Filmmaker Rebecca Huntt’s Grub Street Diet

Huntt’s film Baby takes its title from her childhood nickname.
Illustration: Lindsay Mound

Rebeca Huntt has spent the past eight years working on her debut feature, Babya personal documentary in which, as one reviewer put it, Huntt “pieces together painful parts of her family and social history, extracting her own identity out of the remnants of her trauma.” The film was largely made, and is set, in New York, where Huntt grew up, but the director actually moved to a small town about 90 minutes outside Mexico City just before the pandemic and has discovered new creative freedom in both the literal and figurative space she has found there. “When I was in New York, I was like, My brain feels a little bit fuzzy,she says. “I was getting all these signs to move. You know those moments when it’s like If you don’t open your eyes, you’re going to fucking miss this?”

Thursday, July 28
Breakfast was chia pudding with fruit, made by my friend Karli, who is also my yoga instructor. I had some time on my hands, so Karli and I came up with an at-home retreat, where we do yoga and meditation a few times a day and then she cooks delicious meals. It’s a staycation, and groceries for both of us for the last three days total less than 20 bucks. This was the last day.

Being able to do something like this with my friend is amazing and very grounding. I always had multiple jobs. Not two jobs, but three-plus. I worked in restaurants — Café Habana, Rintintin; there was a place in Brooklyn called Fitzcarraldo — and I never prioritized my well-being because I was just too busy. Working, but also finding a way to nurture that creative space. I was feeling a little heartbroken. I’d say to myself Okay, you have these jobs, but when you aren’t at those, this is how much time you’re going to give the film, and you’re going to be completely present while you’re doing that. Time was my most valuable asset. Now, being able to afford a good quality of life, being able to go for a hike and then come back home to write or sit in my hammock under a lemon tree and do nothing when I’m feeling stuck creatively — that shit’s valuable.

Lunch was a quinoa bowl with avocado, mushrooms, and tomatoes. We also bought the most delicious fresh tortillas from my neighbor, who makes them every morning from her father-in-law’s corn.

Dinner was a mushroom burger from my favorite restaurant in our small town called Cocina Milagritos. Everything is a mom-and-pop business here. There’s another restaurant that I love too. We didn’t go, but it has a good story: The owner used to be a fisherman. Since he was 9 years old, he’d go out fishing with his family with his hands. He met his wife while they were working in Mexico City. She’d gone to a fancy school there, and it was sort of a Cinderella story in reverse. Then they opened a restaurant here. We’re in the mountains, so we don’t have a lot of seafood — it’s not a shipping priority. But every Thursday, his family comes and brings him fresh fish, and it’s incredible.

Friday, July 29
Breakfast was oatmeal pancakes with eggs and fruit, made by yours truly. I eat these pancakes almost every day. When I didn’t have shit, I was still eating oatmeal — just big bowls of it. Now it’s weird for me to eat breakfast that isn’t oatmeal. This is Karli’s recipe, and I’m so attached to it.

My family was visiting, which was so exciting. I got to be a little fancy with them. We have an organic market on Fridays, so we went there and had so many tostadas: nopales, guacamole, chicken. It was so cool to share that with them. Honestly, we had so many tostadas that we skipped dinner and all fell asleep by 9 pm watching Fantastic Planet.

Saturday, July 30
I bought homemade waffles from my favorite market in town, and we had those with hard-boiled eggs. Growing up, we had home-cooked meals every day. Breakfast was so important for my mom, which is why it’s so important for me.

We were heading to CDMX, so for lunch we just grabbed cecina tacos from La Doña up the street. She makes the the best nopales, which she puts over the tacos. Hmmm.

When we got to Mexico City, we went to La Isla de las Muñecas in Xochimilco. A boat approached with drinks and snacks. I ordered a michelada, and so did my mom. It was going to be her birthday the next week but I wouldn’t be with her, so I had the mariachis sing her “Las Mañanitas,” which is the Latino version of “Happy Birthday,” while we got drunk off our 40- ounce micheladas.

Dinner was at La Zaranda in Roma. It’s Mexican food with a Colombian flair, and it felt really nice to be able to take my mom and nieces there. With everyone in town, I was going out to dinner more in a weekend than I usually do all month. I had ceviche and tuna tacos, and it was the best.

Sunday, July 31
Started the day at Panaderia Rosetta and had their delicious guava-and-cheese danish. Well, I had two, actually. It felt like cheating on my oatmeal, but my family was in town, so fuck it.

I’d first come down here in 2019 for an artist’s residency. It was really just a cool house in the mountains owned by a cool artist. We have a different meaning of artist’s residency in New York — it’s a whole thing. But when I was supposed to go back, the pandemic hit, and it was like, Wait, what? My mom had come to visit, and she was like, “This place is so your style.” It reminded me so much of where I spent my summers in Venezuela, where my mom is from. I had some money saved from jobs — like nothing, but it was enough to say, “I’m good for six months with rent, I can pay for groceries, and I can go to a restaurant once in a while.” I was just in Manhattan for the Tribeca Film Fest, and the place that I Airbnb’d while I was staying there was the equivalent of more than a year of my rent.

After breakfast, we visited Frida Kahlo’s house, and there was a man selling fresh coconuts, so we had to stop for one before going in. My niece is 16 years old and wants to be an artist. I’ve been to the Blue House many times, but getting to go with my nieces was the most special.

For lunch, we ate at Los Danzantes and ordered everything. Octopus, duck tacos — a feast, and a great day, before everyone had to go to the airport.

For a Sunday cap, my friend and I went to Taco bar, which is my happy place. I had mushroom tacos and one of the rib tacos because they’re just so good. Paired them with a mezcal cocktail and then it was off to my pueblo again.

Monday, August 1
I already missed my family, but it was so nice to be back home. Usually when I’m deep into writing, I wake up at five. That’s the time that I feel safest — nobody’s talking; nobody’s walking; there aren’t any trucks. It’s just time to let the freak show out and experiment and have some fun. At 7:30, there’s a woman who has exercise classes. I go four days a week, come home and meditate for an hour, and then I have my breakfast. But I didn’t do that this morning because my family had just left, I’d had mezcal the night before, and my brain was a little slow. It was just a different vibe.

Instead, I made my oatmeal pancakes and watched Before Sunrise. I love Richard Linklater, and I wanted to remember how he’d done something. So I was like Okay, let me just watch this really quickly and see it again. Then I chilled on the hammock and did some writing in the afternoon.

Lunch was gluten-free pasta with pesto from my neighbor’s garden, and dinner was kale, hummus, and avocado tacos with fresh tortillas. Growing up, I always helped in the kitchen and then I started cooking more in college because I had to. Both of my parents are incredible cooks, and the food was always really nourishing Caribbean food, like rice and beans, plantains, chicken, salads. Everything was home-cooked, and my diet was really healthy. Cooking has always been a part of my family, but I was so busy before. Now I have the space and time to do that myself, and it just feels like success to me in such a specific way.

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