Zibby speaks to actor Zosia Mamet (star of Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning HBO series Girls, and Emmy-nominated HBO Max series The Flight Attendant) about My First Popsicle: An Anthology of Food and Feelings, a beautiful collection of essays about the intrinsic ties between food, emotions, and memories. The two discuss the exhausting but rewarding process of compiling an anthology; Zibby’s favorite essay (which involves a break-up and meatballs!); Zosia’s experience with her eating disorder; and the intimacy and beauty of reading a book and visualizing the story in a way that no one else understands.


Zibby Owens: Welcome,

Zosia. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss My First Popsicle: An Anthology of Food and Feelings.

Zosia Mamet: Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Zibby: I probably couldn’t have picked a more enticing subtitle of a book than food and feelings combined. What else is there to talk about? That’s perfect.

Zosia: I’m so happy you think so. I wanted to create a whole book about it, so I feel the same way.

Zibby: This is one of my go-to topics because, you know, food. I know you wrote about it in the introduction and everything, but can you explain to listeners how you arrived at this anthology idea? Then talk a little about how you went about implementing it, finding all your contributors.

Zosia: My husband and I went to dinner with some friends of ours. They were running late. They showed up. They were like, “I’m so sorry that we’re late.” They had a toddler at the time, who is now no longer a toddler, which feels crazy. They were like, “We gave him a popsicle for the first time. He was just overwhelmed by the experience. We were going through it with him.” They showed us this video of him eating a popsicle for the first time. It was about a two-minute video. This kid, he’s hitting every major emotion that you can think of, and with such vehemence. He’s just feeling these feelings eating a popsicle for the first time. At first, he’s kind of scared of it. He seems to not like it, I think because it’s so cold. He’s a little shocked. Then he’s really curious about it. Then he gets really into it. Then there’s a moment where I think he probably experiences his first brain freeze. He gets pretty upset. It was just so incredible watching this child have this myriad of emotions in reference to this food that he was experiencing for the first time. I started thinking about the fact that as we get older, we really don’t have those experiences often. Unless we’re eating something really crazy, like monkey toes, we sort of don’t have that experience of a food for the first time. Then I started to think a little deeper on it. It just dawned on me that food is so intrinsically tied to emotion and feeling and highs and lows and good and bad and memory and family and all the things. I noodled on it for a couple of days.

Then I wrote my editors about it. I was like, “I kind of think this could be an interesting idea.” They were like, “We kind of think it could be an interesting idea too, so it has to have been done before.” I was like, “Right? I think it probably has been.” They did their due diligence. They did some digging. It seemed like no one had really written about that in a super specific way. Something else that I was hoping would come across — when I reached out to those who became contributors, it seemed like it really did. I had this inkling that it was this super universal thing. We all have to eat. We all feel things. We all have emotions that are tied to food. I felt like everybody would respond to those two topics tied together, but you never know until you put it out there. I was wonderfully greeted with all of these people being so excited and on board and really champing at the bit to write about this topic. Honestly, I just got my dream list, some people I know, some I didn’t. Some were friends of friends, or I had some sort of a connection with them. Some people, I just literally found their email and cold-emailed them. That’s how I went about compiling the contributors. It’s basically everybody who I could get to say yes to write an essay for this book.

Zibby: Wow. I edited two anthologies. I know all about the pain involved, perhaps, in compiling all of the things and figuring out the orders and all the things you think about when you’re trying to make the book, deadlines and length. You had all these recipes in here too. Bravo.

Zosia: Thank you.

Zibby: I loved — what was it called? — the essay, in particular, about the meatball and the breakup at the restaurant. What was his name? Hold on.

Zosia: Andrew Bevan.

Zibby: Yes, Andrew, “Ball Buster.” This one has stayed with me so much because he writes in such a specific way about every bite he’s having as his boyfriend breaks up with him. You can taste the meatball as he’s chewing it. It is such a vivid description of what that moment is like. You can just see the people at the next table staring over and eavesdropping and him being embarrassed. Tell me about your reactions when you got these essays and that one, perhaps, in particular to start.

