Three Great Things: Ricky Reed

The producer has been finding peace in the everyday during quarantine.

1. Grocery Shopping

The first time I went grocery shopping at the beginning of this was a harrowing experience. It was before the mask mandate was happening but some people were wearing masks, some weren’t. It was just in the full-on hysteria moment, when you don’t even know what department you’re in because the shelves are all empty. I remember my heart was racing, and I didn’t know what to think or do or touch or not touch. Slowly, over the course of weeks, I started figuring out the best time to shop, and I started to get a little technique — wiping down my groceries when I got home, that whole thing. I found myself every Monday at 7AM, going to our grocery store. I know by memory the 60 things that we need. I have a route through the store. I immediately go to dairy to make sure I have enough milk for my twin baby boys. I also have a 3-year-old girl, and wife, so the food that we’re intaking is massive. So every week I do my route and I can fill a shopping cart, barely overflowing, in 20 minutes, from 7 til 7:20, and get home sometimes before the kids are even up. It’s a routine that makes me feel purposeful. It gives me rhythm. Something about it is empowering, going somewhere, collecting sustenance for my family, bringing it home myself, cooking it with my wife, eating it, and doing that on a routine. It gives me a little sense of control in a world where it feels like we don’t have any.

I find zen or a spiritual practice in routines and in rituals. I’m moving pretty quickly through the store, but my heart rate is probably lower than it is the rest of the day, when I’m looking at the news on Twitter. When I’m grocery shopping, I’m in the zone, I’m present, and I’m happy. I think there’s a lot of things we’re learning about ourselves in this time. My goal for myself as well as my hopes for everyone else is that the practices we’ve had to create to take care of our mental health, that we don’t just throw those out the window when it’s not a survival situation.

2. Popcorn

Two or three months ago, we didn’t have any snacks one day, and I opened the cabinet and saw some popcorn kernels. I looked up a recipe, and my first couple batches were probably awful. But I just kept doing it, sort of learning which of my pots distribute heat the most evenly, what kind of oils burn at too low a temperature, figuring out exactly what that temperature is, the right amount of salt, olive oil, toppings, getting everything just so. And now every day at 3PM, I do half a cup of kernels, which comes out to a pretty nice-sized bowl for me, my wife, and my daughter.

You have to use a low-medium heat. I use sunflower oil, which burns at a nice high heat. I put one kernel in, and when that one kernel pops, I throw in the rest of the half-cup, put a lid on it but make sure a little bit of air is escaping — that’s really important — and from there we all know the drill. You let it get up to a fever pitch where it’s popping really fast, and as soon as it starts slowing down you’ve gotta be attentive. When it’s slow, you shake it a few times to make sure none on the bottom are burning before taking it off the heat. My main recipe is just drizzle a little olive oil on it and sort of sprinkle some salt, shake it up with the top on it, little more olive oil and salt, shake it up again, and enjoy. Kettle corn is also surprisingly easy. I don’t even have real sugar here, just coconut sugar. When the popcorn’s hot, you just add the coconut sugar and coconut oil, sprinkle and shake a few times, and you have kettle corn. It’s so easy, I didn’t know!

3. My Garden

We rent a house and we’re very grateful during this time to have a backyard at all, but it’s not the ideal backyard for gardening — and we can’t dig up the lawn and plant whatever we want. But before the pandemic, around Christmas, I kinda looked at the backyard and thought, “I want to make this what I want it to be.” So for Christmas I bought my wife and my daughter a couple of raised-bed planter boxes, and we started with some sugar snap peas, which were pretty easy. And as we got into spring started trying broccoli — didn’t go well. Then when the pandemic hit, I was lucky we already had some plants going. And I’m sure gardening it probably something everybody you interview is doing, and for good reason. Especially here in LA, you’re essentially forced to water your vegetables, and my garden is entirely vegetables except for some pollinators, every day. That’s another thing that creates routine for me. It’s a great bonding thing with my daughter, she loves to pick strawberries and tomatoes. It’s super cool when a cucumber is ready and we can pick that off. She helps me with the fertilizer. It’s amazing.

Regrettably, and I know all the gardening people reading this are going to freak out. I want to do my watering in the morning like you’re supposed to, but the hose is kind of loud and the kids might wake up. So I unfortunately often have to water the plants right after I eat the popcorn, like around 3:30, which is peak bad time. I make sure not to get any water on the plants themselves, on the leaves, because that’s really bad if it’s a hot day. I’ll just water low down to the root. That’s usually my time. But every now and then I get lucky on the weekend and I’ll get to do a morning watering, which is much better.

(Photo Credit: Chantal Anderson)

The Room, the debut album from Grammy-winning multiplatinum producer and songwriter Ricky Reed, was just released via Reed’s own Nice Life Recording Company. Best known for his work with Lizzo, Maggie Rogers, Twenty One Pilots, Halsey, Leon Bridges and many others, The Room marks Reed’s first official full-length following the release of three solo singles from 2016-2017. The album features collaborations from Leon Bridges, Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Lido Pimienta, Duendita, Kiana Ledé and John-Robert among others.