5 Questions

5 Questions: Karen Kopacz

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. Desert: 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.

5 Questions: Hilary Gebauer

 
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Hilary knows a lot about good eating. She is a practicing dietician by profession, a mother/feeder to a young daughter, and has worked with CSA farms and farmers markets in various capacities. All around, she is a lover of food, especially bread. Read on…  

What does eating well look like for you?

For me, eating well means eating with intention. That might mean cooking up a family recipe that reminds me of my childhood, picking out veggies at the farmers market in summer and letting them inspire the menu for the week, finding a new recipe or method of cooking and trying it out, or it might mean sitting down in front of the TV with takeout after a long week. When I'm eating with intention, I'm able to check in with myself and know what I'm needing, both nutritionally and emotionally. 

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

Right now, I'd probably say bread. I was lucky enough to grow up in a household where my mom baked all of our bread from scratch every week. I'm trying to continue the tradition with my own daughter, so I try to keep a few loaves of sliced, homemade bread in the freezer at all times. A quick dinner of grilled cheese or a snack of cinnamon toast is never far away for a hungry toddler when you have bread in the freezer! 

Can you share a defining food memory?

Just one? I grew up hating fish, but one of my best food memories is of eating fish. When I was 18 I had the opportunity to travel by canoe in the Northwest Territories for 45 days with YMCA Camp Widjiwagen. We ate what we carried with us, so we didn't really have anything fresh the whole trip. We hardly saw another human, but right at the end we ran into some fishermen. We told them about our trip and they immediately insisted we take their daily catch. That night we had fresh arctic char, pulled straight from the lake and cooked in a foil packet with butter (oh that butter!) potatoes, onions and carrots. It was such a simple meal, but probably one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten in my life.

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

Oh goodness, where do I start! I'm a public health dietitian by training so I have a lot of professional interests in food. But I also love to cook and eat and share food with friends and family so there are a lot of topics that are of personal interest to me as well. The thing that spans both my personal and professional interests is helping people have a good relationship with food that leads them toward wholeness, and that is going to look different for everyone. But I love helping people have a positive connection with food, seeing them get excited about trying something new or learning a different way to view nutrition.

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

My mom's homemade bread. Or my husband's homemade pizza. Or maybe a reuben sandwich with my sister-in-law's homemade sauerkraut and my brother's pastrami, he's really good a smoking pastrami. I suppose I would just want it to be something made with love, by someone I love!

 

 

5 Questions: Jen Prestegaard

 
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I'm so delighted to introduce you to my friend and longtime client (or 'eater' as I like to call those I support in the kitchen), Jen Prestegaard. Her charm is certainly reflected in her daughter's face in this photo. I have always admired Jen's zeal for good food, and her determination to share this energy with her own family, most importantly her two young daughters.

What does eating well look like for you?

When I am eating well, I am sharing a meal in the company of others. A nourishing start to my day includes a yogurt bowl with fresh berries, nuts and perhaps even cocoa nibs or chocolate chips. All washed down by a cappuccino in a mug made by someone who knows my name. Greens for lunch and a hot meal for dinner that I've planned ahead. I am off my game when I have a line-up of disposable coffee cups and pastry bags in my car. If you see me with a Taco John's bag, it usually means I need an intervention.

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

At the ripe age of 42, I have perfected the art of the take-out dinner. The Trader Joe's stir-fry bag with an over easy egg, pasta/peas/cheese and Friday night pizza delivery were once standbys. I have grown more confident and adept with Goosefoot's meal planning service however and now love warming up a homemade chowder or soup from the freezer, whipping up an omelet or throwing together a pasta sauce. Brinner (breakfast dinner) is a always a solid win in our house because the kids love bacon, pancakes, cheesy eggs and all the accessories.

Can you share a defining food memory?

Like most, all food memories lead to my mother. My mom devoured cookbooks when she was alive and I remember her (at least weekly) concocting a recipe for a work potluck. Her specialty was the appetizer although most involved a frightening amount of cream cheese. Her holiday dinners were massive spreads. The twice-baked potatoes, the red hot jello salad, the head of cauliflower doused in bearnaise sauce and nearly a dozen tupperware containers of cookies. Without fail, we'd be halfway into a holiday meal and Mom would exclaim that she'd left the crescent rolls in the oven and burnt them to a crisp.  

