Here’s to a Long Life – And Financial Independence

AgeUp compensated FOF to write this sponsored post. Regardless, we recommend only products or services that we believe will be helpful for our readers. All insights and expressed opinions are our own. —Geri Brin

My friend Linda plans to sell her New York co-op and move to a community living residence, but she’s worried her nest egg won’t last if she lives well into her 90s. Now 87 years old, Linda wishes the new AgeUp product had been available years ago to give her a supplemental income if she’s fortunate to live as long as her mom. “I’ve been independent my whole life, and I don’t want to turn to my daughter to help support me,” she said.

Available to any of us between 50 and 75 years old, AgeUp converts small monthly payments into greater – and guaranteed – monthly payouts once we reach a selected age between 91 and 100. Your monthly payment can be as low as $25, which makes AgeUp financially accessible. 

Think about it this way: Life insurance is based on the small probability that someone will die prematurely, and can help prevent the family left behind from becoming financially strapped. AgeUp addresses the other extreme, providing income when you live much longer than expected. These additional funds can help enable a higher quality of life and greater financial freedom – something that all of us desire in our later years. 

Consider that one out of every three Baby Boomers who are now 65 years old will live until at least age 90, and one out of seven will live until age 95, according to the Social Security Administration. While AgeUp is available to men and women, women would benefit the most as we’re more likely to live longer. AgeUp will help make sure we’re financially prepared so we can enjoy those extra years comfortably.

And how nice to be able to relieve our adult children of a possible burden. According to a survey conducted by AgeUp, a whopping 68 percent of millennials expect to provide financial contributions to their parents should they outlive their retirement savings. That means us! By planning for extended longevity now, we can set ourselves up to live the lifestyle that we want once we reach our 90s and beyond – one where we have our own resources and aren’t dependent on our children or family members for financial support. 

“We created AgeUp for physically healthy people in their 50s to early 70s who have longevity in their families and have a reasonable chance of living very, very long lives,” said Blair Baldwin, general manager. “My grandparents were financially comfortable, but my grandfather and grandmother needed years of in-home care in their later years, which can get quite expensive.” A product like AgeUp can help offset some of these costs, providing a recipient with a guaranteed income stream that lasts for the rest of her lifetime, plus the flexibility to spend the money as she chooses, with no restrictions or claims to file. 

HOW AGEUP WORKS 

First, you choose your monthly payment, which can be as low as $25 and as high as $250 a month. “Lots of people are choosing the $250 option, many more than I would have suspected,” Baldwin told me.

Second, you decide when you want your payouts to begin – called the “payout” age – and whether or not you want your money returned to your beneficiaries if you die before the payout age. 

Choosing “yes” guarantees that you’ll get back at least what you put in, no matter what. If you die before your target payout age, 100% of the premiums you’ve paid to that point will be returned to your beneficiary. However, your payouts will be smaller if you do reach your target payout age.

If you choose “no” for the “death before payout age” option, there’s no return if you die before payouts begin. There’s a chance you could lose your premium payments, but your payouts will be larger if you live to your target payout age.

If you reach the payout age but pass away shortly thereafter, your money will be returned to a beneficiary until they receive the total amount that you had contributed. 

You can start, stop or change the amount you pay at any time.

Here’s an example1 of what a 55-year-old woman could receive at different payout ages if she makes payments of $25 per month:

Unlike long term care insurance, which is really expensive, can have a coverage limit, and must be spent on medical costs, AgeUp is a low cost product with unrestricted use. You can use your monthly payouts however you choose, helping you to enjoy the financial autonomy that you’re accustomed to in your later years.

“Our goal is to give you the most bang for your buck,” Baldwin stressed.

IS AGEUP RIGHT FOR YOU?

To determine your own estimated monthly payouts based on your current age, gender, monthly payments, payout age and return of premiums, visit the AgeUp website and click “Get an estimate.” From here, you’ll answer a few questions and then use the AgeUp calculator to adjust your monthly payments, payout age, and return of premium option. 

Should you have questions or need assistance, AgeUp offers customer support via online chat or email, or you can schedule a call to speak with a team member. There’s also a robust FAQ page and a detailed product snapshot available on the AgeUp website.

We don’t know what the future holds, but AgeUp can provide peace of mind if you think that you may live an exceptionally long life and will need additional financial resources to lead the lifestyle that you want. Here’s to you and your longevity! 

