Environmental Anthropologist and “Feasting Wild” Author Gina Rae La Cerva’s Media Diet | The Slowdown - Culture, Nature, Future
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author and environmental anthropologist Gina Rae La Cerva
Photo: Shauna Hovden

Geographer and environmental anthropologist Gina Rae La Cerva spent three years journeying around the world in search of undomesticated food for her new book, Feasting Wild: In Search of the Last Untamed Food (Greystone Books). We recently caught up with La Cerva, currently stationed in Santa Fe, to ask about her media diet. (For more with La Cerva, check out Ep. 39 of At a Distance.)

Do you have any morning routines to kick off your day?

I am not a morning person, and I’ve really been trying to get into a better morning routine. I try to keep my phone out of my bedroom, but then the first thing that I do when I get up is go into the other room, get it, get back into bed, and read the news, and look at email and Instagram. I’ve been finding that’s not the right way to start the day. [Laughs] The goal is to wake up and drink coffee outside instead of jumping to look at my phone, just to give myself a moment before inundating myself with all the crazy in the world.

What are some of your go-to, indispensable daily reads and/or listens?

I tend to look over The New York Times and NPR in the morning, on my phone. For a while, I was good about listening to NPR’s Morning Edition regularly, and earlier this year, I also really appreciated BBC podcasts for giving a global perspective on the pandemic.

Any favorite writers or reporters that you’re following?

I’ve been loving the work coming out of Civil Eats and also recently discovered Whetstone magazine, which is wonderful. Right now, one of the books on my list is Michael Twiggy’s The Cooking Gene, which is sort of an anthropological look at his own identity through food as a Black, gay, Jewish man.

What do you make of the ongoing media reckoning, particularly in food media?

It’s obviously way past due. Women, and particularly women of color, have been the keepers of so much food knowledge for so long, and not getting credit for it. I compare it to crop diversity. We’ve basically all been eating the same kind of, let’s say, Granny Smith apple for a long time now. And really, we’d be doing much better to be eating lots of different varieties of apples, and there are so many kinds of apples—some that are good for baking, or making jam, or sauce. Elevating certain voices doesn’t mean we don’t want the Granny Smith; it means we have that diversity of flavor, and nutrition, and information. With social media, even if you attempt to diversify your media consumption, it’s very easy to get siloed into just hearing the same kinds of voices. 

For your own work, where do you look for inspiration and research?

Inspiration can come from totally unexpected places. For example, I recently read an article about Barcelona’s opera house holding a concert for an audience of nearly 2,300 houseplants! I also love looking at historical material, so anything on archive.org, or the open-access section of Project MUSE. I’m such a history nerd and love reading these old-timey adventure and natural-history accounts of places and people and things.

Any outlets you still prefer to read in print?

I always love to read stuff on paper, but I recently moved, so I haven’t gotten any of my subscriptions back in place quite yet. I recently found an old copy of Utne Reader from 1995, and a bunch of other magazines when I went through my storage unit. It’s fascinating to see what was happening back then, and how close we still are to so many things—like, there was a book review for Resisting the Virtual Life: The Culture and Politics of Information. Well, we did not do a good job resisting that! I also read the local news, the Santa Fe Reporter. But it’s been hard for me to read these days. I just want to watch bad TV right now.

Okay, maybe enough news talk. What are you watching or reading for pleasure?

I’ve been watching Killing Eve and reading [Gabriel García Márquez’s] Love in the Time of Cholera. Sometimes I’ll watch Avatar, which is a cartoon for children—a friend of mine recommended it, and at first I thought, This is not for me. What is this? Then, Ed Yong did an interview in The Atlantic and said he was watching it, so I thought, Okay, if Ed Yong likes it, I’ll give it a try.

Speaking of food, what’s on your actual plate these days? Cooking anything in particular?

My grandpa passed away about a year ago, and I recently got gifted this enormous book of Italian recipes—his family’s from Sicily—and it’s literally a foot-and-a-half thick. I’ve been getting a CSA [Community Supported Agriculture delivery] and avoiding the grocery store as much as possible these days, and sometimes it’ll include items I don’t usually cook, like zucchini, so I’ve been looking into the book for ideas and was able to adapt one of the recipes for that. It’s been a nice way to connect to him. I’ve also just got some kefir starter from someone in town, so I’m excited to experiment with thinking about the microbiome, making some kimchi and other fermented things. I tried sourdough and it was an absolute fail, so I decided to move on to other foods.

