AFTER A LONG WILD SUMMER SPENT SOAKING UP THE SUN AND MAKING NEW CONNECTIONS, WE RETURN TO YOU WITH ANOTHER COLLECTION OF KITCHEN RITUALS INTERVIEWS. MAY YOUR TRANSITION TO FALL BE AN EASEFUL ONE, MAY YOU FIND BOTH PURPOSE AND PEACE, MAY THE ROAD TO THE END OF THIS YEAR OPEN BEFORE YOU WITH CLARITY.
IN OUR LATEST KITCHEN RITUALS INTERVIEW, WE INVITE YOU TO EXPLORE EMMALEA RUSSO'S WORLD VIA HER ART AND WELLNESS PRACTICES. SHE IS HERE TO SHARE HER STORY OF HEALING AND HOLD SPACE FOR OTHERS TO SHOW UP EXACTLY AS THEY ARE, WITHOUT PRETENDING TO BE OKAY.
In her own words, "There’s such pressure to appear in-control and effortless. Sharing my ups and downs has been scary and worth it. Also, when I was 19 and searching for natural cures for brain-stuff, it was difficult to find anything helpful — especially individuals sharing their stories."
You will find her connecting dots at the intersection of natural healing, art, veganism, and mental health/brain health. That intersection is where she offers her work, as an artist and healer. Check out her visual pieces and writing for a deep mental refresh or spark to create.
As tonic lovers and makers of ritual, we appreciate the extra gift she gives in this interview - her mind nourishing morning matcha recipe and ritual for starting the day.
And as advocates for a more expansive view of mental health, we greatly appreciate Emmalea's illuminating work, desire to serve others, and bright spirit.
Read on and enjoy.
1. Will you tell us your name, your gender pronoun, and the name of your project/ practice?
Emmalea Russo. A.K.A. Em, Emstar, or Emdash. She/Her/Herself. I have multiple practices that come together sometimes. I’m a writer and a visual artist. I am also obsessed with holistic and natural living / healing.
2. What are your kitchen rituals?
In the morning, I love being quiet and alone in the kitchen. One of my main rituals is making a matcha tonic and sitting at the table sipping it slowly, usually while drawing or writing. My matcha recipe: 1 teaspoon matcha powder // 1 teaspoon tocotrienols // dash of almond milk // dash of coconut butter // maple syrup or other sweetener to taste // Add hot water + BLEND until super frothy. Most of my kitchen rituals require a blender. I rarely use the stove or oven. I’m all about smoothies, juices, nuts, seeds, etc. And easy prep.
3. If you were a plant, who would you be and why? Multiple answers welcome.
I love mushrooms. Maybe Chaga mushroom. It’s kind of wild looking (like burnt charcoal) and has a masculine energy. I’m also drawn to nettles. And all weeds. And lately, Moringa.
4. What are some important health events in your life?
The most life-changing one happened when I was 19. I had my first grand mal seizure and was diagnosed with epilepsy. This incredibly terrifying event set a chain of other events into motion that ultimately led me to where I am now. I have been studying the mind-body connection, epilepsy, and natural healing modalities for the past ten years. And years later, the realization that it’s important to talk about all of the above. I had often kept it private, only sharing the nervous system downloads with those I’m closest with. But, as I get older it feels that — especially as a woman — talking openly about dis-ease and feeling out of control of your body-mind is a necessary and political action. There’s such pressure to appear in-control and effortless. Sharing my ups and downs has been scary and worth it. Also, when I was 19 and searching for natural cures for brain-stuff, it was difficult to find anything helpful — especially individuals sharing their stories. There’s lots of fear mongering around epilepsy. It’s a mysterious disease and has some negative associations that go way back. So, I just did LOTS of experimenting. Trial-and-error. And I still do. But I’ve learned to see it as fun and to integrate it into my other work as opposed to keeping it sequestered. Other significant events include: Stumbling into a raw vegan cafe called Arnold’s Way in Lansdale, Pennsylvania with my mom about ten years ago. Arnold introduced me (and my amazing mom) to raw veganism way before it was cool and it has been my touchstone ever since. He took one look at me and said “you have a nervous system problem.” I got chills. Learning about neuroplasticity and realizing that the brain is really good at training and retraining itself. This has taught me to constantly add new things to my bag of healing tricks. It’s hopeful. Finding yoga, meditation, learning how to guide my thoughts. Going a bit rogue from the allopathic medicine path.
5. What is your ancestral background? Does this influence your work?
These questions are so awesome. My dad’s family is 100% Italian. My grandmother is Sicilian and my grandfather is from around Naples. My mom’s side is Irish and Slovak. I think I learned a lot about food as ritual from my Italian grandparents and their dinners. It was usually macaroni or pasta fazool. The meals are simple and on loop but there’s so much love and expression. Everyone talking at once. And SO MUCH pleasure in eating. I don’t eat those foods now but I make sure that I LOVE everything I eat. And I express it. People have told me that I get more excited about food than anyone they’ve met. Lots of mmmms and ahhhs. I like talking about this because when people hear that I eat a vegan and (mostly) raw diet — they think of this as restrictive or boring but it’s actually abundant and colorful and exciting and magical.
7. What books are you reading now? Favorite cookbooks?
The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge. Too Much and Not the Mood by Durga Chew-Bose. Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki. I don’t really use cookbooks. But, Raw Food Real World was a game changer for me. And The Moon Juice Cookbook is gorgeous.
8. What is your zodiac sign?
Virgo Sun. Aries Rising. Taurus Moon. I love routine and then the Aries gives me that fiery forward momentum. I’m super goal-oriented but can be quite erratic.
9. When you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
10. What is your focus in food/ nutrition/ healing and how do you work that into your practice/living your life?
My focus is all around paying attention to and trusting the body-mind and getting to know its innate healing abilities. And getting to the root of an ailment rather than treating the symptoms. I’m also a big fan of experimentation with various foods, herbs, healing modalities, healers. Always getting a second, third, fourth opinion. Not making decisions out of fear or whatever the norm is. I’m also first and foremost an ethical vegan. And, it’s important for me to think of healing as an ongoing and creative pursuit. It’s not as if one day I’m like — OK — all done! And, to think of this as an exciting thing — not a discouragement. This takes practice.
11. Why did you create your project/ business? What is your mission?
Well, I make art and write because it’s just how I think through things and it feels really necessary for me. This: “Art is a guarantee of sanity.” - Louise Bourgeois. My mission is to make connections between things that might not otherwise seem connected. And this: “The great thing then, in all education, is to make our nervous system our ally instead of our enemy.” - William James
12. Where are you based? Where can we find you and your work? (online, published, events etc)
I’m based in Brooklyn, NY. And I’m often at the Jersey Shore. My website // you’ll find visual art and links to all of my writing, etc. Newest work - I have two books forthcoming in 2018 + 2019. And Instagram.
13. What are your favorite foods?
Chocolate. Oh, that’s a big ritual for me. I like a nightcap of raw chocolate and kombucha to wash it down. Banana nice cream: Frozen bananas, cacao powder, blend. Green juice! Matcha! Chia pudding. Fruit. Almond Butter. Pancakes.