50/50. For Real. (Parents Magazine)

As I write this story, my 4-year-old’s preschool has been closed for two days due to a snowstorm. So she’s home on a weekday, along with her baby sister. But I’m squirreled away in our home office, typing furiously, while my husband, Dan (currently on paternity leave), changes diapers, supervises art time, and makes the nap schedule happen. When the roads are finally plowed, he takes the girls to the grocery store to replenish our dwindling supplies from the shared list we sync on our phones. When they’re back, I pop down to do lunch so he can shovel our steps and grab a shower. “Three people told me I was a hero,” he reports of their shopping expedition. We laugh. We both know nobody has ever congratulated me—or any mom—for being with my kids and buying milk at the same time.

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[On Eating and Reading]

Food Reads

There are some excellent food reads out there right now, so a round-up post seemed in order.

The Carnivore Diet is the Latest Fad to Ignore that Food Does More Than Just Feed Us. Oh man, everything about this piece is so great. Especially:

After 13 days of the carnivore diet, I realized that focusing on physiology fails to capture what makes carnivory so extreme. One valuable lesson of the diet is that human bodies are remarkably resilient: You can shit without fiber and avoid scurvy without vegetables! But reducing food to physiology is as shallow as reducing culture to biology. It’s hard to overstate the sociocultural importance of culinary traditions. Breaking bread. “Comfort food.” Grandma’s recipe. PotlatchsWedding toasts. Birthday cake. Thanksgiving dinner. You don’t have to be a foodie for food to be meaningful—you just have to be a human being.

(Alan Levinovitz/Tonic)

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Come Work With Me! (Part-Time Writer’s Assistant Needed)

UPDATE: THIS POSITION HAS BEEN FILLED. (Thanks so much to everyone who applied!) 

I’m hiring again! I last posted this job in 2014 and have been lucky enough to have the same great person with me for the past four years. In fact, Allison is still working with me, but her career has grown wildly and impressively during that time (I can take no credit for that, she’s just that good) so she’s been promoted over here at Virginia Headquarters to podcast producer (I guess I can take a little credit for that part).

So the time has come to send up the flare once again! I need a (very part-time, freelance) assistant who can manage some of my logistics, help with details for my upcoming book launch, do story research, and so on. Here’s the deal.

THE IDEAL CANDIDATE

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Introducing: The Comfort Food Podcast!

Big news, friends! I’ve launched a new podcast, with my best friend (and fellow food-obsessive) Amy Palanjian of the wildly popular blog Yummy Toddler Food.

Comfort Food is about the joys (and meltdowns!) of feeding our families and ourselves. It’s about dealing with picky eaters. It’s about fighting back against diet culture. It’s about food — and that means it’s also about feminism, families and life.

You can listen to our first three episodes right now! Then stay tuned, because we’ll be dropping a new episode every week. So if  you’re already a podcast listener and you don’t want to miss an episode, just subscribe (for free!) in iTunesStitcherGoogle PlayTuneIn Radio, or wherever else you get your podcasts. If you’re new to podcasts, don’t worry. All of the episode links, with more details and links and photos, can be found through our show notes. And we’ll tell you everything you need to know to start listening.

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We Ate Ice Cream for Dinner Last Night

It was one of those Wednesdays. My older daughter had a doctor’s appointment right after school and then we were racing to sneak in a haircut before dinner. The baby was along for the ride; my husband was commuting back from the city. As we left the hair salon, the baby started wailing and my 4-year-old started whining and I realized it was after 5 pm and I had made no plans to feed them.

So I drove to the ice cream store.

And this was dinner: A scoop of mint chip for me. A scoop of chocolate with rainbow sprinkles for the preschooler. A half scoop of vanilla for the 8 month old. We sat on the front porch of our town’s beloved ice cream spot and watched tug boats gliding along the Hudson River. Hands and faces were sticky. Tummies were full. I’m not sure why they’re so somber that picture, because they were, in fact, so happy.

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The People Who Are Afraid of Food (Medium.com)

The restaurant in southeastern Virginia is the kind of place that makes its own fresh-squeezed juices and has kale on the menu in three different places. The waiter lets diners know that any grain dish can be made gluten-free. As he takes orders, the dishes, from octopus ceviche with wasabi dressing to pan-roasted salmon with quinoa and lemon aioli, are complex. Elyse, a 29-year-old sales executive, reluctantly opens her menu and prays. Please let there be a kids’ section. Please tell me they have regular fries.

This is a work lunch for Elyse; her dining companions are prospective clients, and she wants to make a good impression. She does not want to give the speech she’s given a million times, answer awkward questions, or pretend not to notice the puzzled looks that follow after she orders her meal. But Elyse can’t bring herself to eat seafood, meat, or most kinds of dairy. She eats no vegetables and few fruits, unless they’ve been pureed into a smoothie. “I’m almost 30 years old,” Elyse says. “And I still eat like a toddler.”