Traveling took my taste buds captive and changed everything. A frisee aux lardons salad in Times Square before a Broadway show, fresh macarons from Laduree in Paris and every morsel tasted in Sonoma County. The Macaroni and Cheese Gratin and roasted red pepper soup at Underwood Bar is my most memorable meal ever. And I want to start every day at the Inn at Occidental with their breakfast buffet and fresh granola, proceed to wine and cheese hour and drift off to bed with hot cookies and cocoa.

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

I'm very interested in enjoying the simplicity of food. For too many decades, food was confusing. The food labels, to meat or not to meat, the calories, superfoods, the cooking shows, bulk shopping, cleanses, slow cookers, aargh...I just want to eat real food that makes me feel good and know that it came from a good place. My greatest hope is that my children develop a relationship with food that empowers and inspires them.

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

After much thought, I want to have my last meal at the lake cabin.  Grilled turkey and fresh corn on the cob with butter dripping off it.  I want a salad that tastes good (absent the iceberg lettuce and bottled salad dressings I grew up on).  And I want my mom's homemade strawberry pie . . . like only she could make it.

Traveling took my taste buds captive and changed everything. A frisee aux lardons salad in Times Square before a Broadway show, fresh macarons from Laduree in Paris and every morsel tasted in Sonoma County. The Macaroni and Cheese Gratin and roasted red pepper soup at Underwood Bar is my most memorable meal ever. And I want to start every day at the Inn at Occidental with their breakfast buffet and fresh granola, proceed to wine and cheese hour and drift off to bed with hot cookies and cocoa.

5 Questions: Jeannie Farrell

 
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Do you know Jeannie, everyone knows Jeannie. In my neighborhood that is. A woman tuned in, she is the one who orchestrates the neighborhood meetings and potlucks; she is that soul. Earnest gardener and true home cook, Jeannie discusses how the kitchen is a venue for experimentation and learning; all the while with two small daughters and a rambunctious puppy at her busy heels.  

What does eating well look like for you?

When I am eating well, I am baking and making good food for my family.  A sweet potato, maple sausage and parmesan egg bake or blueberry muffins for breakfast.  Trying a new vegetarian recipe or going with the old standby of meat and potatoes for dinner.  Eating well for us is eating organic as much as possible and buying meat that is ethically raised – either from our local co-op or directly from the farmer at the downtown St. Paul farmers market.  

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

We love tacos! Recently I discovered a vegetarian taco meat made with baked quinoa – it is so delicious!  A homemade lentil soup with homemade bread always hits the spot for everyone on a cold winter day.

Can you share a defining food memory?

I was born in Melrose Park, Illinois, which at the time had a large Italian population. Most of my mother’s family (her parents were from Sicily) lived there or in the suburbs surrounding. Every summer we would drive to Melrose Park and go to Aunt Millie’s house for the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. There would be a procession honoring the Madonna in front of Aunt Mil’s house.  Inside her house I remember eating the best pizza! I recall it being cooked on a cookie sheet, so it was square and a bit salty (I am guessing anchovies) and did not have very much sauce, if any, on it. Oh, how good it was! After the parade we would walk to the carnival and eat Italian ice out of paper cups – as a little girl I looked forward to that Italian ice all day!  I also loved going to visit my grandma’s side of the family on Christmas Eve and eating cucidati (Italian fig cookies) and pizzelles.  My mom passed away when I was nine, but those fig and almond flavors always make my heart feel warm and connected to her and her family.

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

I was never allowed to help in the kitchen as a kid, so I never learned how to cook. I met my partner, a chef, when I was 24 years old. At the time, my specialty was making a poached egg – and that was about it.  Sean started helping me learn to cook and I am still amazed when I find things that I can do on my own or find a new way or process for making something in the kitchen.  Years ago, I was thrilled when I found out I could make my own yogurt.  Last year I took up kombucha and kvass making. I also love learning about how food can be used in the healing process. During flu season I make Elderberry syrup for my family and homemade fire tonic for Sean and I. it feels so good to take care of myself and my family in this simple way.

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

Such a tough question! I am sure my answer would ebb and flow depending on the day, week, year. Currently, if I had to choose it would be good bread with olive oil and salt, cut up grapefruit, cashews, hard salami, a nice white cheddar, fig jam and crackers and chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and raspberries on top served on a lovely table with candles and fresh greenery or flowers.

