Weekend Reading, 9.20.15
September 20, 2015

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

Happy weekend, everyone! I hope you’ve been enjoying some restful time and sunny weather. I’ve had a busy weekend so far; last night, I had the honor of teaching a vegan cooking class at Haven’s Kitchen here in New York.



It’s a beautiful space, and it allows for cooking classes of intimate groups (my class had ten students). We got to know each other, cooked five recipes from Food52 Vegan, and then sat down to a late dinner, so that we could enjoy the recipes we’d made. It was so awesome, and I hope I can do another one soon!

Since then, I’ve been catching up on my reading for school and client work. And taking a few moments here and there to gaze at these awesome recipes (and reads).


This vegan buffalo cauliflower chowder looks positively delicious: so hearty and flavorful! It’ll be a perfect recipe to whip up this fall (along with the tasty herbed crostini).


A perfect late summer recipe: Shira’s droolworthy cheesy vegan pasta with rosemary and blistered tomatoes.

no-bake-granola-bars-9 (1)

Feeling snacky? How about some homemade, no-bake granola bars, kissed with a layer of dark chocolate? This recipe, from the lovely Tessa of Salted Plains, is easy, and it occupies a delightful territory between snack and sweet treat.


Capture the last of your summer zucchini bounty with Shelburne Farms’ ingenious recipe for zucchini relish (courtesy of Food52).


This dessert merits a photo double-header. It’s a gorgeous, easy, and decadent chocolate tart, vegan and gluten free and topped with some flakes of sea salt. Be still my heart. I’m making this soon.


1. One of my three courses this semester, nutritional ecology, focuses heavily on climate change. We’ve been doing a lot of predictably grim reading, and the weekly assignments tend to leave most of us feeling a bit deflated.

This article by Jonathan Chait provides an important, hopeful counterpoint to what I’ve been learning in the class. Chait is not impervious to the sense of cynicism and despair that can develop around this topic, and I love the way he highlights some good news–news worth acknowledging and celebrating.

2. On the same topic, I hadn’t read Pope Francis’ remarkable Laudato Si’: On Care For Our Common Home until I took this class. It is amazingly prescient, and it seems bolder than many of the statements that world leaders have made about the fate of our planet. I very much enjoy Bill McKibben’s thoughts on the Pope’s plea, too.

3. Thyroid cancer is known for being one of the more treatable cancers, with high rates of remission. Even so, the diagnosis and treatment can be difficult–perhaps more so because thyroid cancer is sometimes labeled “the good cancer.” According to one Mayo Clinic physician, “this dichotomy often makes them feel that they’re not entitled to complain or even feel bad.”

This Washington Post article, written by a woman whose mother has had thyroid cancer, aims to shed light on how thyroid cancer can still be a challenging condition to face and treat.

4. Some of you may seen that, this week, McDonald’s announced that it will stop using eggs from caged hens in the U.S. and Canada. It’s not the first fast-food chain to take this stance, but it may be the most major, using 2 billion eggs yearly.

Peter Singer weighs in on the news in this op-ed. I always feel mixed things when I read this kind of news, because the victory for animals (a stance against cages) is interspersed with reminders of how many animals remain captive, commodified, and in pain. As Singer notes, we are still so far from meaningful recognition of animal rights. But if these kinds of statements from corporations can engender any changes or improvements in day-to-day life for animals, then I think it’s still important to talk about them.

5. Finally, an article that really hit home for me, called “The Myth of the Before-and-After Photo.” The author, whose weight has changed throughout her struggle with disordered eating and recovery, notes that simple before and after shots would never speak to her experience, because fluctuations have been regular and ongoing. The essay is really a plea for us all to acknowledge that the human body is always in motion, shifting around to accommodate new life circumstances or events. It is a living being, not a commodity for us to control and monitor.

As you might imagine, given my ED story, I have weighed many different numbers. As tempting as it is to be always on a quest for a “happy weight” or a “natural weight,” what I’ve come to realize is that the truly natural thing is for my body to be in flux. It is a dynamic entity, and it will not always look the same, feel the same, weigh the same, or be the same.It’s not always easy to accept this, given my penchant for control, but it is the most respectful way to acknowledge my body’s needs and autonomy.

