Weekend Reading, 1.9.15
January 9, 2016

weekend_reading

Happy Saturday! Hope you’re all staying warm and settling easily back into the swing of things after the winter holidays. I had a busy back-to-work week and am looking to catch up on cooking, blog brainstorming, and menu planning for the week ahead this weekend. Here are some of the recipes and images that have been inspiring me.

Recipes

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A little something sweet from Sarah of Snixy Kitchen: Ginger Tofu Pudding with Soy Milk Mochi and Kinako Black Sesame Puffed Millet Crumble. It’s a mouthful, but what a delicious, creamy, crunchy, and delicious mouthful it looks to be! Can’t wait to try the pudding.

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I love the look of Harriet Emily’s Spicy Vegetable Buckwheat Bowls: a simple, nourishing, and warming winter dish.

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Jodi’s Baked Sweet Potatoes with Mustard Greens, Leeks, White Beans and a Cilantro Tahini look just fabulous–an all-in-one winter meal that features a lesser-used type of leafy green. So filling and appetizing.

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All it takes to get my attention are the words “vegan special sauce.” Laura’s savory, spicy blend is perfect for all of your grain bowls, salads, tacos, and more.

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Ashlae’s desserts never fail to impress, and this delectable Almost Raw Crunchy Caramel Slice is no exception. I love the little dusting of maldon and the chocolate drizzle. Droolworthy!

Reads

1. First, an unconventional piece of science and biology journalism that I thought was pretty remarkable: Rebecca Gigg’s “Whale Fall,” published in Granta, which describes the experience of observing a beached humpback as it dies. The article explains how toxins and pollutants created by our industrial processes accumulate in whale blubber, often sickening and killing them (the same process is also happening with starfish, some of whom seem to melt as they decline).

To some degree, the article is a work of traditional narrative science journalism, but the essay also offers a personal, thoughtful, and deeply troubled reaction to the encounter with the whale, and it’s worth reading for its depth of feeling. I particularly like Giggs’ musings on how we are essentially de-wilding the safe oceanic habitations of whales:

In the weeks that followed the beaching I found myself preoccupied with an unhappy idea. Our feelings about the dying whale, what it signified and how to save it, might have been misplaced. Chiefly what we talked about, when we talked about whales, was how we’d learned to leave them in the sea, to stop taking them from the wild. This was a self-satisfied story to tell in Australia, a story that was as much about our human capacity for benevolence and awe as it was about the resilience of other species. But what if we were now taking the wildness out of the whale? If deep inside whales the indelible imprint of humans could be found, could we go on recounting the myth of their remarkable otherness, their strange, wondrous and vast animalian world? It struck me that the green dream, lethal and serene, might have been ours after all.”

2. I was struck by this hard-hitting and powerful essay from Brooke Borel, who discusses problems and pressures in science journalism today. Her main point is that science journalists are often expected to adopt the “positive profiles of politicians” — never questioning the work of the scientists whom they’ve been assigned to investigate or profile. And when they do question it, they run the risk of being accused of an “anti-science” posture. Part of the problem, she says, “is a continued misunderstanding of what science journalism is, and how it differs from other forms of science communication.”

Borel argues her point well, noting that journalists have a duty to present the realities of scientific research in all of their complexity:

“Science journalists may write about science, but it’s also our job to look beyond wonders, hypotheses and data. It is to look at the people doing the science and whether they have conflicts of interest, or trace where their money is coming from. It is to look at power structures, to see who is included in the work and who is excluded or marginalized, whether because of gender or race or any other identity.”

Science journalists play an important role in relaying the sometimes jargon-laden and complex findings of scientists to readers like me, who benefit from the presence and perspective of an objective interlocutor. I agree with Borel that this objectivity should be preserved, and I was struck by her conclusion that,

Science journalists are not science advocates. And scientists aren’t science. When we confuse one for the other, it’s not just an innocent matter of semantics – it’s a great disservice both to readers and to science.”

3. I admired this article in the National Journal about a black-white sleep gap, and I think it’s an important read for anyone who is interested in public health. The article demonstrates that on average black people get about an hour less sleep per night than whites. Notably, this discrepancy continues even when researchers adjust for economic factors and income. Serious health implications stem from this gap. The author, Brian Resnick, argues:

…[E]vid­ence from mo­lecu­lar bio­logy, epi­demi­ology, and psy­cho­logy points to the idea that poor sleep is a risk factor for heart dis­ease, dia­betes, and obesity—which are all ail­ments that dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fect black com­munit­ies. In Amer­ica, blacks are 33 per­cent more likely to die from heart dis­ease than the pop­u­la­tion at large, 1.7 times more likely to have dia­betes, and 1.5 times more likely to be obese. For every 100,000 blacks, it’s es­tim­ated that heart dis­ease takes away 1,691.1 years of po­ten­tial life in a giv­en year. For whites, that fig­ure is 900.9 years.