Sponsorship Disclosure

AgeUp is issued and backed by MassMutual, and sold by Haven Life Insurance Agency, a MassMutual-owned innovation hub. MassMutual has been in business since 1851 and is rated A++ for financial strength by A.M. Best2. For additional information, visit our website or check out our frequently asked questions.

AgeUp is a Deferred Income Annuity (ICC19DTCDIA) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. Contract and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in Arkansas is 100139527.

 

1These examples are estimated payouts based on rates calculated on September 10, 2020. Estimated payouts and rates for future contributions are subject to change. See illustration for complete information.
2Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) and its subsidiaries C.M. Life Insurance Company and MML Bay State Life Insurance Company are rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of July 24, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.

 

A Facebook Gathering of Uncommon Gifts

You’ve made a smart decision to show your products to the FabOverFifty Facebook community of 518K gift-loving women.

 

These ladies are:

Wives who buy gifts for their partners 

Grandmothers who buy gifts for their grandchildren

Mothers who buy gifts for their “kids”

Sisters and friends who buy gifts for each other

And gift givers to themselves! 

 

YOUR GIFTS WILL ENJOY REPEATED EXPOSURE ON THE FABOVERFIFTY FACEBOOK PAGE – AND AT SUPER SENSIBLE PRICES. 

 

Supporting Each Other When Times Are Tough

 Hi Ladies, 

EXCITING NEWS! 

Over the last few months I’ve been closely collaborating with the @Advekit team to create a unique and special experience that we’re calling Group Encounter.

It’s the first national online support initiative for women 48+, developed by FabOverFifty  & Advekit – an online network of highly credentialed therapists across the country.

Group Encounter Sessions will be small online gatherings of women (<10), led by licensed therapists, that focus on difficult issues you might be facing right now.  

Topics include: 

  • Coming to terms with divorce
  • Venturing into widowhood
  • Dealing with declining libido and poor body image during menopause 

And email geri@faboverfifty.com  if you have any questions.

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” – Albert Einstein

A high degree of tension always accompanies my mammogram appointments. My stress level has gone up, thanks to COVID 19. But I didn’t want to postpone the six-month follow up appointment for a 3-D image of my left breast since some tissue was suspect last time. 

The Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone Health in Manhattan seamlessly handled the new and more elaborate check in process. After registering at the front desk, I passed through a series of stations to pick up a mask, sanitize my hands and have my temperature taken. Everyone in the lobby respectfully stood at least six-feet apart from our sister patients.

Only one other woman sat in the third floor waiting room, usually packed with patients waiting for their mammograms, sonograms and other critical tests. A sign on every other chair instructed us not to sit there so that we could keep our distance from others. Within 10 minutes I was called to change into a dressing gown for the exam. 

The eerily empty waiting room

Technicians no longer congregate in a small room between patients, where they handle administrative work.  Each one now uses a computer right in the exam room. The technician who did my mammogram has been at her job since the start of COVID since it’s classified as critical. She’s periodically tested for the virus, she told me, but can’t be tested daily. Aside from arranging my breast in the imaging contraption – which takes seconds – she and I weren’t on top of each other. 

The radiologist told me that although new spots had appeared on my image, she wasn’t concerned because they’re probably due to the estrogen patch I use. She recommended that I return in six months for another follow up mammogram. When I started to automatically shake her hand and thank her, she chucked and gave me an elbow bump. “Oops, I forgot,” I said. 

It’s always impressive when organizations – and of course the people in them – adapt to adverse situations, devising systems and new behaviors that allow them to continue functioning successfully. COVID 19 has certainly forced us to hone our resourcefulness on many levels, professionally and personally.

Adapting to change can be difficult for many of us. I think of a middle aged woman I knew who completely shut herself off from friends after her husband died suddenly, and remained isolated from then on. He was her anchor, but once she lost him, she couldn’t find a new mooring. And a young man who had a devil of a time getting back on his career track after a debilitating accident. Sadly, he couldn’t adapt to his limitations; instead, he let them sideline him decade after decade.  

Contrast these two people to these two: A woman who loses her long-time husband, then moves to a new city, joins a vibrant community center and develops a new circle of friends. She also starts dating a couple of men from the group. And a man who almost loses his life after being hit by a taxi and is hospitalized for months, but fights his way back – day by day – all the while managing to keep his consulting company going. 

