HAUS GUEST: BOBBLEHAUS X KRISTIN POSNER

HAUS GUEST: BOBBLEHAUS X KRISTIN POSNER

Feature photo courtesy of @bynourishco


CASEY HUANG

Before I even had the pleasure of speaking to Kristin Posner, my editor told me that she was the cutest person ever. But, seeing as we live on opposite coasts, I couldn’t have met her in person to have a chat or grab a cup of coffee (which is such a shame, more so on my end). Yet this physical divide wouldn’t have stopped me from understanding what my editor meant. 

When Kristin picks up my phone call, I instantly have the feeling that talking to her will be easy and effortless. She first asks me about my Torrance area code (she’s from Torrance), wonders if she’s cool enough to be interviewed (she definitely is), and celebrates being able to work from home (so as to avoid the cold winter weather). That’s how we start the conversation--sweet, easygoing, and somehow familiar. We thank each other continuously for taking the time to talk; I deduce that it is this sweet and calming energy that Kristin exudes, even over the phone, that must make her so relatable and engaging to people. 

Founder of Nourish Co., Kristin created the platform to help people form community and reconnect with their lineage and rituals. A Japanese American and Jewish home cook, Kristin wanted to create an open space where these differing cultures could intersect and flourish.  With everything from recipes to holiday guides, Nourish Co. uplifts cultural rituals but modernizes them for today’s society.Through food, events, ritual objects, Nourish Co. fuses cultures in meaningful and practical ways. 

“I wrestled with my identities my whole life.”  

“I wrestled with my identities my whole life,” Kristin begins, “I was born and raised in Torrance, my mom is Japanese, and my dad is a third-generation Japanese American from Hawaii.” This pull between the Japanese and Japanese American parts of herself is something that Kristin admits she is still learning from today, but she is also grateful to have elements from both cultures. Finding balance has been one of the greatest lessons of her life, and part of the reason she returned to Japan for two years to teach English. “I wanted to find out more about my heritage--I didn’t feel a sense of belonging for some reason in America, [so] I looked for it in Japan.”

But she felt out of place in Japan as well. People in the small town in the prefecture of Miyazaki, where Kristin was placed, met her with curiosity and confusion: were you Japanese or not? Why couldn’t you speak the language? “It’s not that I wanted to be 100% Japanese or anything,” she clarifies, “but I wanted to be accepted for who I was.” The sentiment of wanting to be accepted simply for who you are is one that probably arises frequently for people who struggle with their identities, and one that I immediately empathize with: somehow, in the absence of your own certainty, you look to others for acceptance and validation of who you are. 

Though her time in Japan may have raised some difficult questions about her identity, it was also there that Kristin discovered just how passionate she was about food. “When I was growing up, I didn’t cook very much,” she reminisces, “I grew up watching people cook around me-- mostly my grandma and mom.” Kristin doesn’t remember specific recipes, but she learned how to cook from her aunt in Yokohama, who she tells me is an amazing cook. “She cooks without recipes, so I just learned a good foundation of Japanese cooking.” This natural instinct and creativity provided a springboard for Kristin to unleash her creativity with food. She describes a boiled seasonal root vegetable dish that sounds amazing (particularly for the cold winter months), and we end up talking about Japanese food as a whole. Talking about her experience in Japan gets us both excited, and we end up just gushing about how much we love Japan. “If I could move back to Japan, I would love to live in Tokyo,” she decides. 

Nourish Co. grew out of these personal experiences and Kristin’s  professional background, which includes jobs as a food and wine publicist and an interior designer. But one of the most important personal events of her life is her conversion to Judaism. Kristin became interested in Judaism after she met her now-husband, Bryan, but neither he nor his family expected her to convert. “I just fell in love with the Jewish tradition and message. I was always searching for spiritual navigation to help sort through things and make sense of the world.” The conversion to Judaism was a lengthy one-- “a year and a half, maybe two” --but an experience that was filled with support. As Kristin tells me about her conversion, I realize just how much heart and dedication she has put not just into her personal life, but into creating the platform of Nourish Co. To prepare for her conversion, Kristin and Bryan took introduction classes together, and towards the end she underwent a panel (beit din; rabbinic court) and took a ritual bath (ritual mikveh) to complete the process.  “For the beit din, you write a personal essay on your journey of conversion , then there is essentially a panel of three people consisting of rabbis and community members who ask you questions.” Kristin then assures me, “it sounds really scary but it’s not. In my experience, it was all very supportive and then they welcome you into the Jewish faith.” She tells me that once you’ve converted, you’re unquestionably Jewish-- another thing she loves about the faith: the instant, nearly infallible sense of belonging. 

“I was always searching for spiritual navigation to help sort through things and make sense of the world.”