Zosia: To your point, it was so much work. It’s funny because my wonderful editor, Meg at Viking, and my book agents were like, “This is a big undertaking.” I was like, “It’s going to be so fun. It’s going to be fine.” I was shooting a television show. I was shooting season two of Flight Attendant while I was editing this book. It was pretty insane. I learned a lot about — I sent a lot of emails that were like, “A deadline is not a suggestion.” It was so fun. It was so incredible because I had really high hopes for this book. Asking all of these incredible people and having them say yes, I was so excited to see what they wrote. Everybody just blew me away. Every essay I got was better than I ever could’ve imagined. I feel like what I wanted so deeply when I set out to create this book was for people to come to the table with their voice, their experience, and so I really didn’t give a lot of direction unless people pressed me for it. I gave as little as possible. Essentially, I said, write about food and feelings. As long as it comes back to that or the through line is that, whatever you want.

It was really interesting because a lot of the actual authors were begging me to give them a word count. I was like, there are no boundaries. Every essay just totally surprised me. I learned a lot about people, those who I don’t know, those who I know really well. People really came to the table with some fascinating, sometimes really heart-wrenching stories. Andrew is a good friend. He’d never told me that story before. That essay, it made me laugh so hard. Also, I definitely cried reading it. That scenario, too, I feel like we’ve all been there, when you feel like you’re going down a lazy river. All is well. You’re just not even thinking. All of a sudden, a shark comes out and eats you. You’re like, how is there a shark in a lazy river? He was like, this is the man I’m going to marry. It’s Valentine’s Day. We’re at a romantic dinner. Now my life is being blown up. He’s such a wonderful writer. I just felt like he wrote with such abandon in such a perfect way.

Zibby: Yes, totally. That’s the great thing too, is now I’m like, I have to read all the other things all these contributors have written because of their voice and everything. I’m also a huge Stephanie Danler fan. I adore her. I hadn’t heard — I don’t know why I would’ve heard. It’s not like we’re BFFs. I just hadn’t heard about this moment of her life post-divorce, reinvention, trying to get on her feet again. Now from this vantage point, we can see how her career totally took off, Sweetbitter and Stray and all of this. To go back to the before point of someone you respect so much, it’s really amazing, just stripping all of that away and seeing, here was her in a really, really vulnerable point, which, obviously, she shares throughout her work, but still. You feel like you’re befriending all these authors even more, deepening your relationships through what they share so intimately.

Zosia: Absolutely. The thing, again, that I love so much about so many of these essays is even though they’re about these exceptionally specific experiences that these people have — you may not have been through a divorce. Yet to me, at the core of that essay, it’s about rediscovering yourself. When traumatic things happen, I think often, we kind of go dormant. Everything becomes a bit muted, the world, our experience of the world, our relationship to it. To me, yes, it’s about this vinaigrette, but what it’s really about is her reawakening her connection to something she loved, which was cooking, which had sort of gone to sleep when she experienced this horrible thing.

Zibby: Then you even have Rosie Perez and other big-deal names and people in the acting world and people in the writing world. Rosie Perez saying she was the love child, this is amazing, all these inside peeks. Were there any topics that you felt like, oh, someone’s totally going to write about blah, blah, blah, and then none of the essays came back that way?

Zosia: That’s a good question. I don’t think so. I feel like they really ran the gamut of subject matters. I really went into the creation of this book with no expectations. I knew that I was asking exceptional people who I loved and admired trusted creatively. I wanted the experience for everyone contributing to be joyful. A lot of times, people reported also, kind of painful. Sometimes, also, people said it was very cathartic writing about certain things. I wanted it to be enjoyable for them. Again, that’s why I was so loose with the prompt. I wanted people to write about whatever they wanted to write about, whatever sparked a fire in them. I kind of didn’t have any expectations in terms of subject matter.

Zibby: I think you should teach a class called Food and Feelings, an online seminar, writing about food and feelings. I feel like so many would sign up. You could do all these spinoff anthologies or whatever you want to do with them.

Zosia: Actually, today, I had a cool experience. I’m a horseback rider. A woman that I ride with at the barn, I brought her one of my advance copies because she had said she wanted to read it. She said she started it yesterday. She was like, “I started reading the first essay. I got so inspired that I stopped, and I wrote about my own experience.” I was like, “That’s the best compliment that I could ever get.” We talked about wanting to maybe do something with that eventually, to see what readers come back with because I really do think everyone has a story to tell that involves these two things.

