Editor’s note: As of June 2018, Kara Rota is the Senior Editor at St. Martin’s Press.
Kara Rota (@karalearota) is a nonfiction/cookbook editor at Macmillan and the host of the weekly Clever Cookstr podcast. Growing up outside of Philadelphia and Chicago with an Italian father and a mother who was a macrobiotic chef-turned-raw vegan, Kara was always immersed in the culture and values behind why people eat what they do. We also challenge some pervasive myths about the “right” way to eat in this episode.
Brooklyn-based Kara is a fierce advocate for girls & women. Outside of work, she's as a Digital Media Mentor for Girls Write Now. As our conversation twists and turns, we examine what it’s like to be a modern woman working in publishing and living a life online – selfie culture, our relationship to technology, intersectional feminism, handling outrage on the internet, and considering when to speak up.
You do not want to miss this episode. It’s chock full of food for thought.
Learn more about Kara and her work here Quick and Dirty Tips.
Listen to the complete episode in any of these fine places:
Selected link love + resources from the episode
Connect with Kara on social media: Twitter
Clever Cookstr (podcast)
Quick & Dirty Tips (series of podcasts)
Girls Write Now
St. Martin’s Griffin (imprint of Macmillan)
Freshman Year of Life by MinSumo (book)
Flatiron Books (imprint of Macmillan)
Kachka (restaurant) and Chef Bonnie Morales
Activism blocking on Facebook (article)
You've Got Mail (movie)
Angela Davis (author and activist)
The Babysitter's Club (book series)
Bullet Journal (method of task management)
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer (book)
Joy by Zadie Smith (essay)
In Defense of Memes (article)
Quotes + selected highlights from the episode
All of this wisdom is from Kara herself (with some minor edits for readability).
[00:06:49] Whether I’m talking to a chef, or a cookbook author, or someone who’s created a food business, or someone who’s doing something really logistical (like food businesses are some of the most logistics-heavy businesses out there), and just kind of the nuts and bolts of how people learn an industry, how people learn how to do something that they love... that’s really fascinating.
[00:15:59] I spent a good amount of time really kind of trying to [increase my focus on intersectional feminism], trying to learn, and trying to read things that weren’t in my consciousness, and seeing how that changed me, seeing how that changed my perspective and what I wanted to prioritize, and the work that I wanted to prioritize, and the work that I wanted to amplify that other people are doing.
[00:18:31] I think that there’s not so much one kind of book that I do, as I really love doing author-driven books. I really love having that relationship with authors and building out that conversation with them where we really figure out what can this project be.
[00:24:02]: One thing that I’ve noticed is that all guys think that they make eggs really well. Have you noticed that?
[00:27:21] And that’s always the thing that I struggle with whenever I have been vegetarian or vegan for any period of time, is feeling like I can’t participate in that way. For me, I don’t know if it’s because of the work I do or just because of the level of emotion that I have around food, I just haven’t quite crossed that hurdle yet.
[00:30:43] And it wasn’t about food in the end at all. It was about control, and it was about trying to control things in my environment that I couldn’t, and controlling things about what I put into my body instead. And that happens to so many people, and it is a real part of so many people’s journey with food. I feel like that’s something that I would like to be more honest about, because it hasn’t always been easy. My passion for food hasn’t always been all good and all—it hasn’t always felt good. So I feel like that’s something that we don’t necessarily talk about a lot, but I would like to be more honest about.
[00:35:23] I ran two marathons in the process of no longer having an eating disorder. I feel like that was obviously really helpful for me too, because it was a way that I could think about my body as powerful, and strong, and able to do something rather than being impressed by my body because of what it wasn’t doing, because of what it wasn’t consuming.
[00:41:31] I have such a love-hate relationship with my phone.
[00:44:59] When I was in college, I majored in technoethics and wrote my senior thesis about, among other things, how technology changes the way that we communicate and look at each other and our conception of reality. I think that the ways that, specifically, young women have been able to shape their own image online have been extremely positive and extremely powerful. I love selfie culture. I love the idea of getting dressed up just to take a picture of yourself just for you, and putting that online and having just this supportive community. And it’s often other girls who are really excited about it.
[00:48:30]: Now to do work as a woman, to do almost any kind of work, to be a public figure, you are subject to so much harassment, so much hate, and negativity, and threats, and danger, and doxing, and it is appalling.
[00:53:03]: How do we be polite to people who don’t acknowledge our humanity, our right to exist, our right to share the same rights that they have?
[01:02:49] I think one of the things that I really encourage people to engage with, the people I know that live in New York, is that this is not just a problem of people somewhere else in the country in places that we don’t go. This is a problem. There are people who are racist in New York. There are people everywhere who are really still espousing views that I think many of us are naïve enough to think were kind of gone.
[01:04:40]: Well, I think whether it’s on the subway, or in a meeting, or you’re having lunch with someone and all of a sudden something comes out of their mouth that just makes you do a double take, there’s always that moment of, “Am I going to let this slide, or am I going to say something?”
[01:21:59] But I think that if you have the intention of wanting to learn more, wanting to hear more from voices that maybe you haven’t thought about the perspectives of that much—I mean, I believe in books, which might not come as a surprise. I think that books are a great resource. I think that reading about people’s personal experiences always kind of makes things hit home for me. Reading memoir, reading personal essays, reading women—I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time in the last couple of years reading women of color writing about their experiences in America, and that’s really changed my perspective. That’s really changed what I look for in the stories that I want to help tell. I think that that’s—read more women of color is probably my biggest piece of advice if there’s an overall takeaway in terms of who’s telling interesting stories right now, who’s talking about things that need to be heard.
[01:30:24] But I rely very deeply on Gmail Archive. I rely very deeply on tools that are intuitive and that kind of serve as an extension of my brain. I was never a great filer. I was never really a person who organized things by more than aesthetic principles.
[01:33:11] So I think it’s a combination of tricking myself into using the tools that I know will get me to actually do things and kind of using them to hack my motivations that they get done.
[01:35:27] I’m a big breakfast person, and I don’t necessarily like breakfast foods for breakfast. I’m really into leftovers. I’m really into breakfast salads. Usually something pretty savory and significant to start my day.
[01:36:24] Sleep is really a gift you can give yourself.
[01:49:41] I feel like I’ve made decisions in the past that were then no longer right for me. And being able to let them go, and try something else, and giving myself the gift of saying, “It’s okay not to be right. It’s okay that you weren’t right about this thing.” Whether it’s pivoting to a new job, or letting go of a habit that isn’t serving you, or letting go of a friendship, or starting a new friendship or a new job, or moving, or any of those “big decisions” that we make. You can keep making them again and again.
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