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The Monday Media Diet with Larissa Zimberoff
On Lion's Mane Tiktok, Matt Levine, and air quality apps
Larissa Zimberoff (LZ) is a Bay Area writer focused on the interplay between food, technology, and business. She’s the author of Technically Food: Inside Silicon Valley's Mission to Change What We Eat. Follow her on Twitter. Have a great week. -Colin (CJN)
Tell us about yourself.
I thought I would live in California all of my life. I grew up in Southern California, attended UCSD for college, and eventually moved to Northern California in my 20s. But in my late 30s, I did the truly un-sensible thing and moved to New York. I attended the MFA graduate program at The New School. Two years later, I embarked on my second career. I’m a writer now. Both a journalist covering the intersection of food and technology and an author. My first book, Technically Food: Inside Silicon Valley’s Mission to Change What We Eat, came out in June, and a few years back I returned to the Bay Area. (Yes, my furniture has a lot of miles on it!)
Describe your media diet.
I vacillate between reading a ton online and avoiding it so that I can get my own work done. My bad habit is reaching for my phone right when I wake up and surfing the news and reading. I send out a weekly newsletter every Friday, so my busiest reading day is usually Thursday morning to find interesting news to include in it.
As a journalist who wants to be paid for her work, I pay for as many publications as I can afford. Print’s not dead!! I get Businessweek, Harper’s, and the New Yorker. I also subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and the New York Times. I’m newly getting into using Reddit, and of course, use Twitter. I’m very active on Instagram (@Technically.Food) and on TikTok (also @Technically.Food). My top post on TikTok has over 166K views! (I grew a lion’s mane mushroom. It’s incredible. Really.)
I get a range of daily newsletters including Matt Levine’s from Bloomberg, Protocol, The Hustle, Morning Brew, AgFunder, and Food Tech Connect. I get hospitality and cheffy stuff too including Alicia Kennedy’s weekly newsletter and Expedite.
When I’m working, I’m either listening to KQED (but I still miss WNYC!), KEXP, or KCRW. After watching all eight seasons of Endeavor, I’m newly hooked on listening to opera while I work. To help me get through the early days of the pandemic, I watched the entirety of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Schitt’s Creek. It took fortitude, but there were payoffs to watching every single episode. I have subscriptions to Hulu, HBO, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. I do my best to avoid any actual shopping on Amazon, but I have yet to give up my Prime membership. (I know!)
What’s the last great book you read?
I loved James Nestor’s book “Breath,” which follows the author's year-long journey towards discovering why we are faced with so many challenges in sleeping, eating, and our underlying health. It’s all about the breath! The book Nomadland was exceptional. I came to it after reading the magazine piece in Harper’s. I loved the distillation of the magazine article, but the book was a wonderful journey. When I finally saw the film, which won a few Oscar awards last year, I felt intensely connected and layered into the story.
What are you reading now?
I’m in the middle of reading Metabolic by Dr. Robert Lustig. I’m reading it because I’m always tinkering with my diet, and I have Type-1 diabetes. I know a lot about nutrition, but I don’t know all the science behind what’s happening, and there’s always more to learn! Clearly, I read too much non-fiction and I’m on the hunt for some really great fiction. Send me your suggestions.
What’s your reading strategy when you pick up a print copy of your favorite publication?
I was always a front-to-back, cover-to-cover reader but lately, things have changed. There’s just too much to read and when I get one of my weekly magazines, I usually check out the TOC to see where I want to start. Much of it depends on where I’m doing the reading--in bed, on my couch, or outside at a cafe.
Who should everyone be reading that they’re not?
In no real order: Eula Biss, Wallace Stegner, Ross Gay, Lindy West.
What is the best non-famous app you love on your phone?
If you live in California, Purple Air is a must. It gives you up to the second air quality data. Data comes from community-based sensors and it’s super easy to understand. When the fires in NorCal were very bad (so often sadly), I tried out the EPA’s app and it was terrible. I obsessively use AllTrails to plan and record my hikes. It’s mostly perfect, but there are definitely a few tweaks I’d make to it. Vivino to keep track of the wine I drink, and like, and buy. (Maybe I buy too much wine?) DropBox, which may not be non-famous, but I use it all the time and the scanning function is a lifesaver.
Plane or train?
Can I say both? Trains in Japan (because they’re so clean you can eat off the floor) and Europe (because everything is so close together); planes everywhere else. Although I’ll admit that flying still feels a little too close for comfort for me, but I’m getting more comfortable as time goes by.
What is one place everyone should visit?
I spent a week in the Finger Lakes a few years ago, and it has like a zillion things to see and do. Wineries, hikes, scenic overlooks, and historical stuff. The Ithaca farmers market is a must, it almost rivals the San Francisco Ferry Building or the Union Square Farmers Market. I know a week seems like a good amount of time, but it wasn’t enough!
Tell us the story of a rabbit hole you fell deep into.
I recently wrote a newsletter about vinyl-based plastic gloves. The kind you wear once and toss in the trash. It all started with a Washington Post article that covered a study about their widespread use. They’re ubiquitous in foodservice, not to mention our doctor’s offices and dentists. The wrong gloves contain phthalates, which several studies point to as being detrimental to our health in a number of ways. Phthalates have also been found in food packaging and processing equipment. Basically, they’re everywhere. With Covid, people began wearing plastic gloves more and more for safety, even though eventually we learned how Covid was passed. I read several studies and went deep trying to learn why this was happening, and what to do instead of wearing plastic gloves (wear nothing and wash your hands frequently--even in doctor’s offices). Eventually, I felt I knew enough to write about it. Since then, on Tuesdays, I wear my gardening gloves to volunteer at a food pantry put on by the Canal Alliance in Marin County. The non-profit does a ton of work for the community that is made up largely of lower-income workers. It’s incredible in case you’re looking for a place to give some holiday money. Slowly, I’ve been convincing others to ditch the gloves. (LZ)
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Thanks for reading,
Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Larissa (LZ)