Zibby: It’s true. You mentioned in the beginning that you have your own history with eating disorders. How do you feel about being public about that? Can you talk about it a little bit more?

Zosia: Sure. I’ve always been very open about it, first and foremost because, sadly, it’s so common, not only in this day and age, but also in my profession. As with so many addictions, one of the things that’s so hard about it is even though you know when you’re going through something like that that you’re not the only one to ever struggle, the most overwhelming feeling is the shame and the loneliness. I always found during my recovery, when I could talk to other people who had been through it as well and feel like I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t the only one who had ever struggled with this, that people had gotten to the other side, it was just really encouraging. It was kind of a salve. I’ve tried to be as vocal as I can about my own experience in the hopes that even if that reaches one girl who’s struggling, or boy or anyone, they can maybe see some hope in the fact that, A, they’re not alone, and B, you can get through it. That’s why I’ve always tried to talk about it and write about it. It’s also cathartic for me. Something else about eating disorders that’s a sad truth is that they’re really a lifelong struggle. They say with so many addictions, you’re pretty much always in recovery.

It’s funny because I sort of thought that people would write about that for this book. Again, I didn’t guide anybody to that subject matter. Something I really loved was that I feel like there are a couple of essays that talk about it, and they fill the spectrum, which I think is something else that often isn’t talked about. I think sometimes people think if they’re not struggling at one extreme of an eating disorder then they maybe aren’t worthy of help. Especially if you have any type of a struggle with it, you can often feel like, well, it’s not that bad. Maybe I don’t need to talk about it. Often, we all have some version of some sort of weird relationship to food or our bodies. Just understanding that it’s okay to talk about is really important, and also to know that everybody deals with it on some version of the spectrum. I thought that was really beautiful to see that people wrote about their experiences with, I guess you would call it disordered eating or body image issues in a really varied way.

Zibby: Andrew, in the book, wrote about hitting bottom in the best way. You said, “The funny thing about rock bottom is that it’s never the true bottom. There are always little trap doors with subbasements and cellars you didn’t know existed. I had just fallen into one.” Did you have a hitting bottom, pre-subbasement moment?

Zosia: Oh, yeah, definitely. A major trap door that, sadly, so many people experience is relapsing. You hit bottom, you think. Then it’s such a sad-but-true adage, which is, you can’t get better until you want to get better. It’s a painful trap door, but it’s an important one. Hitting rock bottom is a horrible, terrifying thing. Sometimes I think it can be the most powerful, incredible thing you can ever experience because it really forces you to rebuild from a place of knowledge. When I started my recovery and I started to get a little bit on the other side of really, really struggling, I attempted to look at it as a positive thing even though it was so horrible. I kind of got to grow up a second time, but with the awareness of being an adult. I think if you’re able to put a spin on it like that, it can actually be really incredible.

Zibby: That’s wonderful. How does the intersection of this book and books and literature dovetail with your acting career? When you’re on set and you’re like, okay, I’m going to go do a book tour, I’m going to talk about my book today, or whatever, have you found an eager audience for reading? Is anyone reading on set? What is the general thought?

Zosia: I think it really depends on the person. Everyone has their different way that they spend their downtime on set. I love to read on set. When I’m working, I need a book that doesn’t require too much brain power. My brain attempting to remember lines and also read something heady is a terrible combination. Then there are some people that just nap or watch reality TV, which I totally respect. I’ve always been a big reader. I love reading. To me, I love writing just as much as I love acting because it’s all just storytelling. It’s all just different versions of storytelling. It’s one of the reasons I love reading so much. It’s such an intimate relationship, in my opinion. I love movies. I love television, obviously. It’s what I do for a living. There’s something about reading a book where it’s your — no one will ever know how I see the book that I just read, how I told myself that story through that person’s prism. That’s such a magical thing to me. It’s so intimate. It’s all story, which I love so much.

Zibby: It’s like when I was a kid and I was like, wait a minute, the way I see the color blue might not be the way you see the color blue. That blows my mind.

Zosia: I got stuck on that for so long. Your green could be my blue. Crazy.

Zibby: We took some long family trip. Everybody was finally like, enough of this. Thank you. That’s good. We got it. Whatever.