Of course major fluctuations in weight can be a sign of trouble, an indication that disordered eating cycles are underway, or an indication of illness or emotional distress. It’s healthy to acknowledge and address these kinds of changes. But it’s not healthy to try to pin the body down to a single weight for life.

If I were to flip through old photos, I’d see a lot of images, and none of them are really “before” or “after.” They’re part of an ongoing story, a narrative in which I hope I’m learning to love my body more profoundly and treat it better each and every day. I try to no longer see my body at different shapes and think “this was a good weight, this was a bad weight.” Rather, I ask, how was this shape connected to my life at the time? Digging a little deeper like this has the effect of preventing me from glamorizing my underweight photos (because I remember how lonely I was, how much I was struggling). It also helps me to resist passing judgment on the photos in which I weighed more. And in the moments when I’m tempted to look at ED photos with shame, it reminds me that I was struggling with an illness, and it invites me to forgive and accept where I was a the time.

On that note, friends, Happy Sunday. I’ll be back tomorrow with another weekly menu plan — hope you’ll tune in!


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  1. Thanks for that paragraph about weight change. I stood on the scales for the first time in a year this morning (unassertiveness at the doctor’s office) and the number, the terrible number, has been spinning around my head all day. Your perspective really helps.

  2. Oh congrats on the cooking class! That’s so exciting =) I wish they had super cool vegan people to teach classes like that out here! Maybe you should fly out to California ;p
    Great recipes! And I’m looking forward to reading the Washington Post article as a thyroid cancer survivor.

  3. First, that soup recipe sounds AMAZING and it is going on my meal plan list for next week. Give me buffalo everything, please.

    Second, I am really looking forward to the before and after article. I’m pregnant for the first time and watching my body go through crazy change is both awesome and disorienting. I would bet some of the points are relevant.


  4. I can wait to read that article about “before and after” shots. I have to agree, I worked at a “health” restaurant and I got lots of women saying things like “I gain 5 lbs over the summer that I need to loose!” I find it weird since my weigh fluctuates a lot, I am sure depending on what I eat in a day, how much a drink, and is less about how much “body mass” I have. I guess a lot of the fuss over numbers is misleading, but it gives a tangible number for people fixate with. It is easier to compare your weight to other people than physically measuring your thighs and waist, because bodies all look so different.

    • It definitely lifted my spirits, Christine, and reminded me to remain committed and empowered. I hope you feel similarly!

  5. Haven’s kitchen looks so beautiful!! I wish we had places like that where I am in CT. But also – Amazon says my Food52 Vegan book should be arriving tonight at 8 PM … SO EXCITED!! 😀

    • Sarah, I’m so honored you’ll be reading it! Thanks for your support…I hope you’ll be pleased with it.

  6. Great list this week Gena. Love the soup recipe, and I can’t agree more with your last point. Health is a journey, and so is recovery. It’s only natural our bodies would tell the story of that. That’s so cool about your cooking class too. Such lucky students you have!:)

    • I’m the one who was lucky! It was a fabulous crowd 🙂 Glad you found as much to identify with in the article as I did.

  7. Wow, Gena, congratulations on such a fun cooking class! It must have been really neat to teach people how to make things and then sit down together and enjoy it all! The buffalo cauliflower chowder looks really yummy to me, and I loved knowing St. Francis has written about the state of our earth in the way he has. I book marked it to read a little bit at at time, and I, too, look forward to Bill McKibbon’s commentary on it. Thank you!! zo

    • I can’t tell you how nice it was to experience the food side by side after the “lesson.” It made the class so much more intimate!

      I hope you enjoy Pope Francis’ essay — I think it’s very special.

  8. That place looks stunning. Must have been so dreamy teaching a class there. And that tart has my vote for sure.
    I’m Catholic and SO proud of our pope. Best one yet, so thanks for giving him some time in the spotlight.

  9. Thank you so much for linking to my buffalo cauliflower chowder recipe! 🙂 Also, I love your thoughts on the before and after thing. What an incredible shift in perspective. I’ll be mulling this today.

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