Weekend Reading, 2.14.16
February 14, 2016


Happy Valentine’s Day, friends. It’s the coldest Valentine’s on record here in NYC, and I’ve been listening to a howling wind outside since I woke up this morning. I’ll be staying inside as much as I possibly can today, catching up on school and work, probably baking something sweet for me and Steven as part of our Valentine’s Day at home, and whipping up a batch of my lentil sloppy Joe’s for a date night dinner. I hope everyone who’s reading from the Northeast is keeping safe and warm today!

In the meantime, here are some of the reads that have caught my eye on this frozen morning.



I’m sharing Molly’s delightful pita ribollita first today, because it’s precisely what I’d like to be eating in this weather. I love the addition of cannellini beans, and you could easily substitute vegan yogurt for regular yogurt or labneh.


Sofia’s spicy thai sweet potato wedges are also perfect cold weather food, thanks to the hearty, starchy, comforting slabs of potato and the nice dose of heat from chili paste. Yum.


Lisa’s new zucchini noodle bowl with peanut coconut sauce is so full of texture and flavor, and that sauce?! I already want to drink it with a straw, and I haven’t even made it yet.


For a perfect wintery side dish, check out Katie’s colorful, cheery beets with cranberries and spiced nuts. I love the sweet and savory notes here!


Finally, a burst of color with Wendy’s lovely roasted garlic tomato lentil salad. Roasting garlic is a perfect way to fold tons of flavor into what is otherwise a simple, humble lentil dish, and I love the addition of soft, sweet roasted cherry tomatoes.


1. To begin with, a look into many pairs of eyes in the animal kingdom. This National Geographic article examines the physiology of seeing across a host of different species, with particular focus on evolution and adaptation. The photographs are mesmerizing, and the article itself is fascinating.

2. I really loved Charles Siebert’s New York Times Magazine article about the unexpected bond between traumatized veterans and abandoned parrots. As Siebert makes clear, the parrots have experienced their own kind of profound trauma:

Abandoned pet parrots are twice-traumatized beings: denied first their natural will to flock and then the company of the humans who owned them. In the wild, parrots ply the air, mostly, in the same way whales do the sea: together and intricately. Longtime pairs fly wing to wing within extended, close-knit social groupings in which individual members, scientists have recently discovered, each have unique identifiable calls, like human names. Parrots learn to speak them soon after birth, during a transitional period of vocalizing equivalent to human baby babbling known as ‘‘subsong,’’ in order to better communicate with members of their own flocks and with other flocks. This, it turns out, is the root of that vaunted gift for mimicry, which, along with their striking plumages and beguilingly fixed, wide-eyed stares, has long induced us to keep parrots — neuronally hard-wired flock animals with up to 60-to-70-year life spans and the cognitive capacities of 4-to-5-year-old children — all to ourselves in a parlor cage: a broken flight of human fancy; a keening kidnapee.”

Unlike most articles about animal-assisted therapy, this essay truly focuses on the experience and inner lives of parrots, rather than presenting them as instruments by which human beings heal. The article is about a special kinship between sentient beings who have suffered, and about what Siebert calls the “expansive anatomy of empathy.”

3. Almonds are getting a lot of attention lately because they are such a water-thirsty crop. It seems difficult not to ask ourselves whether or not almond milk is a sustainable commodity in the midst of so much water shortage in California, where almonds are grown (though it’s worth noting that animal agriculture consumes far more water than almonds, and that alfalfa, which is grown for animal feed, is an even more water-intensive crop).

For this reason, I was interested to read about the farming of Palestinian almonds that are adapted to to low water. The article is also an interesting portrait of a new farming enterprise that might help marginalized, rural farmers.

4. If you’re nervous about antiperspirant use in the context of potential breast cancer risk, this article does a very good job of synthesizing the evidence, which demonstrates little if no causation in the end. I certainly understand unease with parabens, and it’s worth saying that most vegan-friendly deodorants and antiperspirants are paraben free as well, which eliminates potential concern. But the article is a good reminder to place most of our focus and concern about disease likelihood on probable causes. In the case of breast cancer, these would include age, genetics, obesity, race, and alcohol consumption.

I’m a person who has an increased risk of developing breast cancer, thanks to family history, very dense breast tissue, and the fact that I will almost certainly not have a child before the age of 35, if I have one at all. I do what I can to manage risk factors that are within my reach–such as drinking moderately, doing breast self-exams every month, and reading up on new research. But I’ve also learned over time to focus on prevention broadly whenever possible. No matter how you choose to fold prevention into your lifestyle, I think that articles like this one have a place in helping to underscore the big picture.

5. Finally, while I didn’t exactly agree with this article on hunger, I found it interesting. The author’s main point is that hunger is a primarily psychological phenomenon, and he sees this as evidence for the failure of most diets, which involve denying the “hunger mood.”

