Admit it, founder bios feel a bit trite and formulaic. So we tried a different approach, where one founder thinks up random questions and asks the other person. We feel it’s a bit more spontaneous, entertaining, and original. So hope you enjoy.
The interview took place on a balmy evening in Todos Santos, Mexico, in the courtyard of an airbnb we rented. A number of cervecas were consumed during the interview.
Matt: "I'm here in Todos Santos with Christopher Frager. It is Saturday, February 13th, 2016. We're gonna do some questions.
Chris: Fire away!
Matt: Let’s start on a lighter note. It has to do something with you are famous for. You are famous for making one of the most nutritious and healing smoothies in the world. What’s in it and what makes it so nutritious?”
Chris: That’s a good question Matt and totally random. I have in fact been known to make a pretty nutritious smoothie. Although one in which I made for my mom and she gagged cause it wasn’t sweet enough, so I guess it’s not for everyone. The trick is to use a high-powered blender as opposed to a juicer because a blender retains all the fibrous roughage. I start out with some ice, coconut or almond milk, frozen berries, a banana, cinnamon powder, reishi mushroom powder, hemp and chia seeds, cilantro, parsley, beet, fresh turmeric and ginger, burdock root, daikon radish, some greens, and a scoop of peanut butter cause the fat helps absorb the nutrients.
Matt: How often do you drink them?
Chris: "Maybe four to five times a week. It’s just an easy way to get a lot of health benefits without having to cook all the time. Just throw that shit in a blender and voila!
Matt: You're pumping on two cylinders when you are here.
Chris: For sure, and I’m at six cylinders when I’m home. I’m like a sports car when I’m home and when I’m here, I’m like a ’92 Ford Explorer. The windows don’t work.
Matt: And you're using two spare tires.
Chris: Yes, two spare tires. And one of the panels is painted another color. But the car is still running.
Matt: “Haha, okay moving on. Next question. What’s it like growing up in Portland”
Chris: Well I have very fond memories growing up in Portland, where I currently live. I thought it was great. It was a provincial city in the 80’s and 90’s with a small town vibe while still being a mid-sized city. I really liked how green it was and my childhood home was right next to Forest Park, which is one of the biggest urban parks in America. I had a lot of great memories of running around in the forest while also being close to downtown and other big city amenities like the Portland Trail Blazers!
Portland evolved organically, where each neighborhood had a distinct vibe. I also really liked how easy it was to access the outdoors, with the coast being an hour away and the mountains being an hour away. My whole family is from Portland and it’s just nice to have them around.
Matt: “What is it that draws you to the Zapotec rugs and textiles?”
Chris: That’s a good question. I think the Zapotec patterns have a similar vibe to Navajo textiles that I’ve come across since I was a kid. Having grown up in Oregon where so many Native American groups lived, I was really intrigued by the Native Americans in Central-America. So being interested in the Zapotec rugs was a great reason to go explore that region and see the indigenous groups there.
After going to Oaxaca and meeting with weavers and seeing first hand the beautiful art in which they create I knew we had stumbled upon something special. Being a part of an ancient craft that spans 2000 years was an extremely exciting prospect. Considering so many Native American groups and their art are extinct and only seen as artifacts in a museum, I feel compelled to help sustain the Zapotec weaving craft so as not to let it die out.
I also really admire the time-intensive process that goes into weaving just one rug. We live in a time where we want things to be produced quickly and efficiently, so it’s really gratifying to see the opposite, where the Zapotecs won’t sacrifice the integrity of their art for more efficient and cheaper methods.
Matt: “If you could travel to three places in Mexico, where would you go and why?”
Chris: Wow. That’s hard. Even though we are working in Mexico, there are so many places I haven’t been yet. I think Oaxaca is definitively on the top of the list. It has a rich, artistic, vibe. There’s amazing music, food, and the people are really friendly.
Another place I would like to go is into the mountains of San Luis Potosi to a sacred site called Real De Catorce, where Huicholi shamans go on pilgrimages. I would like to observe a peyote ceremony and perhaps take part if it were offered to me. I really like Huicholi art and I would like to see what inspires their art. I’ve heard it’s really hard to get to and would be more of an adventure than a tourist attraction, which is my kind of traveling.
Guadalajara is also a great city to visit in Mexico. We’ve been there a few time because we were initially building furniture with artisans there and selling it in the USA. Guadalajara is an extremely underrated city to visit. It’s a city with about four to five million people and although it’s inland, it’s a very cosmopolitan city. It’s gritty, vibrant, inexpensive, the people are cool, and there’s a direct flight from Portland which is super random. We met some great people in Guadalajara who are very proud of where they are from. A realization we had was that many people in Guadalajara are extremely content with their lives there and don’t have a desire to be in the USA, which dispels a generalization in America that most Mexicans want to come to the USA.
Matt: “You are a lover of house music and are known to shred on the dance floor. Can you share with the audience where you learned your dance moves?”
Chris: Oh my god, seriously? Okay…how did I develop my dance moves... Well I do love house music. I started listening to it after I moved to Europe. Growing up in Portland I would attend a lot of jam-band and hippie concerts and would just groove with the crowd. Those were my favorite types of shows to go to because everyone is very free-spirited and non-judgmental, so you could dance however you wanted and it was all good. Occasionally I would get a flying dread lock to the face but that goes with the territory. Great people watching! Dancing to me has two benefits, you can shake out any bad energy from the day while also taking in good energy. It’s a form of therapy I guess.
Matt: “Nice. Okay. What are your favorite Oaxacan foods and drinks?”
Chris: Oh wow. Well you know I love the mole.
Matt: “Of course. You love mole like I love schnitzel.”