Five Questions: Iglika Petrova

 
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Photo by Eliesa Johnson

Meet Iglika, the gentle soul behind Sprig of Thyme, a beautiful blog that reflects her love of food and her talents as a designer and photographer. I admire her light touch, her vegetable-focus, and want to hear more from her on her Bulgarian upbringing and her reflections on the food of place. 

What does eating well look like for you?

I grew up eating homemade food prepared with fresh, seasonal produce. So, pretty much anything that is fresh, seasonal and grown with love is eating well for me. Simple things like a thick crusted sourdough toast topped with heirloom tomato and drizzled with olive oil.

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

I go through obsession periods. Taco obsession. Avocado obsession. Handmade pasta obsession. Right now I am on a pan-roasted cabbage and cherry tomatoes tossed with dill and yogurt obsession. 

Can you share a defining food memory?

My family owned a small house in the mountains where we spent the summers. The house was passed down generations together with two vegetable gardens and every tree on the property was a fruit or a nut tree. Eating sweet carrots that I just pulled from the ground and cleaned in my shirt is my favorite food memory.

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

Local and sustainably grown or produced foods are a passion of mine. I have felt the effects on my body and health from eating both fresh sustainable foods and eating industry crafted food products. The difference was so drastic in a short period of time, so I am sticking and advocating for fresh and when possible local foods. 

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

Tomato, cucumber salad with parsley and olive oil and a huge plate of grilled octopus.

 

Five Questions: Roseanne Pereira

 
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I met Roseanne years ago, when she, a stranger then, called me from California, inquiring about a place called The Ballymaloe, the culinary school I went to in Ireland. So few Americans attend the quirky program, and she wanted the scuttlebutt. Roseanne is a person full of wonder, an explorer, always a student—qualities I find deeply respectful. She is also a writer, which those qualities reflect, and as you can see in her photo, a true food lover.

What does eating well look like for you?

Eating food that leaves me feeling good/ gives me energy throughout day. Having gratitude for what is on my plate and how it got there, even if just for a moment.

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

Hmmm, sometimes I smash up cherry tomatoes and olives for a quick side salad. Recently, I’ve gotten into Hollyhock dressing and keep a jar in the fridge so I can add it to any kind of salad, cooked greens, or even just a bowl of garbanzo beans. I try and always have some sort of staple around, like Le Puy lentils, that are fine on their own, or that I can throw into other dishes.

Can you share a defining food memory?

Sure! I grew up in South Florida and had a coconut tree in my backyard. My dad would break open young coconuts from the tree and as a kid, I would be ready with a glass for the fresh coconut water. Then, I would run into the house to give my mom a taste for the final assessment of the coconut’s quality.

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

I am very much a people-person, so I love to hear about what certain foods mean for people. I’m also interested in the histories of cuisines and ingredients. I’ve attended lectures by culinary historians that convinced me that there are clues about our histories in our recipes.

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

If I did not know it was my last meal- tabbouleh with lots of lemon and parsley.

If I did know - my mother’s chicken curry and rice, and my auntie’s lime pickle, followed by a hot cup of black tea. I drink tea each morning, so this ending would be like a beginning.

5 Questions, Steven Tacheny

 
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Musician, English teacher, and impassioned gardener, Steven Tacheny is also a busy parent of 3 school-aged children. He's also our neighbor, and we're lucky enough to swap suppers here and there. He and his wife, Jennifer, are engaged citizens in many areas of their lives, and are always reliable conversationalists, not to mention great home-cooks. In the photo above, Steven was serving all of us lamb croquettes one fall evening using lamb from his parents' farm, and as always at the Tacheny house, plenty of homegrown vegetables on the side. 

What does eating well look like for you?

Literally, looking is one sense. Eating well is multi-sensual. Of course, taste and smell. But, what about what you hear while you eat well? The conversation or music. What about the inner senses of emotional balance and safety? More broadly, how is my meal more reliant on and connected to the people around me? I imagine a group of people humbly eating inspiring, nutritional tastes using ingredients they know and participated in creating, and having fun. They don't have fears or anxieties about safety or health. Basically, whatever you eat - that would be the highest blessing of "eating well."

