Weekend Reading, 5.3.15
May 3, 2015

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

Happy Sunday, friends! I’m returning to New York right now from Pennsylvania, where I was lucky enough to celebrate a dear friend’s wedding yesterday. I hope you’ve all enjoyed some sunshine and rest in the last two days. Here are the recipes and read that have kept me company over the course of weekend travels.


To begin, a colorful and enticing bowl of chia and buckwheat porridge from Maike of Elderflower Kitchen.


Speaking of colorful bowls, I absolutely love this easy recipe for a spring greens soup.

tempeh BLTs with kimchi, avocado + chipotle

Vegan sandwiches really don’t get better than this: tempeh bacon, avocado, tomato, kimchi, and chipotle mayo. An embarrassment of riches from Alanna at The Bojon Gourmet.


A delectable sweet potato and tofu curry from Sindhura at Umami Kitchen. Perfect weeknight supper.


Finally, I am so totally in love with this creamy polenta with crispy beets and pistachio dill pesto, courtesy of Sherrie of With Food and Love.


1. An interesting article, published this past March in the New York Times Magazine, about the intersection of empathy and group identity. In essence, the article profiles the work of neuroscientists who are trying to figure out whether mapping neural pathways can help us to resolve global conflicts. The question at the heart of this research is whether feelings of group identity somehow block empathy, or create an “empathy gap,” and if so, whether there is a way to make empathy extend as much to one’s “enemies” as to one’s own community and culture.

2. As someone who is prone to both anxiety and stress (more of the latter but a good dose of the former), I was interested in this article’s perspective on anxiety and worry. The author’s central argument is that anxiety and worry, though potentially crippling if disproportionate or left unchecked, help us to be more self-examinatory. They may, he believes, aid in moral decision-making. I’m generally inclined to see anxiety as more harmful than helpful, but I do appreciate the argument here. It made me wonder whether my own worries do sometimes encourage me to consider my actions more carefully and critically.

3. An intense meditation on feelings of wellness and sickness–described here as states of “disorder” and “order”–from Oliver Sacks. Sacks uses his own health history as a narrative framework, drawing first on his experience with migraines and, more recently, his experience with the treatment for metastatic liver cancer. The article is somehow just as exhilarating as it is harrowing, which may be part of the point.

Interesting to think of illness as disorder. I’ve always been attached to the idea of order–and to feelings and sensation that seem to align with order. If I were to accept Sacks’ metaphor of illness as a “a general feeling of disorder,” I wonder if it would help to explain why I struggle so much with feeling unwell (a struggle that worsens the older I get). I thought the article was thought-provoking, and Sacks’ capacity for critical perspective in the face of illness is truly remarkable.

4. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette covered a fascinating study this week. In the study, 20 African-Americans swapped diets with 20 South Africans for two weeks. The African-Americans ate South African fare, including cornmeal and beans, while the 20 South Africans consumed a more standard American diet, rich in animal protein, fast food, and higher fat meals. The South African diet consisted of one-sixth the meat of the American diet.

The results were dramatic: the South African, cornmeal+bean diet “reduced risk factors for colon cancer, including changes in gut flora and reductions in inflammation in colon’s mucosa in the American group, while the American diet notably increased the Africans’ risk factors for colon cancer.” The South African diet reduced levels of secondary bile (which can have a carcinogenic effect) in the colon by 70 percent, while the American diet increased it by 400 percent. The South African diet also increased levels of butyrate, a molecule that may reduce inflammation levels and cancer biomarkers.

Lead author Stephen J.D. O’Keefe, a physician in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition in Pitt’s School of Medicine, says that “These findings are really very good news…In just two weeks, a change in diet from a Westernized composition to a traditional African high-fiber, low-fat diet reduced these biomarkers of cancer risk, indicating that it is likely never too late to modify the risk of colon cancer.”

Good stuff. You can check out the study itself here.

5. A remarkably inspiring profile of Lonni Sue Johnson, an illustrator who suffers from amnesia due to her brush with viral encephalitis.

Enjoy the reads. And if you need just one more food photo to gaze on, check out my New Veganism column this week. It’s minted pea puree on toast, and it’s a perfect springtime lunch, breakfast, or snack dish.


Till soon, all.


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  1. As always, I love your weekend reading and look forward to it weekly. I especially appreciate the time and effort you put into providing thoroughly researched and sound material with your own thought-provoking responses.

    I particularly enjoyed the article on anxiety and have begun to see glimpses of how my own struggles with this do lead to greater self-examination and therefore can aid me in decision making and the life I lead, however, as you noted, left unchecked can be disastrous.

    Thanks again, Gena!

  2. That study from the Post-Gazette is a cool piece of research. I’ve been to gi doctors in the past who gave me a funny look when I mentioned the relationship between diet and colon health. I’m always happy to see more research and changing views about the importance of good digestive health!

  3. Great list, thanks! The sweet potato and tofu curry looks amazing!

  4. Love the buckwheat porridge idea! I keep buckwheat groats on hand to make the seed bread from Oh She Glows, but am always wondering what else I can do with them.

  5. I made that creamy polenta with the beats yesterday morning for my honey and I for breakfast. We loved it! I think I need to make a bigger batch of that pesto next time.

  6. That’s interesting about the South African study. My cousin studied abroad in South Africa and said that she had never before eaten so much meat. She stayed in one of the poorer regions and said that meat was quite centric to the meals she ate there. I wonder if her experience was abnormal or if the study was misrepresentative.

    • Sadly this is true. Cornmeal is definitely a staple food, but beans? Not so much. It is all about the nyama (meat). Interesting read.

  7. Yum, those recipes look amazing and I am so very happy to be featured among them!! And I am making the minted pea puree tomorrow, it Looks and sounds so refreshing and delicious!!

    • Its very delicious food and recipe is awesome I have created a website of spinal diseases. All diseases linked to this website related to spine surgery and their symptoms.The website’s purpose is to inform people with the diseases of the spinal cord is very dangerous.According to today’s lifestyle Which your spine is most at risk So please tell everyone about the disease, look at my website and more and more people would like to see is the url-


  8. Yum…
    I have to try your vegan sandwich. Avocados make everything delicious!

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