The Main Meal, June 2023
With Nina Kossoff + Nicolette Mason ~ Partners in Love, Life + "Other"-ness
In their journey of self-discovery, Nina Kossoff and Nicolette Mason found comfort in each other’s company. With mixed ethnic backgrounds that include Filipino, Eastern European Jewish, Iranian, and English heritage, their union brought on new meaning to being an “other.”
What truly bonded them, though, was their insatiable curiosity and genuine openness toward others. Fueling their connection further was a mutual passion for all things rice—whether it be crispy variations, rice-based delicacies, or the joy of sharing their cultural cuisines with friends. Today, they gratefully call Brooklyn home, where they’ve built a beautiful life together alongside their two pugs, Frankie and Dorothy.
Here at west~bourne, we've always been huge fans of everything you do personally, professionally, and together. For our community, tell us a little about yourselves and your love.
Nina:By day I am an Associate Strategy Director atSoze, a social impact agency. Outside of that, I am a co-founder ofHAVEN Boxing, a radically inclusive boxing gym in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and an advisory council member ofThird Wave Fund, which resources youth-led, intersectional, gender justice movements.
Nicolette: I’m a brand strategist and creative consultant working predominantly in the fashion and beauty industries, and I’m also a founding member ofIranian Diaspora Collective 501(c)(3), a non-profit organization that supports the pursuit of democracy in Iran.
A little birdy told us you love hosting friends and loved ones in your NY backyard. Tell us about your dream gathering. What’s one hosting tip you want to scream from the rooftops?
Part of what we love about hosting our friends in our backyard is that our table seats ~12 people (or more?!) so we absolutely would want to fill that table with our friends! We are huge fans of grilled seafood and veggies of all kinds: shrimp, lobster, fish, eggplant, zucchini, corn - grill it all! Then who doesn’t love a little grilled bread rubbed with avocado oil and garlic alongside all that? We also grow lettuces and herbs in our backyard, so we always try to have a nice, big leafy salad to go with all of it. For drinks, we are fans of an Aperol and Campari (yes, combined!) spritz in the summer and maybe a nice chilled orange wine. As far as a hosting tip: don’t forget about dessert! Whether we do it ourselves or a friend who’s coming over volunteers one, that little sweet treat at the end always feels special to close out a meal with one another.
We believe that nurturing relationships is an ongoing journey. What rituals help you maintain a strong connection and support each other's well-being? How does food play a part in that?
Not to be too on-the-nose here, but food is a big piece of that. Inevitably one of us will ask the other, “Have you eaten today” which is a kind of code for “How are you feeling?” For some of the less special meals – the ones where we’re just throwing together something quick for the day – we’ll often check if the other wants some as well or just make it without asking. Other times, we’ll do a “hers and theirs” type of meal where we’ll make something together and each have our own little spin on it. For instance, if we’re making certain pasta sauces sometimes, Nicolette will do a creamy version of whatever sauce was made, whereas Nina won’t! Finding that balance to accommodate both wants is a cute way to still have a meal together while making sure we’re meeting each others’ needs! On the other end of that, we definitely love to make special meals or recipes for one another: Nicolette will decide it’s time to cook something extravagant (she’s a Taurus, after all), or Nina will commit to multi-step dessert (hello, princess cake). Food as love, no matter how big or small!
We view food as the ultimate connector. Are there any particular cultural or family food traditions that you each love to share with one another and those in your circle?
Nina’s parents met and fell in love in NYC, so trying all kinds of foods around the city was core to their relationship. Nina’s mom likes to say it was one of her first “tests” for Nina’s dad: whether or not he would eat sushi (spoiler: he loved it). When the two of them relocated with baby Nina to Columbus, Ohio, and couldn’t find the same foods they loved from NYC, they started figuring out how to make whatever it was they were craving: all types of Chinese and Indian, and Korean food, or NY staples like pastrami or Italian 7-layer cookies. This broad range of cuisine was part of Nina’s upbringing and influenced how they love to cook all kinds of new-to-them dishes. On the other side of the country, Nicolette grew up in an Iranian community in LA, and a big part of that was family gatherings featuring lots and lots of Iranian food — tons of rice dishes, crispy tahdig, and mountains of fresh herbs. During the height of COVID quarantine, when Nicolette was really missing her family, Nina set out to learn about and make different Persian food, knowing only the basics, just like their parents taught them.
We love traveling alongside you both via social. In what ways does travel inspire you? Is it exploring different cultures, trying new cuisines, and creating memories?
Both of us have parents of different ethnic backgrounds, and with families that had to learn one another’s cultures, we both found we grew up with an innate curiosity to learn about other people, places, cultures, food, and all! And travel is a big way we get to do that. Food, to us, is absolutely a key part of travel, too. We joke that one of our favorite things to do when we’re eating somewhere while traveling is planning where we want to eat next on that trip! We are also big art museum people, and truly just love walking around and exploring new places together!
We deeply admire and respect your commitment to caring for the communities you’re each a part of. What are some of the causes you’re supporting these days, and how can our west~bourne community support them, too?
We both exist in a place of “both/and” – we inhabit and are part of lots of communities, some of which intersect. We’d be remiss not to focus on the increased hostility against LGBTQIA+ communities here, in the US, right now, especially Black trans folks. We are big fans of organizations like Marsha P. Johnson Institute, Black Trans Femmes in the Arts, and the Black Trans Advocacy Coalition, and the lifesaving liberation work that they do.
You were some of our very first taste-testers back in 2021. These days, what west~bourne products do you keep reaching for?
We love the 100% Pure Avocado Oil for standing up to the heat when we grill every vegetable we can over the summer and helping create the perfect crispy tahdig (IYKYK). And, of course, as big snack fans, the Togarashi Crunch and House Muffin Mix (with some walnuts and dark chocolate mixed in!) make for the perfect little afternoon bites.