5 Questions: Karen Kopacz


Meet Karen Kopacz, true Renaissance woman. As a busy artist, designer, storyteller, and explorer, Karen is generally folded into a dozen purposeful, creative projects at any given time. But she also values pause, a mid-week walk in the woods, and as I can attest to, long and engaging meals with those in her life.

What does eating well look like for you?

I am a busy creative and I live and work alone, so my eating patterns can get a little chaotic. Balancing meals is a challenge and I’m always working on it. I love sharing beautiful meals in a relaxed way with others, and often do. It’s also not unusual that I am running out the door with a meal in a bag. For me, eating well means that the food I buy is healthy, but also that I am doing my best to support businesses and restaurants that participate in a healthy food system. It means that I enjoy what I eat, and share experiences around food. And, that sometimes my meal is a slice of cheese, a handful of blueberries, Castelvetrano olives and some unsalted nuts, and that’s just fine too, because I’m buying quality food.

What is a favorite and reliable everyday dish for you and your family?

Dolphin-safe tuna from a can mixed with sesame oil, ume plum vinegar, safflower mayo, lemon, Sriracha or chili oil, sea salt, pepper. (Less than 10 minutes to make. Make a sandwich, tuna melt, or mix into a salad.)

Can you share a defining food memory?

Almost a decade ago, I stopped offering pro bono design services to acquaintances who didn’t have a design budget, and instead offered to trade an evening of strategy and design if they would come to my house with a bottle of wine and cook a meal for us to share. With food, dreams, and discussion on the horizon of every session, I was able to be of service and fill my house with energy. These sessions were productive, memorable, and joyful. With food as the hub, and our well-fed bodies and brains, we created some lovely, collaborative experiences together. Some of my most valued friendships began this way. Echoes of this arrangement still exist, sometimes in the homes of others. Anytime design, food, and a meeting of the minds intersect, I feel very grateful.

What topics around food are you most interested in, and why?

I think food is medicine. My grandmother used to say, “If you don’t eat well, you pay to the doctor.” I believe in good food, real food, and working toward good habits around food. I say “working toward” because I do not want to associate feelings of guilt with food, and my habits are far from perfect. I may not cook often, in the traditional sense, but good food is as important to me as nature, art, and love. Lately, I don’t have it in me to grow food, but have been spending a lot of time in nature, and have been curious about foraging. I’m very familiar with identifying plants from countless walks with my mother, a master gardener, and a long-time friend who is an herbalist. But now I’m learning how to identify more of what is edible, and when and where to gather food. I ask a lot of questions, listen to the occasional podcast, and read articles. But it’s actually doing it (carefully and safely) that helps me connect my food to seasons, ecosystems, and the environment. And, it’s yet another way to share joyful experiences with others around food. 

I have to ask. What would you hope for as a last meal on this earth?

This could change on any given day, but today… First course: sashimi tuna with wasabi and radicchio and a glass of Château Bréjou Bordeaux (from my dad’s weirdly unending supply of French wine). Main course: wood-fired pizza with ramps and morels. Dessert: cardamom and rose rice pudding with pistachios, a rose and honey chocolate, and, since I’m dying, I’ll go ahead and have a Pimm’s Provencal and a Bistro Bijou. (This makes no sense as a meal, but who cares.) Add 50 of my closest friends and a farm table outside on a spring day, and I’m already in heaven.