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

Probably, a simple breakfast. Rice cereal, maybe oatmeal, with fruit and yogurt. Bagels and eggs. Sandwich, fruit lunches. Dinners are totally unreliable. But I always envision a main course with 3 elements. Organic decision making -  I hardly ever plan ahead. Kids may go crazy over homemade egg noodles and tuna with garlic white sauce. I can easily boil homegrown broccoli, kale or home-canned beans as a side, then lean on fruit/color - applesauce, squash. Other homemade recipes I can throw out: pad thai, Italian chicken or tomato sauce, pesto, pork chops, potatoes, tacos. Whatever the moment, my favorite aspect of cooking - reliable vegetables and having kids devour them.

Can you share a defining food memory?

For a while growing up during my early teen years, we had extravagant Friday dinners, sometimes 3 hours long with guests, and they let me sip wine. My mother is an amazing cook, exceptionally active and open to learning to this day. At that time, she worked full time, but still made a Friday banquet. Often, we ate our home-raised lamb. However, she came across a deal on canned escargot, like a 2 years' supply, and 6 snails a person on a Friday were amazing. Though born in the midwest, seafood and fish have always felt like defining meals. Fresh shoreline walleye lunch in northern MN, caviar at the old Russian Tea House in NYC, or the oysters I shuck on Fridays for a treat - yes. Well-prepared seafood is always defining.  

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

Accessibility to experience and relationship to what ‘food’ means. I’m scared to lose the 15 acres I grew up on outside of Mankato, MN. I’m blessed.  Luckily, I don’t have to be scared to lose the Walmart in my small town. I was especially changed the day I walked into a South Bronx grocery and the only fresh meat available was plastic-wrapped pig’s feet. Environment, accessibility and control over food culture are foundations. Even in an urban setting, people should have the direct experience and association with the elements they eat. If you like chicken, you should know what it means to stare a chicken in the face as you nurture it, use its eggs, butcher it, and make it a meal. If you eat grains and nuts, you should use the iron to turn the soil if you want to turn flour to bread and have a chance to gather the nuts or shake the hands of the people who did.  Why? Because people should consider themselves worthy of that broader ideal - it is the most efficient for physical, spiritual, and community health.

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

Sick question? O.k. it’s going to happen, but despite my high ideals about being able to easily and deeply provide for my family, there are too many meals I’d think about when it comes to a penultimate ideal, or debaucherous fantasy. Honestly, my last meal would be the biggest one I could hold for those who wanted to break bread with me, or those I’d want to hug or thank. Actually, some good baguettes would do, especially fresh and local. O.k. maybe some really good blue cheese, from my hometown of Mankato - Bend in the River?. A few oysters, canned or fresh, and a bottle of French table wine. But I would share some Dr. Pepper and pickled herring with crackers, so long as there’s enough to share with those around me, whoever that may be in the moment.

5 Questions, Koshiki Smith

 
Photo courtesy of Koshiki Smith

Photo courtesy of Koshiki Smith

 

Chef, home-cook, parent, traveler, and owner of Tanpopo Studio, Koshiki is locally known as the past owner/chef of the beloved Tanpopo Noodle Shop in St Paul, MN, where she served steaming and nourishing bowls of Japanese soup for many years to adoring eaters. She was raised on a small island off the coast of mainland Japan, among cooks and resourceful folk. The foods of that place, the values and skills gleaned there, seem to find their way into her own everyday approach to cooking to eating.

What does eating well look like for you?

It is important for me to feed the family of 4 well balanced meals every day, which means, some vegetables, some grain, some meat, some eggs, some fish and some tofu (our kids love tofu!!).  We probably eat Japanese food every other day and I bake muffins and scones so our kids are not hungry between meals.  

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

I always have dried rice at home which I can cook with vegetables and protein. For example, sauteed cabbage and ground pork with soy sauce or fried rice with eggs and vegetables.  Pasta with cream sauce, bacon and vegetables is also something quick and easy I can make that everyone likes.  

Can you share a defining food memory?

When I was growing up, I often visited my aunt in the city of Kumamoto, Japan who is a chef.  The dishes she prepared always amazed me as a young girl and to this day I make many dishes inspired by her cooking.  

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

I am working on a culinary tour business as I am most interested in meeting people in Japan who grow their own food, prepare their food and are keeping the tradition. It is very important that these farmers and individuals are able to be self-sufficient for their lifestyle as well as sharing their beliefs about the importance of food.

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

If my family prepares me a dish with care and love, I would take that as my last meal.  

Just no processed food please.