Right before her conversion ceremony, Kristin had a moment of crisis: if she converted, would her Japanese side no longer flourish? Her rabbi provided her with a simple response: “why shouldn’t there be room for both?” This was the spark that ignited the foundation of Nourish Co--the realization that, yes, there can be room for both, and what’s more, there are many others searching for this same assurance. “There is room for both and so much more,” she explains, “and I created Nourish Co. as a space and sanctuary for anyone who is experiencing the same thing.” She was right-- there are plenty of people who feel isolated by their conflicting identities; in creating Nourish Co., she has both validated this struggle and found a way to reconcile it. 

“Why shouldn’t there be room for both?”

“For me, food is a way to connect to people. My first dinner I ever did was the month after our wedding-- eight friends came over and I made up Japanese and Jewish dishes just for fun.” As I marveled at how soon the seed of Nourish Co. was planted, Kristin simply responds that she knows this is exactly what she wants to be doing. From there, she began to host dinner after dinner. The recipes that she creates are a combination of Bryan’s and her heritage, and the birth of new dishes are reminders of how food serves as a cultural foundation. “Food is the easiest way to celebrate culture, but it is only a part of it. It’s not the only thing, but for many people, it’s the easiest access point.” Japanese and Jewish heritage fuse together on the plate, and just by looking through Kristin’s recipes I can tell how much heart is in all of them. She tries to incorporate aspects of her dad’s Hawaiian heritage as well, as seen in this Hawaii-Inspired Hamantaschen. “Food tells a story--where you’ve been, where your family’s been and where you’re going,” Kristin explains. “For a culture to survive, it needs to evolve over time.” And this is when it fully clicks in my head:  through conversing with Kristin, I’ve learned that our traditions are malleable, and that we have the power and ability to add to them as we combine and enrich our life experiences. Tradition constantly changes with time, even as we preserve the foundations of it.

The recipes that she creates are a combination of Bryan’s and her heritage, and the birth of new dishes are reminders of how food serves as a cultural foundation. 

For most of the call, Kristin’s voice stays calm and collected. But when I ask her about her favorite dishes, she immediately becomes excited and her clear passion for food shines through. “I have so many! I’ll give you a list.” She mentions an everything bagel donburi and chirashi sushi recipe, both of which have rice as bases. We joke that we really can’t escape the rice (let’s be honest), but that’s alright because we both love rice. Kristin has three top criteria for her recipes: easy, beautiful, and delicious. A fourth element, accessibility, links the aesthetics and taste of food with its ability to foster community. 

 

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I know it's not even Hanukkah yet, but I've already started menu planning for New Year's Day! Just looking at this chirashi sushi dish makes me so happy with anticipation of one of my favorite holidays 🥂. . Chirashi sushi is served on happy occasions. My version includes dungeness crab 🦀, a Bay Area winter tradition. The season officially opened yesterday with a text from our "crab lady" , Doreen, who coordinates all the orders off her commercial fishing boat an hour south of the city. Walking down the dock and standing in line with all the Asian women who have been cooking crab for their families for generations makes me feel like a legit matriarch (of our family of two...) . This year, I'm looking forward to hosting my family again at home in San Francisco. Head to the archives for this chirashi sushi recipe. It's a beautiful addition to any holiday table, or for a happy occasion ✨. . 📷 @nicolemorrisonphoto

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Now, Nourish Co. is expanding to create an heirlooms shop inspired by both Bryan’s and her desire to own heirlooms that fit their aesthetics:  “we didn’t want the things that were mass-produced and poorly, but the higher-priced objects  are unrealistic for newlyweds and are often ornate and didn’t fit our aesthetics either.” As Kristin’s favorite part of working as an interior designer had been working with artisans, she naturally collaborated with different artisans to create the pieces that she wanted to see in her home. From ceramics to challah covers, the heirloom shop reflects the modernization of traditional objects. Every piece and detail is created with intention, and both Kristin and the artisans she works with hope to create heirlooms that are continually passed down from generation to generation.

As we conclude our chat, Kristin mentions a restaurant in New York called Bessou that I must visit. “I’ve never had food like it,” she tells me. A day later, she emails me her favorites at Bessou (she brackets that it’s the most important part of the email). Luckily, I live close enough to take her up on this recommendation (not that distance could ever come between me and a raved-about restaurant). We officially ended our call with the hopes that, someday, we will meet in person. 

Nourish Co. embodies Kristin’s very energy: her acceptance, hope, and welcoming spirit. Though Kristin identifies as Japanese American and Jewish and I identify as Taiwanese-but-raised-in-Shanghai-and-also-Westernized (I don’t really know either), somehow, I feel like I’ve learned more about myself simply through speaking to Kristin. By putting herself out there and being honest about her journey and struggles, Kristin has made it easier for me and many others to admit our own vulnerabilities. It is this transparency that makes Nourish Co. the invaluable community it is today. She knows exactly how she wants to help and support people, and works tirelessly to make it happen. Nourish Co.-- and, really, Kristin’s life -- is truly and gracefully a labor of love. 

 

 


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