Chris: Absolutely! I love mole. I get it almost every time we go out. Our favorite restaurant in Oaxaca, called Zandunga, has the best mole in town. I get it with a Mezcal flight and I’m good to go. Mole, like the Zapotec rugs, takes a long time to make. It’s such a complex dish with so many flavors. You talked shit about my mole one night, saying the chicken looked like it was “drowning in mole.” I didn’t see it like that. I saw it like the chicken was rafting on a river of mole.
Another Oaxacan food we had that was un-fucking-real was at a remote market in the village of Zaachila and it was these carnitas tacos. They were the best tacos I think we’ve both ever had. And they were like a $1.50 for two. Best pork tacos I've ever had. I think they used the whole pig. Every time we go to Oaxaca, we try to visit an indigenous market that takes place one day during the week. It’s an extraordinary experience where people come from surrounding villages and sell their wares. There are no tourists but they don’t really pay us any mind and are really friendly. We just go with an open minds, trying obscure looking fruits and vegetables, buy crickets, eat street tacos. It’s not something my parents might enjoy, but if you want to get off the beaten path and be immersed in an ancient tradition and eat the best food you’ll ever had for $2.00, go to a market in Oaxaca.
Matt: "What about your favorite drink?"
Chris: Favorite drink, I think is Mezcal. Mezcal is considered the divine cousin of tequila and in my opinion, is more complex and interesting. Like tequila, it’s made from the agave plant. Mezcal distillers traditionally slow roast the agave by burying it in pits with hot rocks, which gives it its signature smoky flavor. I think it’s a spiritual drink because it seems that every time I drink it I have really vivid dreams and Oaxaca is considered a spiritual place in itself. There's a great Mezcal brand called Los Amantes and we always go to the Mezcaleria in Oaxaca.
Matt: “What is it that you like most about the Zapotec people?”
Chris: "Hmm. I think it’s seeing a people who have been around for such a long time. The Zapotec civilization thrived from about 500 BC to 900 AD, which is crazy because at that time in Europe was just being born. The present day Zapotec people transmit an ancient vibe, they are literally old souls. Being from America where we are so young relatively speaking, it’s a truly humbling experience to meet people that have an unbroken lineage that goes back 2,500 years. If anyone has an interest in learning about the Americas before Christopher Columbus arrived, I highly recommend the book 1491 by the author Charles Mann. It’s an amazing read.
Matt: “Okay switching gears. You are a known connoisseur of Mexican tropical fruit cups. Explain where and how to get the best fruit cup.”
Chris: "Oh wow. Where do I start with this. We were introduced to the Mexican tropical fruit cup in Guadalajara. There are tropical fruit cup vendors who go around with little carts in the morning. They’ve got everything you want, they’re slicing up mango, papaya, pineapple, cucumber, orange, , sometimes coconut. Oh and jicama, which I think is the X-factor in the fruit cup. It’s not sweet but it’s crunchy and adds a zing to the fruit cup. What else?
Chris: Oh yeah, watermelon. But you know, watermelon is kind of a filler. It’s like raisons in trail mix. Not that exciting and takes up room. The defining factor in the fruit cup is the lime. Always ask for “mas limon, por favor.” It’s all about the lime. Sometimes you can request chili and salt if you’re feeling really adventurous.
Sometimes the fruit cup sellers will post up on a street corner every day, they have their territory. But sometimes they aren’t there. So you have to go find them. It’s like 'where’s Waldo?', but it’s 'where’s the fruit cup?' We thought about developing a fruit cup app where you can go on the App and find the fruit cup cart, rate the fruit cup, how fast they are cutting the fruit, and how much they are charging. They charge about 15 pesos for a large fruit cup, which is about $.80 cents. We start our morning with that every day.
Matt: “You spent some a number of years living in Czech Republic, what was that like and what led you there in the first place?”
Chris: That’s true, I did spend about four years off and on living in Prague. It started in college at the University of Washington. I took a Slavic literature course by an amazing professor. All of the books we read in the course were very depressing and tragic, but they were also extremely humorous. I was fascinated by this idea, where people find humor in tragic experiences. One book I read was called the Unbearable Lightness of Being by Czech author Milan Kundera, which I really connected with. That spiraled into my interest in Czech new-wave cinema, Czech theater and classical music. That country was exotic for me at the time and wanted to know more.
Czech people have been through so much in their history and their sovereignty was constantly threatened by geo-political movements, by the Austo-Hungarian Empire, the Nazis, the Soviet Union, to name a few. They have been through so much. It’s such a foreign concept to me as an American because we’ve never been under the dominion of another nation.
Prague itself is a magical city. The architecture is amazing as it didn’t get touched during World War II. When I was there in 2004-2008, Prague wasn’t as polished as it is today. It was still coming out of the throws of communism. It had a grit that was quite appealing to me. I also like that it felt like the center of Europe. You could take a train and end up in Berlin, Vienna, Budapest, Krakow. I look at that time in my life fondly.
Matt: “Okay, last question: If you could have a theme song playing in your head throughout the day, what would it be?”
ChrisWow, that’s a good question. I think something from the Grateful Dead because I’ve been listening to them for so long and it brings up so many memories. Maybe a song like Eyes of the World or Franklin’s Tower.
But also a part of me wants to choose the theme song for Jurassic Park because that was actually the first song that came into my head when you asked the question. You know, when they are in the helicopter flying to the island and they are all excited, and then at the end of the movie when they are flying away from the island and everyone’s dead and the T-Rex is running amok. That’s the duality of my life.
Matt: “Haha. Okay then, on that note, let’s go to La Esquina and listen to some reggae.”
Chris: Sounds good.