I recently heard the interesting term “lifequake,” which is an event that suddenly changes your life. Every single one of us experiences them, some more than others. Sometimes, we even cause our own lifequakes, say when we leave a secure job to start our own business or stop drinking after 40 years, even though it was such an integral part of our life. 

Millions of us are now going through the same lifequake. We didn’t ask for it, but just like a town that rebuilds itself after an earthquake, we must reconstruct our lives so we’re stronger than ever. 

Turning a Deaf Ear is Unsexy and Unwise

I can’t wait to replace these with my new Signia Pure Charge&Go X hearing aids

Are you one of the millions of women who color their graying hair and eradicate their frown lines, but passively accept hearing loss as an inevitable part of aging? I’m not. I hated pretending to follow conversations in noisy restaurants, or asking my friends over and over to repeat what one of the actors said in a movie. So, I added hearing aids to my accessories wardrobe about seven years ago, and I love them as much as my hair colorist and dermatologist. While I think red hair and smooth skin perk up my appearance, I know my hearing aids energize my overall sense of well-being.

My former mother-in-law, an elegant woman whose physical appearance was a priority, didn’t want “unsightly contraptions” protruding from her ears, no matter how much her hearing declined as she aged. But we’re not our mothers (or mothers-in-law), and hearing aids are no longer unattractive. They’re chic, as a matter of fact. Besides, turning a deaf ear to what your own ears are telling you is not only unsexy. It’s unwise. And, it’s not something I’d ever have expected from the women in my generation who have spent their lives jumping through hoops to solve problems and get what they wanted. 

Please consider these facts from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders:

About 11 percent of adults aged 50 to 59 have disabling hearing loss, which increases to approximately 25 percent of those aged 60 to 69, and 50 percent in the population over 75 years old. 

About 28.8 million U.S. adults could benefit from wearing hearing aids.

Among adults 70 and older with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids, fewer than one in three has ever used them. 

This is one case where being in the majority can be a major mistake. A study of 1,984 volunteers in their 70s and 80s by hearing experts at Johns Hopkins revealed:

Older adults with hearing loss are more likely to develop problems thinking and remembering than those whose hearing is normal.

Levels of declining brain function were directly linked to the amount of hearing decline. 

Hearing loss often leads to social isolation, and it’s been proven that loneliness is a risk factor for cognitive issues.  

Hearing loss also affects balance and puts you at four times greater risk for falling.

You don’t have to make a full-fledged commitment to get hearing aids right this minute. But for goodness sakes, at least have your hearing checked by a qualified audiologist if you suspect you have issues. It first got my attention when I thought my hairdresser said I was wearing “autumn” colors in the dead of summer, although he actually said “Auburn” (as in the name of the university). Mistaking words that sound similar is a common sign that something might be amiss with your hearing. Hearing only half a word is another. 

There are about 12,000 licensed audiologists in the United States, so it’s likely you can find one near you. The hearing test takes about 30 minutes and is painless. You’ll sit in a small room wearing headphones and listen to a series of sounds and sometimes words. Click here to schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional. 

BIG NEWS FOR WOMEN WHO DON’T WANT TO MISS A SINGLE WORD 

If you’re like me, and already enjoy the undeniable benefits of hearing aids, you’re going to be excited to learn about a new hearing aid called Signia Pure Charge&Go X. It’s the most technologically advanced device on the market, and after trying it out, I can’t wait to own a pair.  Simply put, these hearing aids feature the first acoustic-motion sensors in the world, which means they’ll automatically adapt to every sound situation I might experience throughout the day. 

                         Signia Pure Charge&Go X

Let’s say I’m going from my home to the subway and then to a business meeting, followed by a pilates class and dinner at a packed New York restaurant. Pure Charge&Go X will give me “natural and personalized sound” from any direction, even while I’m on the move. I’ll be able to understand speech and hear sounds coming from all around me, wherever I am and whatever I’m doing. If I closed my eyes at the beach, for instance, I’d hear the waves crashing on the shore in front of me, but I’d also hear the person talking next to me. 

“These hearing aids have been clinically proven to actually offer better sound quality than normal hearing,” said Lisa Perhacs, clinical education specialist at Signia. Even through Lisa’s hearing is normal, she wears her Pure Charge&Go X devices all the time, which greatly help her in noisy situations. “My younger sister, who also enjoys normal hearing, is begging me for a pair,” Lisa said. 

