Reading Together

Is there anywhere more comforting than your bed? It’s the place of sleep, sex, and solitude. There’s nowhere cozier and more distant from the world’s insanity than the shelter of blankets and pillows you come back to night after night. Relationship and sleep experts regularly caution against bringing anything else in. No phones. No TVs. No work. Just calm, undistracted rest and romance. Your bed is the place you come back to every night after a long day. And where you can fully let your guard down. Stress and distraction shouldn’t be allowed in.

But there may be one more thing to do in bed that’s conducive to both a good night’s rest and intimacy with your mate: reading together. Yeah, reading. The benefits of books are well established—whether it’s to counter our increasingly goldfish attention spans or to feel a little more inspired and knowledgeable. Reading in bed before you call it a night is like a calming cup of tea for the psyche. When you crack open a book with someone else—with your significant other—it’s even more enjoyable and beneficial.

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Reading together in bed may not sound like the most obvious or exhilarating thing to do. It wasn’t always part of our relationship, but it has been for a while now. At first, we mostly read separate books. That was a great start—a much better way of winding down at night than other disjointed and distracted things we were doing. We would stop every few pages to talk about the interesting factoids or unexpected turns of the plot in our respective books.

Getting that enjoyable little hit of learning something new, asking eagerly to hear what happened next in their novel, or laughing in disbelief how randomly things we read connected with something that happened that day. Reading side by side in the comfort of your bed is a bit like binging shows on the couch, but with more nourishing engagement for your brains than passively watching, and without the sleep-depriving effects of a screen.

Over time, we’ve discovered that it’s even more enjoyable to go through the same book together. One of us will read out loud to the other. Or we’ll hold the pages in-between us so we can silently read along and stop for tangents or wait for the other to catch up. It’s mostly been novels lately—falling asleep imaging what characters might do next and where we see our lives in the stories. But we’ve read through plenty of nonfiction books on communicating, emotions, travel, and history and politics (though sometimes those have been a little dark or depressing for bed).

It’s a unique and wonderful feeling to share stories and ideas with the person you love most. There’s a kind of restorative psychological intimacy that reading together in bed produces—adding layers of closeness and pleasure to what sex and sleep do. Whether you’re lost in some book on mindfulness while they’re in the thick of a fantasy novel, or you’re taking turns reading the same book out loud, you’re engaging your minds in a way that makes them more intricately and satisfyingly connected. It’s a bridge that takes you out of the day’s stresses and absurdities and into each other. It’s much better than being hypnotized by the glow of your phones—barely aware of one other.

Your bed is a place to be vulnerable and calm. After all the day’s ups and downs, you get to lower your defenses and alert systems and hyperactivity to sink into the covers and just be. No demands, no bustle, no fires to put out. It’s all the more comforting when you share your bed with your true love (as long as they don’t snore or take up the whole damn thing—but that’s another post). You get to just be, together. That sacred space of warmth, solitude, and intimacy are beautifully deepened when you open a book together before curling up to go into dreamland.

Sioux Chef

There’s nothing like new encounters with food and food cultures. The first time you have sushi. The first time you have pho. The first time you have Korean barbecue. The first time you taste a blueberry in-season. The first time you have good coffee.

But not all foods and food cultures are equally represented. Even here in LA, there are certain things that are hard to find or underappreciated. Lately, we’ve been exploring Native American cuisine–which isn’t really on most people’s radar. Our entry point has been the excellent book The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen. This James Beard finalist is no mere recipe collection. Listen to the dedication page:

This book is dedicated to our ancestors and all indigenous people who have suffered through centuries of colonialism. We, the First Nation descendants, are living proof of courage and resilience. We offer our work to the next generation so that they may carry the flame of knowledge and keep alive our traditions, our foods, and our medicines for generations to come. We devote these pages to the earth, Turtle Island, our home, our everything, in hopes that we indigenous people will always stand strong to protect her.

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This book is a gift of history, remembrance, and wisdom from the communities in which it originated—uncomfortable settler-colonial truths included. It feels fortunate to read and learn and prepare dishes that have such rootedness and story.

Indigenous Kitchen goes far beyond fry bread (while outlining its origins) to reconnect with what “the ancestors ate before Europeans arrived on our lands.” The book is a milestone in Chef Sean Sherman’s ongoing pursuit of reconnecting and recording. “Every day, our work becomes richer and more interesting as we travel and meet with elders, indigenous chefs, historians, researchers, health professionals, and food justice advocates.”

Indigenous Kitchen encapsulates “our specific northern Midwestern region, but it’s hard to be precise…we’re not purists…” (yay, Midwest!). In addition to being delicious and enlightening, this culinary tradition has the added benefits of being “hyperlocal, ultraseasonal, uber-healthy: no processed foods, no sugar, no wheat (or gluten), no dairy, no high-cholesterol animal products. It’s naturally low glycemic, high protein, low salt, plant based with lots of grains, seeds, and nuts…It’s what so many diets strive to be but fall short for lack of context. This is a diet that connects us all to nature and to each other in the most direct and profound ways.”

All of which makes Chef Sherman wonder, “Why isn’t the original indigenous diet all the rage today?” Yeah, why? Perhaps it soon will be–thanks to this book, Chef Sherman’s restaurant and other projects, and continuing research, preservation, and advocacy.

Cooking from Indigenous Kitchen has added wonderful depth to our existing convictions of eating and living in better rhythm with nature–and learning more about Amy’s Native American roots.

 

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Maple-Sage Roasted Vegetables

 

So what are some of our favorite things from the book? The Maple-Sage Roasted Vegetables are fantastic. Super easy to prepare, super easy to adjust for seasonality and availability, and super tasty. You can make this last-minute on a weeknight. Have as leftovers with fried corn cakes. Or add to greens and herbs for a hearty salad. Yum.

The maple vinegar that recipe calls for was new for us. It definitely brings the whole dish together with its unique, subtle tang. Indigenous Kitchen has given us first-time cooking encounters with juniper, cedar, sumac, duck eggs, smoked salt, and many more ingredients. The Indigenous Pantry section is worth perusing for its own sake and intrigue. Several dishes have maple syrup. Who doesn’t want to eat more of that?

Some other things we’ve really liked are:

Squash and Apple Soup with Fresh Cranberry

Wild Rice Pilaf with Wild Mushrooms, Roasted Chestnuts, and Dried Cranberry

Cedar Braised Beans

 

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Corn cakes with raspberry-rosehip sauce

 

Wojape

We’ve only just begun cooking our way through the book. Next, we want to find respectable, affordable sources of bison and venison shipping to LA (one of the things we miss from living in Wisconsin) so we can dive into more of the meat dishes. (Sorry, vegans and vegetarians). Can’t wait.

It’d be awesome to see Indigenous Kitchen win the James Beard award in its category. It totally deserves it. But whether it does or not, this is a book, a project, and a culinary tradition that should be on everyone’s radar. If you’re trying to eat more holistically, or want to learn more about Native American cuisine, pick up a copy of Indigenous Kitchen and get cooking.