Weekend Reading, 12.12.15
December 12, 2015


Good morning, all, and happy Saturday to you. After what feels like a really long week, I’m happy to enjoying a morning at home, catching up on articles and recipes, even if I’ll soon be cracking the books open to prepare for my final exams. I’ve got my human development exam on Tuesday, which is actually fun to prepare for, as this particular chunk of material is fascinating to me. It includes adolescent nutrient needs and deficiencies, inborn errors of metabolism, food allergies and anaphylaxis, and eating disorders. It doesn’t feel like studying at all–more like a really compelling chunk of reading.

My advanced nutrition exam, on Wednesday, will be just a little more of a slog 😉

In any case, until I sit down with my flashcards, here are the recipes and articles I’ve been enjoying over coffee.


I have yet to really perfect a recipe for quinoa granola, though my recent experience making a toasted quinoa topping for salad indicates that good results are around the corner, and I should keep trying.

For now, I can just admire Maura’s beautiful quinoa and buckwheat granola with almonds and dates from the Yellow Lemon Tree blog.


Next, a recipe that vividly demonstrates how a few simple ingredients can create something wonderful and seasonal. Sherri’s winter tabbouli salad features only kale, sorghum, and pomegranate, but what a great combination that is, and the addition of a bright, citrusy clementine dressing makes the dish special and festive. Love.


A perfect bowl of pasta comfort food for cold winter nights. I love Hot For Food‘s creamy, cashew based vegan fettuccine alfredo, which features the hearty addition of mushrooms. Great dish for entertaining, too.


I love when dinner recipes are as hearty and as nourishing as they are quick, and Lisa’s fabulous easy coconut curry stir fry noodles with glazed tofu from Healthy Nibbles & Bits is a perfect example. Check out the incredible crispy texture she got on the tofu!


And for dessert, what could be more seasonal and more drool-worthy than this gingersnap chocolate cream pie from the lovely Lily of Kale and Caramel? I love the thought to pair something traditional and chocolate-y with holiday flavors and a gingersnap crust.


1. My first article pick summarizes some recent data from a study conducted by UConn’s Rudd Center in Connecticut. It suggests that in spite of the fact that weight-phobia and weight bias are still very real and unfortunately prevalent, the majority of people are very sensitive to weight prejudices and support measures to combat them, at least in the workplace. The majority of U.S. respondents favored boosting current human-rights laws with anti-weight-discrimination language. It’s some evidence, at least in theory, of a culture that is less “fat-phobic” than we might fear.

2. Many of you have probably been following news of the climate change talks in Paris, or keeping abreast of live news with the #COP21 hashtag on Twitter. I find the event hopeful, as it indicates a strong consensus among global leaders that every nation must do its part to find ways to arrest global warming.

Still, industrial animal agriculture, which is a leading contributor to climate change through carbon and methane emissions, may not be getting the serious attention it deserves. Deena Shanker wrote a great article on this for Quartz. And her piece made me think of a recent article I’d read in The Telegraph, about a British think tank that has suggested that meat be taxed as a means of helping to protect the planet.

3. I was intrigued by this article in NPR’s The Salt, a profile of German nudist August Engelhardt, who became obsessed with the idea that a mono-diet of coconut was the only pure and godly diet (he believed that, because the coconut grew high up in trees, it was closest to god and the sun). Engelhardt relocated to a South Pacific island and attemtped to live exclusively off of coconuts, which unfortunately led him to a terrible death of rheumatism and severe malnourishment at 44.

This is a singular case of obsession and dietary zealotry gone much too far, but I could detect some faint echoes in the tale of some of the superfood fixations and the quest for dietary purity that we still see circulating today. The author of the article, Nina Martyris, calls Engelhardt’s story “a cautionary tale on the perils of food fanaticism.”

4. In the context of the drought in California and the publicization of how water-intensive a crop almonds are, there’s been quite a bit of controversy over almond milk, almond flour, and other almond-heavy food products. Most vocal writers on food politics and sustainability have gone on the record with thoughts similar to those expressed by Mark Bittman in this article: to hone in on almonds as a single culprit is to overlook much bigger economic and agricultural forces that have engendered the drought. Even my nutritional ecology professor, Joan Dye Gussow, who does more to support local agriculture and self-reliance than anyone I’ve ever met, admits that she keeps raw almonds in her home for snacks, and is quick to say that the vilification of almonds right now is an over-simplification of a much bigger problem.

Still, it’s hard not to feel a little conflicted about almond consumption right now, and that sense of unease is what Susan Dominus captures so well in her article for Food & Wine, The Nut Paradox. What I like about her article is that it shows how quick we are to place foods at either extreme end of a spectrum that spans the distance between “evil” and “superfood.” Short and smart and worth reading.

5. In spite of the fact that I think the title is a little misleading, I was excited to read this article about efforts to make eating disorder research, activism, and support systems sensitive to differing cultural norms and diverse communities. It features the work of Mae-Lynn Reyes-Rodriguez, a clinical psychologist at the University of North Carolina Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders in Chapel Hill, and that of Gloria Lucas, a 24-year-old who has founded Naglona Positivity Pride, a body positive site for communities of color. Lucas notes that therapy and traditional 12-step recovery programs were not “culturally relevant” for her: “Sometimes, immigrant parents try to guilt their kids into eating, even once they are full, by saying things like, ‘When I was growing up, I didn’t have this food. You have to eat it.’ They’re small messages, but they are deep,” she says.