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School’s out forever—or at least for the immediate future, depending on what city you live in—and it’s certainly taking hands-on lesson plans, open-sourced and free to download, that are inspired by artists and objects from its permanent collection. “Fashioning

A photo collage of faces of people lost to gun violence

There’s a formula for homicide news stories: Place a TV anchor at the scene of a crime, and state that a victim was shotfatally shot in the U.S., including suicides and accidents. The sheer volume of incidents makes them easy to tune out: We don’t know

Black and white photo of a woman jumping rope

Five months on, living in a pandemic has become a new liminal normal, shifting our gaze toward the familiar sights, soun“Pandemic Objects,” an ongoing editorial project that highlights and reflects upon everyday objects (defined in the broadest sense) that hathe gaze of the drone, which has seen a surge in use worldwide in recent months, with people dispatching them in their hometowns—even to takejump rope that gives her pause as she riffles through the museum’s archives, uncovering photos, artworks, and accounts about the

The Earth on a black background

The Internet Archive is one rabbit hole we’ve willingly jumped into more than a handful of times since the quarantine beWhole Earth Catalog, the 1960s counterculture print publication often referred to as “the web before the web existed”—its iconic, jam-packeElectric Whole Earth Catalog, now available on the site. Originally launched in 1998 on CD-ROM (how quaint!), the lo-fi “electric” edition offers a

Four images arranged in a grid depicting a man in a suit, the words "Less than Zero" in red on a black background, an address, and a picture of an outdoor courtyard

Home is where the heart is—but, on the silver screen, it can be a bit forlorn. In his recently published broadside publiSad People in Modernist Homes in Popular Films, Los Angeles–based designer and art director Benjamin Critton explores the much-maligned trope of the Modernist home in popular culture, with contributing essays from writers Erik BSad People—the long-awaited follow-up to his 2010 edition, Evil People in Modernist Homes in Popular Films—and what filmic mood may strike him next for volume three of the ongoing project.

MoMA curator Paola Antonelli

For more than 25 years, Paola Antonelli, the director of R&D and senior curator of design and architecture at New York’sDesign Emergency, Antonelli has teamed with renowned London-based design critic Alice Rawsthorn to explore the role design has played—anEp. 25 of our At a Distance podcast.)

Black and white illustration of a forest on a cliff viewed from above

States across the U.S. may be entering Phase 2 of post-lockdown reopenings, but short of a vaccine, public health expertQuarantine Coloring Book, uploading a new free, downloadable image by a different illustrator each day. The project exploded overnight, with thoAccording to research, coloring can have a similar effect on our minds as meditation, helping to ease anxiety, fears, and restless thoughts—i

Various people encased in glass bubbles stand on the beach near the ocean

As museums around the world (or, most of them, anyway) remain closed, and a once-global calendar of openings and festiva@covidartmuseum—started on Instagram by three Barcelona-based art directors, Emma Calvo, Irene Llorca, and Jose Guerrero—has become som

A large crowd protesting for Black Lives Matter in New York City.

For the better part of the past decade, Cindy Trinh has been documenting social justice movements around New York City with her ongoing Activist NYC project. Here, Trinh, a photographer with a background in law, shares her observations on the current Black Lives Matte

Two copies of Offscreen magazine featuring a woman with black glasses on the front cover.

Melbourne-based Kai Brach, a former web designer and the publisher/editor of Offscreen, an independent print magazine about technology, and Dense Discovery, a weekly newsletter about productivity and inspiration, shares his current media diet with us—and why he firmly believ

An illustration from Night Sky featuring the Virgo constellation.

The limbo of the pandemic looms on, and as our feeds fill up with more hot takes and navel-gazing observations about lifNight Sky is the Google Maps of stargazing apps, offering a planetarium-like experience in the palm of your hand, with features t

A black and white illustration of plants by Katie Holten.

At a time when the constant stream of updates on the Covid-19 crisis feels all-consuming, we’re finding solace in media Emergence Magazine, which covers a wide range of topics focused around ecology, culture, and spirituality. A project of the Kalliopeia FouEmergence offers a mix of op-eds, essays, photo essays, and multimedia stories that bring the vibe and holistic kind of thinking Whole Earth Catalog into the present day.

Tatiana Schlossberg smiling next to the front cover of Inconspicuous Consumption.

Journalist Tatiana Schlossberg, the author of the book Inconspicuous Consumption: The Environmental Impact You Don’t Know You Have, reports on climate and environment issues shaping our planet today, from consumer habits and industry practices to theEp. 18 of At a Distance.)

Azzedina Alaïa's Taking Time on a white desk.

Curator and critic Donatien Grau—who was on our At a Distance podcast last week—talks with us here about the new book he produced in collaboration with the late couturier Azzedine Alaïa, Taking Time (Rizzoli), a series of wide-ranging conversations on art, time, and creativity. Among the visionary voices featured—most of whom w

A submersible robot traveling below the Thwaites Glacier.

For several years now, climate scientists have been studying “grounding lines”—the point at which a large glacier is buovideo footage of the grounding zone of the Thwaites Glacier, part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, where it’s steadily leaking freshwater into the ocean. We now have, in other wor

A set of five New York Times Magazines fanned out across a white table.

