Crista is the founder and CEO of Phin & Phebes, a Brooklyn-based ice cream company that's all about creating bold flavor by using simple, excellent ingredients. All dairy used for Phin & Phebes' ice cream is sourced from small family cooperatives within a 20-mile radius of Sandusky, Ohio, where the ice cream is manufactured. Learning from her time at Ice Cream University, Crista took Phin & Phebes from being a one woman operation into a booming business. As far as we can tell, she and her trusty Chief Eating Officer Fluffnut are poised to take over the world of dessert.
GAL: What was the name of the first book you fell in love with, that turned you into a life long reader?
CF: I have always gravitated towards memoirs or fictional stories where a protagonist overcomes unsurmountable odds by making what others say are impossible, possible.
At a young age I was obsessed with the water, pirates and expeditions. Reading Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft, by Thor Heyerdahl is the first book I remember lighting that spark. The book chronicles the Norwegian explorer’s expedition to prove that South Americans settled in Polynesia pre-Columbian times. Heyerdahl and his crew build a raft made from materials that were only available at the time and relied on the oceans current and wind to prove that South Americans could have made the journey to Polynesia. He was told the journey would be impossible with a such a simple raft across the Pacific. His successful journey disproved doubters of his theory and the oceans guided him to his destination.
GAL: What is the power of story? Describe some ways in which fictional narratives have impacted you and your life.
CF: I love that when reading fiction, you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in that character and blend your life into theirs. When you are wrapped up in a narrative and connected to a character you have the occasion to escape and become someone else. Sometimes I get so inspired by narratives that I find myself blurring the lines of my own reality.
GAL: Do you have a current – or “forever” – favorite book?
CF: Oh, man this is really hard and I think these books shift based upon periods in our life. Currently my favorite books are the The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami and Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton.
Past forever favorite books are The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer and anything by Raymond Carver or Flannery O’Connor.
GAL: How do you choose the books you read?
CF: My book choices are always taken from recommendations from people in my life. I am surrounded by so many inspirational people and I value their recommendations more than anything.
GAL: How often do you read?
CF: I read every day, unless my schedule is so hectic it just can’t fit in that day. I have a morning routine and part of that routine is reading. I like to start the morning off with something inspiring, so I normally read Personal Development or Business books from anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. In the evening if I get home at a decent time I am usually reading Memoirs, Essays or Fiction. So I would say I ready at least four hours a week.
GAL: Do you have a favorite reading spot?
CF: I love reading outside and being outside as much as possible. I mostly read in my kitchen next to these big windows that let in a lot of sunlight, so it feels like I am outside. Most of my time is spent in the kitchen when I am home. In the morning I meditate then read drinking coffee in the kitchen, then in the evening I typically cook and read in the same spot.
GAL: Or – can you read anywhere?
CF: I can typically read anywhere, but public places like parks can be hard for me because I tend to get lost in the narrative of the people around me.
GAL: Is it important for you to physically hold a book you read? Or can you read on a device with no problem and no impact on the experience?
CF: Holding, marking, writing in margins and highlighting a book are a necessity for me. So an actual physical book is really important. I also love the play you have with the physical book depending upon where you are reading and how you have to adapt to read that book in the specific space or position.
GAL: Do you prefer non-fiction to fiction? If so, why?
CF: When I was younger and in school my preference was fiction and I loved to get lost in the narrative. Once I got out of school I gravitated towards non-fiction, because I never want to stop learning and growing. I am big on Personal Development, so I read a lot of books in that genre as well as Human Behavior and Businesses books. For inspiration I typically read memoirs. My business is growing and changing at a rapid pace, so my library is a direct reflection of how it is necessary for me to continually evolve personally and professionally in order to keep up with my businesses pace of growth and the challenges that come with that.
GAL: If you read non-fiction, what genre do you prefer?
CF: Memoirs are hands down my favorite.
GAL: If you were to write your memoir, what would you title it?
CF: Making the Impossible Possible: Building an Ice Cream Company and Life with a Higher Purpose
GAL: Do you have any favorite cookbooks? Is there one in particular that influenced your love of or recipes for Phin and Phebes ice cream?
CF: My favorite way to cook is with simple ingredients, where the actual ingredients are at the forefront. I believe food should be approachable and unpretentious in the best way possible. Even if food is simple it can create that “tasting again for the first time” euphoria. This is how I create each recipe for Phin & Phebes. The cook books that I believe do the best job of this and that I absolutely love are all the Canal House cook books that are based upon season. I adore Canal House Cooks Every Day by Hamilton & Hirsheimer and Christopher Hirsheimer. My most anticipated cook book to be released is by a dear friend of mine Julia Turshen. It is coming out this Fall and is called Small Victories: Recipes, Advice + Hundreds of Ideas for Home Cooking Triumphs. I had the pleasure of tasting a lot of the recipes in this book. Julia is my absolute favorite cook and her whole approach to food is an absolute pleasure. She is the most unpretentious cook ever and she is continually excited about food. Her food is healthy, thoughtful and imaginative and each ingredient shines through with every perfectly balanced dish.
GAL: Please name three books you recommend reading, and the reasons for your choices.
CF: This is really hard to limit to just three, but I have chosen the books that resonate most with me.
I took a great class in high school around social activism, past and present inequalities. One book that really stood out was Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools by Jonathan Kozol. I think that anyone wanting to make a change and help grow, foster and empower the next generation to build their dreams should read this book to understand the extreme disparity that continues in our educational system and how most have so many odds stacked against them to break away from their life’s circumstance.
Next I would recommend The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael Singer. This book has essentially become my bible of sorts. It might be a stretch for most, but for people looking to free their consciousness of the habitual chatter of the ego and live in the present this book is a must.
Third book I would recommend is The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. This book is a war memoir of sorts and takes and chronicles soldiers from the Vietnam War. O’Brien uses the personal items from the soldiers packs to describe each person’s emotions and fears. I love this book as it chronicles human behavior and can help you come to the self-realization what things you are holding onto.