While psychology is certainly a part of hunger (as are lifestyle, habit, culture, and many other non-biological factors), I wouldn’t go so far as to say that hormones and blood sugar aren’t also a very substantial part of the phenomenon, too. In that sense, I take issue with author Michael Graziano’s premise, which to some extent suggests that weight maintenance is all about mind over matter. However, I do firmly agree that most diets are so profoundly at odds our biochemistry and psychology that they end up backfiring. In any case, it’s an interesting read.

And that’s it on this chilly day, everyone. I look forward to checking in tomorrow with a new menu plan for the week and an update on the SNAP challenge. Till soon!


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  1. HI Gena, I’ve had a rather stressful day-Romeo had a foot injury that needed to be addressed at the vet. He’s all bandaged and recuperating now. But I just wanted to say that before it happened I read the article about the almond growers in Palestine, and am still working on the one about the parrots, vets and PTSD–both are excellent, and I wouldn’t have seen them but for your weekend reading–thank you! And Happy Belated Valentine’s Day! xo

    • Oh, Maria, I’m sorry that Romeo was injured! I hope he’s healing quickly and comfortably now, and I’m sure you are taking loving care of him. I loved the parrot article, and I hope it brings you happiness and distraction from a stressful day. Sending a hug. XO

  2. I’ve been wondering whether we could find a different variety almonds that are more drought resistant. Turns out they exist! Thank you so much for including my zucchini bowl in your roundup! Stay warm, Gena!

  3. Hey Gina… thank you for this post.. I enjoy your weekend reading and learn something new every time. Food and resource use is a tremendous issue and one I’m happy to see here. We have an obligation to consider the impact we have on our planet by thinking about our daily choices. With regards to food choices, this is something lost as so much of our American food comes from a drive through window. I’m grateful for the many documentaries on our food system, and I know the tide is changing… slowly. Almonds are a tough nut to crack since they play such a vital role to CA economy, yet are incredibly water resource intensive. I head the number is in the billions of dollars. So who has the water priority in CA? Almond farmers or the people? The NYT article is an important piece. One thing I cannot wrap my brain around however is the pet trade of birds, and other wild animals, is alive and well. These sentient beings are relegated to a life of solitude, often abuse, and imprisonment. Why is it legal to rip these incredible animals from their homes and flocks only to be caged for the sheer entertainment and enjoyment of humans?

  4. Hi Gena wrt the article about parabens and aluminium use in deo and anti-perspirants – what I find sad is that there is definitive in-vitro evidence showing that both cause cancer in human cells.
    Toxins can accumulate, so yes one form of exposure may not cause instant disease, but accumulation almost certainly does. The author’s comment that they don’t want women freaking out about things that they can’t control anyway is unhelpful and frankly dangerous in my opinion.
    Yes, many things are beyond immediate control (although we can lobby and act for positive change), BUT many things are within our control and as consumers there are positive and negative choices.
    Why suggest to people that you can’t control everything anyway, so just go on using potentially bad products?

    It is worth remembering that toxins pass from mother to foetus/baby via the placenta/breast milk i.e. toxins which accumulate will likely pass through.

    Are these risks worth taking even if other factors may be more likely to cause problems?
    You decide.

    Personally I want to do what I can not to ‘load the dice’. Making healthful, natural choices is not causing me undue fearfulness, in fact I feel liberated and grateful, even though I’m aware that we keep learning and ‘good’ decisions today may be reviewed in years to come.

    Perhaps the best advice is to keep things simple … and natural.

    (P.S. This is not a personal criticism, just a point that I thought was worth making.)

  5. I always enjoy your posts! Thank you for the link to the breast cancer article. As a toxicologist, I feel that these things should be publicized more often. The media hype about this kind of thing just makes people afraid, and they shy away from various products, foods, etc. as they think they pose some risk to their health. Animal studies do not always reflect human exposures—the animals are administered very high doses and often by exposure routes that may not be relevant. Parabens are just one example of where the amount that someone would be exposed to poses little to no risk. Thank you for posting something that sends the message that not all chemicals are something to be fear.

  6. Hey Gena, leaving a quick comment before having read the articles because my biology teacher said a similar thing about hunger she asserted thats “it’s all in the brain” because gherkin is secreted in the brain in response mainly to habit, routine and visual stimulus…. but i know hunger can come even when you really REALLY don’t want it (although it can also go with distraction).

    I really look forward to and love these round ups, particularly excited for the parrot one too

  7. What a great round up! I am honored to be included in such great company. All of these recipes are ones I would want to try.

  8. yes, winter is definitely back! -3 in ohio yesterday. i’ll be making that ribollita soon! thanks for sharing <3

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