“The truth of the interaction is the thing that you're trying to get across,” journalist David Marchese, columnist of The New York Times Magazine’s Talk column, says of the craft of interviewing. Known for his deft, often revealing longform interviews with well-known cultural fiWhoopi Goldberg to Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Marchese maintains a running log of some 500 folks, in his own estimation, that he’d like to one day add to that list.New York magazine, famously captured an 85-year-old Quincy Jones calling Harvey Weinstein “a jive motherfucker,” elsewhere referring to Trump as “limited me

A screenshot from House Party featuring some of The Slowdown team.

As cities across the United States continue to be locked down amidst the novel coronavirus, with all of us self-quarantiHouseparty, a new video-chat app that our friend the fashion stylist Kate Young tipped us off to. Unlike Zoom or Google Hangouts, it’s designed for more serendipitous and casual mingling among friendactual parties, which suddenly feel further away than ever. The app, which has gone viral in these past few weeks of social di

A close-up photo of the sun's golden surface.

After NASA’s Apollo 8 orbited the moon in 1968, its crew brought back with them the most stunning of photo souvenirs. “EWhole Earth Catalog and forever imprinted in the public mind. As Anders later said, “We set out to explore the moon and instead discovered

A drawing of a woman looking into a mirror near a window.

“The news has gotten even faster, and more and more I find myself reading headlines, and then opinions about the headlinEsquire, where he worked on features and fiction for more than a decade. “It feels like you can never actually catch up, or eveThe Chronicles of Now, which commissions authors to produce short pieces of fiction about a timely news topic worth digesting further. Roxane

Willi Smith looking into the camera, his hand on a model with a red bathing suit, facing away.

“I don’t design clothes for the Queen, but for the people who wave at her as she goes by,” the late designer Willi Smith“Willi Smith: Street Couture,” curated by Alexandra Cunningham Cameron, opens next week (and will be on view through Oct. 25) at the Cooper Hewitt, SmKim Hastreiter.

Shantell Martin's book, Wonder.

With a chunky marker in hand, artist and illustrator Shantell Martin is widely known for the distinctive black-and-white line drawings she creates in meditative, stream-of-consciousness grLines (Heni Publishing)—with texts from Katharine Stout and Hans Ulrich Obrist—was more of an undertaking than she’d imagined. While the book’sthe @slowdown.tv Instagram—seeing her works printed and bound offers a satisfying second.

A blue, brown, and translucent sculpture by Neri Oxman.

As the founder and director of MIT’s Mediated Matter group, the Israeli-American designer and futurist Neri Oxman is pioEp. 16 of our Time Sensitive podcast, “The Biological Age is an age where we have disassociated ourselves from physical materials as the single defining ele

A map of the world with red dots and forms drawn over it.

Dutch architect, urbanist, and theorist Rem Koolhaas is the rare figure whose outsize influence is evidenced in cities a“Countryside, The Future” (on view from Feb. 20–Aug. 14) would seem to be a departure from the architect’s career-long focus on cities, an irony

A painting of a woman composed of blocks of color.

Explorations of black culture and identity in America figure prominently in the work of artist Derrick Adams, whose dive“Transformers,” at Luxembourg & Dayan’s London gallery (on view through April 4), Adams shares new large-scale works from his “Beauty W,” at Frieze Los Angeles next weekend, and his solo exhibition “Buoyant” opens March 7 at the Hudson River Museum in New York. Adams’s work seems to be everywhere these days—we even noticed ona recent New York Times portrait taken at Roc Nation’s Los Angeles offices.

Illustrations of various Los Angeles landmark buildings.

What Los Angeles lacks in density, it delivers in latitude: miles of freeway and a stunning array of neighborhoods, eachPurple editor-at-large Emilien Crespo, a veritable bon vivant, French expat, and Angeleno of more than 10 years. “It’s a toughSoul of Los Angeles (Jonglez Publishing), Crespo shares a list of 30 adventures (chosen from 1,000) for locals and visitors alike in his adLos Angeles Times Pulitzer Prize–winning food critic, and Sqirl’s Jessica Koslow. There’s even a gem to be found in the tourist trap of Hollywood, at the historic Musso and Frank’s Gr

A building designed by MASS Design Group.

“Architecture is not agnostic about ethics,” writes Michael Murphy, founding principal and executive director of MASS Design Group. “As with art, the political is inherent in architectural choices. Architecture points forward, it must consider the enJustice Is Beauty (Monacelli Press), gathers work from its first 10 years of practice, taking stock of the progressive and public-facing

Three people underneath an Olafur Elaisson video installation.

A fascination with science and nature defines the many avenues of creative work by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Elaiss“Symbiotic Seeing,” on view through March 22 at Kunsthaus Zurich, Eliasson once again urges us to be aware of our place in the world, highl

Omar Sosa reclining on a brightly colored couch in his brightly colored Friedman Benda show.

Omar Sosa, creative director and cofounder of the influential interiors magazine Apartamento, tells us about his first curatorial effort, “Comfort,” a group show of unconventional and provocative art and design works—which range from a wonky Ettore Sottsass bookshelf, to a Bless-designed hammock made of pillows, to a toilet-sink hybrid by Guillermo Santoma—on view through Feb. 15 at N