What’s more, my new hearing aids will be rechargeable – working for 23 hours on a single charge without streaming, or up to 20 hours with five hours of streaming time – so I won’t have to worry about keeping a supply of those pesky little batteries in my bag. I’ll even be able to stream calls, music and TV audio to them, which will be terrific when I’m doing phone interviews for FabOverFifty content and watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. They’re also sleek, slim, comfortable and pretty much unnoticeable. 

Sadly, most people have hearing loss for seven to 10 years before they do something about it. Audiologists tell me they wish they could unlock the secret to getting more people into their offices to have simple hearing tests. “You can’t fully appreciate the quality of your life if you’re experiencing hearing loss,” said Nancy Datino, doctor of audiology in Rye, NY. And while you need repeated Botox injections to keep your your crows feet at bay, one little pair of hearing aids will keep your hearing sharp for ever and ever. 


If the audiologist thinks you could benefit from hearing aids, you’ll be able to try out the Signia Charge&Go X and other models right then and there. At least you’ll have some point of reference to understand what you’ve been missing. Unless, of course, you think it’s attractive to keep repeating, “What did you say?”  

Make an appointment today for a hearing evaluation and to try the game-changing Signia hearing aids.

Come to a Virtual Open House at New York’s World-Renowned 92nd Street Y

Once upon a time you had to live in or near New York to take advantage of the remarkable lectures, classes and discussion groups presented by the 92nd Street Y on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Now you can hear professors, authors and other experts right from your living room. The Y has worked hard since the start of the pandemic to make all of its virtual programs as personal and interactive as possible. And you don’t have to be a tech wizard to participate.

Please tune into a free virtual introductory event on Tuesday, July 28, 2020, from 3:30 to 4:30 ET to experience a sampling of the program. During this one-hour Open House you’ll meet three experts in art, politics and fitness who are among the stimulating and learned faculty members.  

COVID 19 may be limiting our ability to get out and about. It doesn’t have to limit us from expanding our minds!  

Sign up for the free Open House

Debunking The 10K-Step Rule

I secretly congratulate myself when my Noom app shows I’ve walked 5K steps. If I manage to reach 7K, I’m tickled pink. 10K steps??? Not likely.

Putting one foot in front of the other 10,000 times is a cakewalk when I’m roaming the streets of Paris (will I ever see Paris again?). Otherwise, it’s no walk in the park. 

So when I discovered a Brigham and Women’s Hospital study on how walking impacts the long-term health outcomes of older women, I was ecstatic to learn that walking 10K steps a day isn’t the gold standard! FYI, the hospital is a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School “recognized internationally for its excellent and innovative patient care, biomedical research, and education and training programs for physicians, scientists and health care professionals,” says its website. 

Published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, the survey results of 16,741 (primarily white) women with a mean age of 72 years proclaim: 

Women who averaged approximately 4.4K daily steps had significantly lower mortality rates during a follow-up of 4.3 years compared with the least active women who took approximately 2.7K daily steps.  

And, as women took more steps each day, their mortality rates progressively decreased before leveling at about 7.5K steps a day. 

Translation: While walking at least 4.4K steps a day can help lower your risk of dying, you won’t fall apart if you stop stepping at 7.5K.  

While no one would dispute the health and longevity benefits of going the extra mile (assuming 2K steps per mile), it probably won’t further decrease our risk of mortality.

To measure participants’ steps, the study team required them to wear an ActiGraph GT3X+ accelerometer device — a research-grade unit — on their hips during all waking hours for seven consecutive days.  Over the 4.3 years the women were followed, 504 died. 

 ➠ Women who walked an average of 2.7K steps a day were at the greatest risk of death, with 275 dying. 

 ➠ Those who walked an average of 4.4K steps a day had a 41 percent lower risk of death.

  Risk of death continued to decrease with more steps walked, up to 7,500 steps per day, after which risk leveled off.

  Interestingly, the speed at which a woman walked – among all the women who walked the same number of daily steps – wasn’t associated with risk of death. 

The average American takes between 4K and 5K steps a day, previous studies show.  No one is sure where the 10K-step goal originated, but it’s been surmised that it started in 1965 when a Japanese company launched a pedometer called amanpo-kei, which means “10,000 steps meter” in Japanese.

