherosclerosis has been detected in more than a third of the mummies, who were found in Lithuania about five years ago. It’s a reminder that heart disease has been with us for a long time, even if its prevalence today is unique.

5. On a similar topic, this article details a new project to explore and learn from the remains of the elusive Indus civilization in northern India and Pakistan. The photos, especially the one of the Indus system of public waterworks, are pretty incredible, and the article makes interesting observations about how the Indus people may have been uniquely well-equipped and prepared to deal with climate change and extreme weather.

It’s early on this Sunday, and I’m wishing all of you enjoyment and rest as the weekend wraps up. Lots of coursework in front of me this week, so I may be quiet for a couple days, but when I come back it’ll be with a new quinoa recipe that’s on heavy rotation in my kitchen. Have a good one!


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  1. Dearest Gena, this post came at such a great time for me.

    Yesterday I was waiting for a train and mulling over the fact that when I was in the throws of my eating disorder, I deleted almost all of the photos from high school and the beginning of college, when I was “too fat.” At the time, these photos caused a lot of pain. I couldn’t bear to remember a time when I was bigger, and I was doing everything I could to make that girl disappear.

    Today, I deeply regret deleting those photos. I’m sad that I’ll only have a few images to represent such a huge part of my life, that I’ll have little to show my children and grandchildren. It’s a lesson my ED taught me: don’t shame your present self, don’t punish your past self. Your future self will thank you 🙂

    Sending you lots of love and light from Paris <3

  2. Ah, Gena! I love this edition of Weekend Reading. I’m seriously wanting to get a copy of Feast for the Eyes. It’s so intriguing and even the brief piece on NPR reeled me in, quickly.

    Lately, I’ve been watching shows with my dad about “ancient” Central/South American cultures and how they worked with water, and their systems. It is SO damn cool!

    Lastly, thank you for sharing my brownies! <3

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