It’s something I have to unlearn — if I’m full, I don’t have to eat it all. That’s OK.”

I became even more excited about the article when I read that the work of my friend Lynn Chen, who blogs at The Actor’s Diet, was also featured. Lynn has co-founded Thick Dumpling Skin, an organization that aims to “create a community for Asian-Americans to discuss their past, present, and future relationships with their bodies.” The article details some of the conflicting cultural messages that Lynn grew up with:

“…she received mixed messages as a child: She was encouraged to eat large quantities of food but remain skinny.

Growing up, she struggled with binge eating. During the worst times, Chen, an actress, would have what she called “last supper” days. She’d make sure she didn’t have anything scheduled and would begin eating starting in the morning and ending in the evening…

‘I have been binge eating my whole life,’ Chen says, adding that she also struggled with anorexia after being cast in a soap opera in 2004. ‘The dieting became anorexia. I’d go through a period of binge eating and a period of starvation.’

Chen, like Lucas, hopes to bring awareness of eating disorders to diverse communities. By sharing her stories, she hopes young women can avoid the confusion and pitfalls she struggled with growing up.”

I am so proud of the work Lynn is doing, and I know it’ll help to reach a lot of people. Hope you’ll check out Thick Dumpling Skin for yourselves. And I’m also curious to hear if this article resonates with you. How do you feel the culture in which you grew up may have influenced your experience with eating and/or disordered eating? I had good family role models with food in the form of my mother and grandmother, but to some extent, I do think that the Greek American culture I grew up in, with its strong emphasis on food and finishing everything on one’s plate, may have contributed to some of my struggles later on.

With that question and food for thought, I’m off to start my day. Have a wonderful weekend, all.


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  1. you love to hear more of your thoughts on (food) allergies and anaphylaxis! i’ve read it it due to having a ‘sick gut.’ how can it be cured?

    • Hi Cel!

      From what I understand, food allergies — including those severe enough to cause anaphylaxis — aren’t due to a “sick gut.” The cause is often genetic in origin, though sometimes the cause is simply not understood. The mechanism is that your body mounts an immunologic response to an antigen (foreign substance) that’s essentially harmless, and the symptoms follow (so, you’re exposed to an antigen once, and your plasma cells secrete IgE antibodies as a response, and they attach to basophils and mast cells; when you’re re-exposed, the antigen attaches to the IgE antibodies, and the basophils and mast cells degranulate, releasing histamines and other chemicals that cause the symptoms of a food allergy).

      There can be plenty of digestive symptoms of food allergy, including vomiting and nausea, but the origin, so far as I know, is not in the GI tract — it’s more that the GI tract can be one of many parts of the body affected.

      There is a theory that changes in our microbiome may be altering our immune responses in such a way as to contribute to the rise of food allergies on the whole, but this hasn’t been proven, and if it is true, it’s likely one of several reasons why we’re seeing more food allergies overall.

      There’s really no known cure for food allergies. The best practices are management through careful elimination of the allergens and, for folks who do have anaphylaxis as a response, keeping epinephrine and antihistamines handy in case of accidental ingestion. Some people–a good number, actually–do outgrow allergies. It’s common to outgrow milk, egg, wheat and soy, but pretty uncommon to outgrow peanuts, tree nuts, fish, or shellfish — those four tend to stick around for life.

      Hope this helps!

  2. I definitely thought the article made a lot of good points, and I’m glad to see women of color being considered and valued in the treatment of eating disorders. The themes the article discusses do resonate with me–my family is Jewish, so there is a ton of food at EVERY occasion, and my mom always has to be feeding guests if they come over. At the same time, my mom can get on my case about my weight, and scrutinize what I’m eating. The paradox there has never been helpful.

  3. gorgeous round-up gena! lisa’s tofu makes me smile so big. an extreme point of interest to me was the Engelhardt fellow who dined on divine coconuts until his demise – incredibly fascinating! hope you have a lovely week! ♥

  4. Such a sweet, mind- and belly-nourishing roundup! Thanks so much for sharing my pie, too 🙂 (just sent you a note about that via your contact form). And YAY for the amazing work Lynn Chen is doing! I just had the opportunity to chat with her on The Actor’s Diet podcast and we had the best time. And ended it all with some of that pie! If only you could have come over for a slice, too.

  5. Great links as usual Gena. I also have exams this week, at least the semester is almost over. Good luck!

    • It used to be Whole Soy & Co., but they are gone, alas. I love Nancy’s soy yogurt, but I can’t seem to find it very easily. I also like the Amande almond milk yogurt very much!

  6. Thanks for another great round-up of recipes and reading, Gena. I really enjoyed all the recipes this time. I also noticed a theme of finding balance within extremes in the articles. Your friend Lynn is doing some magnificent work for Asian Americans. And yes, of course, cultural background and family profoundly influence our eating habits. Good Luck with those finals!! xoxo

  7. yes the article resonated with me! it took me right back to childhood – forced to eat heavy carbohydrate based diet and at the same time being shamed for being heavy. my father was second generation American and felt we had to eat everything on our plates regardless of whether we liked it or were full. my mother also used food to self-comfort so I also have that history as well. And shame came from both sides and society as I became heavy. i’m still struggling with this history 50 years later.

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