Zosia: Blue’s different for everyone, okay?

Zibby: It’s different for everyone. You’re right. It’s the same thing with a story. I think that’s why some authors say that they don’t like to even think about who would star in their book. They don’t want to have a realistic couple on the cover because they want everybody to use their imagination to figure out who it might be for them. Speaking of covers, this is so cool, by the way. Do you love your cover? It’s so exciting.

Zosia: I love it so, so much. Part of my inspiration for the book was this book that I read as a child called Fanny at the Chez Panisse about Alice Water’s daughter growing up there. It was actually the first thing that I ever baked that made me fall in love with baking, was a gingersnap recipe out of that book. Have you ever read it?

Zibby: No, but I read Fanny Singer’s memoir from two years ago. She was on my podcast. It was great.

Zosia: Incredible. It’s a children’s book. It’s about her growing up at the restaurant. Then it’s interspersed with kid-friendly recipes that are tied to the story. I loved this book as a little girl. The illustrations, they were beautiful and elevated but still so whimsical. When we started talking about what the visuals were going to be like in the book, I was like, I don’t want photography. I don’t want anything in there that’s — to your point, like how authors say they don’t want to imagine who would play their characters, I was like, I don’t want anything that’s taking this too much out of someone’s imagination. I just wanted really beautiful, elevated, whimsical illustrations. I used Fanny at the Chez Panisse as my reference. Viking and Penguin did a deep dive. They found our incredible illustrator. I couldn’t be happier.

Zibby: Amazing. When you say you love to read so much, which I do too, obviously, or I wouldn’t be doing the podcast, what types of books do you love to read the most? Do you have a genre or favorite authors or anything you happen to be reading right now?

Zosia: I actually just started Jurassic Park, which I’ve never read before. We just moved. I was looking through our books. I grabbed that. I was like, I’ve never read this. I’m just in the beginning. It’s super fun. I’m enjoying it. I love all books. I’m a fiction reader. I’m not great with nonfiction. It doesn’t really grab me. I like to escape into my books. I definitely have some favorite authors. I go up and down. It’s funny. I love a good mystery. I’m a huge Agatha Christie nut. I love Tana French. I just ripped through all of her novels. Sometimes I just want something like, call it a popcorn read. I have the new Ruth Ware. That’s on my nightstand right now. I love a good book of essays. Eve Babitz is one of my favorite authors of all time, ever, and I think in the same realm as Nora Ephron is also. Love David Sedaris. Getting him to write an essay for the book, I was like, I can die now. That’s it. There’s too many to count. I would say classic-wise, I love Jane Austen. I love Edith Wharton, Dawn Powell, those women who write these sweeping romantic novels. I love Bukowski. I love Hemmingway, Dave Eggers. John O’Hara is another favorite of mine. Who else do I love?

Zibby: That was one of the longest responses —

Zosia: — Sorry. I could keep going.

Zibby: No, I loved it. It was amazing.

Zosia: My friend has a book club called The Inky Phoenix. She asked me once to do favorite authors, favorite novels. I was in the kitchen recording it. My husband was listening. I think it ended up being thirty minutes. He was like, “You can’t send that. It needs to be five.” I was like, “But that’s my answer.” He was like, “You need to cut it down.” I clearly love books. I could keep going.

Zibby: We should schedule a second episode just to talk about our favorite books for eternity, the eternity episode. Zosia, thank you so much. This is so fun. I’d love to keep talking about your books and reading. You’re obviously so bright and talented in so many fields. It’s a joy to chat with you. Congratulations on this book. It’s the perfect thing for one a night before you go to bed or whatever. It’s amazing and so easy to throw in your — I think this is great. It’s a fabulous gift for the holidays and everything.

Zosia: I’m so happy you enjoyed it. Thank you so much for having me. This was a pleasure.

Zibby: You too. Have a great day.

Zosia: You too. Bye.

Zibby: Bye.


MY FIRST POPSICLE: An Anthology of Food and Feelings by Zosia Mamet

Purchase your copy on Amazon and Bookshop!

Check out the merch on our new Bonfire shop here.

Subscribe to Zibby’s weekly newsletter here.

You can also listen to this episode on:

Apple Podcasts