Over­all, if we factor out deaths caused by aging, the mor­tal­ity rate for black men—from all causes—in the United States is 1,104 per 100,000, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion. For white men, the mor­tal­ity rate is 878.5 deaths per 100,000. For white wo­men, that fig­ure is 630.8 per 100,000; for black wo­men, it’s 752.5. Could sleep ex­plain part of the dif­fer­ence between blacks and whites?

Hopefully increased investigation into the sleep gap can help researchers to create more public consciousness about the issue. For now, I think the article rightly portrays this phenomenon as lying at an intersection of public health and racial justice.

4. Another powerful work of science journalism, this time on the topic of schizophrenia and its treatment in the U.S.. The author, Jonathan Cohn, argues that early intervention in the lives of schizophrenics has demonstrated remarkable success in other countries, like Australia. Here in America, intervention often comes too late, by which point schizophrenia has progressed to a degree that makes self-sufficiency, professional opportunities, and social integration more difficult. Cohn touches on why postures and attitudes about mental illness in our culture and health care system at large make early treatment a challenge:

Too many people, including some mental health professionals, think of psychiatric disease as something fundamentally different from physical disease. And yet the more we learn about mental illness, the less meaningful that distinction appears. McGorry [an Australian researcher] now believes that the model of screening, preventative care and aggressive early treatment could be used to reduce the incidence not only of schizophrenia, but of other mental illnesses like depression and bipolar disease.”

An important read, and yet more evidence that we need to start giving mental illness the same attention and strategic, early intervention that we often reserve for predominantly physical illnesses.

5. And finally, we end on a light note: a fun article about taste, including 12 fun facts you might not know (such as the fact that tastes can be genetically determined, or the fact that sweeter foods create stronger food memories).

And that’s it for this Saturday, friends. Enjoy all of the reads. Coming up this week, a Monday menu plan, a delicious (and easy) go-to tempeh recipe, and on Thursday, a new product review and tasty vegan pasta dinner recipe. Hope to see you soon!

xo

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    8 Comments
  1. HI Gena–I was off savoring a day trip to the ocean, which I haven’t seen in over two decades, so I’m a little late to Weekend Reading. But, as always, I love seeing the variety of food for the plate and for thought you present for us. Those sweet potatoes with mustard greens look really yummy to me, and I, too, was intrigued by the tofu ginger pudding. Such powerful food for thought in the articles too. I liked what you quoted from the science journalism article about also needing to know where the money comes from to fund certain kinds of science, etc. You keep us on our toes, Gena! 🙂 xo

    • Maria, I’m glad you liked the articles and the recipes! Also, I’m so glad you got a day trip to the ocean. That must have felt restorating and exciting, since it had been a while, and with a new year ahead of us. Hope it was lovely. XO

  2. I can’t get over that vegan special sauce (my husband calls it “super sauce”). I’ve made it twice since the recipe was posted and I haven’t found anything it isn’t fabulous on.

    I’m excited to try some of the other recipes you’ve linked!

  3. The biological model dominates treatment of schizophrenia in USA as well as in Australia, even if intervention happens not as early as Cohn would like. I have nothing against “early intervention,” as long as it’s not ipso facto “medical” intervention. For a wonderful and radically other perspective on this perplexing illness, I recommend Christopher Bollas new book: http://yalepress.yale.edu/book.asp?isbn=9780300214734. You can listen to him discuss it here: http://newbooksinpsychoanalysis.com/ I *know* how important it is for those who are suffering from mental/emotional distress to access care, and sadly, this depends on there being some sort of medical diagnosis and parity laws, etc. But to my mind the search for biological basis of these disorders completely shifts focus away from their psychic origins and a real cure, via analysis. To the point where most analysts are excluded from the sick care delivery system, making it available only to those who can pay out of pocket for it. The rich get cured, the poor get medicated.

  4. I am always looking forward to your weekend reads. Especially the article suggestions are so great.
    Have a great weekend.
    xo Nora

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