Most days, Elyse drinks a smoothie for breakfast, has potato chips and chocolate milk for lunch, and makes a tray of potatoes roasted with olive oil, plus another smoothie, for dinner. She also eats bread, crackers, chips, mixed nuts, and popcorn. “It used to be french fries every lunch and dinner,” Elyse says. In high school and college, she went to McDonald’s twice a day, nearly every day, to get fries. “I always wondered what the people who worked there thought of me,” she says. “I mean, they aren’t going to judge you for eating fries, but at a certain point I’m sure they wondered, ‘Does this girl eat anything else?’”

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Families Belong Together

One day, during my daughter’s last hospital stay, she needed an MRI. She couldn’t be fully sedated for the procedure, but the doctors and nurses assured my husband and I that we could go with her, to help keep her calm. This was important because she was two years old and living through months of extreme medical trauma. She was terrified of anyone who wasn’t us. But when we got to the radiology lab, the rules — abruptly and inexplicably — changed. Our daughter was whisked into the procedure room on a gurney, and before I could slip in behind her, the door slammed in my face. Dan and I stood on the other side of that locked door for twenty minutes, listening to her scream for me from the MRI tube.

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On Gwyneth Paltrow and Reading My Book Out Loud

So that pile of papers is…my book!

In the biz, we call this “First Pass.” The manuscript has been revised, copy-edited, fact-checked and typeset… so this was the first time I got to read my words on pages that look like actual book pages, not a Word document. This is the second time I’ve edited a hard copy — I printed the whole Word doc out to line edit before I submitted my first draft last fall. But I did something a little different this time, which was to read the whole manuscript out loud. I got this tip from Anna Quindlen when I heard her interviewed on my favorite writing podcast; apparently she always reads her manuscripts out loud in their entirety. It sounds sort of obvious, but I can see why most people don’t do it. It is surprisingly exhausting to read a whole book out loud. One chapter takes several hours when you’re stopping to edit and also drink a lot of water. It took me the better part of two weeks to get through the whole thing.

But it was excellent advice. I found I caught far more mistakes and word reps and run-on sentences than I ever do reading silently. So much so that I am now slightly despairing that galleys (advance reading copies — the things that look a lot more like books but don’t have hard covers) are made from these First Pass pages before all my corrections went in. So if you get a galley from me in the next few weeks, please know the final book really is going to be oh so much better and maybe don’t even really read the galley, but just admire it from afar? (Unless I’m asking you to blurb, of course. And even then, maybe sort of skim?)

Okay but here are some things you can read — silently or out loud, your choice — while you’re waiting to read my book.

“If I can afford steak, why worry about buying beans?” Fascinating interviews with black men on how they perceive their food environments.

Should we use prisoners to study salt

Almost everybody gets unhealthy eventually: I love how Dr. Arya Sharma breaks down a new LANCET study, which tried to conclude that even if you’re “healthy fat” now, you’ll end up “unhealthy fat” later. (Short version: You probably will. But so will your “healthy thin” friend. It’s called aging!)

President Obama’s Lucky Pasta

It’s just not nice (or helpful!) to call your kid a picky eater. (And if there’s one thing I learned researching my book: Pickiness is in the eye of the beholder.)

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The Snack Drawer Experiment

I posted this pic on Instagram a few weeks ago, of my effort to give our 4-year-old choices she would enjoy (rather than whine about) at snack time. The goal here was not to police her sugar intake or anything like that, but rather, to get on top of the endless “I need a snack!”-itis that we sometimes (often) endure. A lot of folks chimed in, because whoa, the snack struggle is real. It’s such a weird invented meal, stemming partly from legit need (kid bellies do need filling every few hours and often more frequently than adults) but partly from our snack-on-demand food culture, that encourages kids to think they need to eat whenever their hands aren’t busy.

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This is Why a Perfect Pregnancy is BS (Parents Magazine)

Why A Perfect Pregnancy is BS, Parents Magazine, Virginia Sole-Smith

It was the 18th week of my second pregnancy. I lay in a fake-leather recliner, holding my breath and my husband’s hand as a maternal fetal medicine specialist slid an ultrasound wand over my abdomen. This wasn’t your standard anatomy check. The doctor was trying to see if our baby had all four chambers of her heart. And if she would be spared the 12 surgeries, six months of hospital life, and countless moments of pain and panic that our first daughter endured during her early years.

 Violet was born with a rare collection of life-threatening congenital heart defects, all of which were somehow missed on the half-dozen ultrasounds I had during my pregnancy with her. We didn’t know anything was wrong until her heart began shutting down when she was a month old. Violet is now a happy and healthy 4-year-old who begins every sentence with “Actually… ” But her heart condition is lifelong. The question that haunted every conversation Dan and I had about a second child was: What if it happens again?

The odds of that were small, but much bigger than if it hadn’t happened the first time. So my second pregnancy was immediately classified as high risk. I underwent every genetic test and screening because my doctor was determined not to miss so much as a prenatal pimple. And so, after searching the grainy images of our baby on the ultrasound monitor for about ten minutes, my doctor turned to me with a huge smile. “Her heart is developing normally,” he said. “This baby gets an A+. Good work, Mom!”

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  • COMING SOON

    The Eating Insinct: Food Culture, Body Image, and Guilt in America by Virginia Sole Smith

    Pre-order now!