Due to the observational nature of the study, the authors couldn’t definitively determine whether walking more lowers mortality or women in better health step more, reported the article in JAMA. Women with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and less than excellent or good self-rated health were excluded, however.  What’s more, previous experiments do confirm the beneficial effects of  physical activity on short-term health markers,  including  blood pressure, insulin and glucose levels, lipid profile and inflammation. 

Further research in younger and more diverse populations is necessary to determine if the findings apply to other groups, especially to those who take more steps. The study also didn’t assess outcomes such as quality of life and risk of specific diseases. 

So, ladies, keep walking. But if you stop at 7.5K, or even 4.4K steps, you’ll still be doing yourself a world of good! 

Two Men Lose Their Wives and One Gets His Back

GERI, LARRY AND GWEN

Larry (not his real name) and I were mutually – and instantly -attracted to each other the first time we met, at a train station in New Jersey in 2002. Responding to an ad I placed in The New York Times personals section, he called me one morning as I was leaving my Manhattan apartment for a meeting in Jersey, where he lived. We agreed I’d get off the train on my way back to New York. We’d have dinner, and then he’d drive me home.

I learned over dinner that Larry’s beloved wife of over 40 years had died of cancer a few years before. Ten years my senior, he had three grown children, a few grandchildren, and owned a successful business that stored legal records. We had an animated and comfortable conversation. He also looked so much like a well-known – and sexy – actor that it was downright eerie. And exciting! 

So began our hot and heavy relationship. And then I learned about Gwen, the best  friend of Larry’s deceased wife, who was divorced. Gwen and Larry had been “dating” on and off since his wife died. He claimed to be ambivalent about her, but she seemed to be “hovering” around us most of the time. Not literally, of course. 

Larry took me to his home for dinner and a sleepover about four months after we met. Things were getting serious. During dinner, I casually asked: “Do you love Gwen?” He mumbled, “No.”

I called my sister from the train the next morning, during my trip back to Manhattan. It was a dreary, rainy day, but I was happy. “I think Larry’s the one,” I told her.  

The week was intensely busy at work. I didn’t hear a peep from Larry, which increased my anxiety with each passing day. I finally called him on Friday. “Why haven’t you called?” I asked.

“When you asked if I loved Gwen, I realized I need time and space to decide,” Larry answered. “We should take a break for a few weeks.” It was inconsiderate of him not to have called the whole week, I said. I was distraught as I headed to a meeting for a big summit I was planning. 

Larry and I spoke on the phone frequently, and I started dating another man who I liked, but not nearly as much as Larry. I told Larry about him.  

After a few weeks, Larry asked if he could take me to the theatre and dinner. We had a wonderful evening, and the next morning during breakfast, Larry told me he had decided he wanted to be with me. I turned him down. “I think I’ll continue seeing the man I met when you were taking a break,” I told him. I wasn’t convinced Gwen was completely out of the picture. 

And that was that. I spoke to Larry a number of times during the next six months, and he kept asking if I was still seeing the other man. I told him I was.  

Larry didn’t wind up with Gwen. He and I lost touch. 

GERI, CHARLIE, AND BELINDA

After a former close friend died four years ago, her husband Charlie told me she had thought he should become involved with a close friend of theirs after she was gone. They had known Belinda for decades. The dying woman knew Charlie would have a hard time being alone and she felt Belinda would take care of him.

During a lunch date, Charlie said he wasn’t entirely sure Belinda was right for him.

They’re living together now, and Charlie recently sent me an email about how happy he is. He intimated, however, that he and his lady love have different values about crucial issues that affect our lives. (BTW, I’m generally dubious about anyone who feels the need to tell you how “happy” and in love they are.)

I met Belinda once. She physically resembles my former friend, and from our brief conversation, I observed other superficial similarities. 

Unlike Larry, Charlie didn’t do much soul searching about his new relationship. He’s not as emotionally secure or as physically fit as Larry was, so perhaps he wasn’t up to playing the field in his seventies. Although I fail to see how he would want to be intimately involved with someone with opposing fundamental values, I’m not surprised that he is. 

At one point I actually thought I could become involved with Charlie but realized how wrong I’d be for him, as I would have been for Larry. I loved many things about both of them, but would have found it terribly difficult to overlook others. 

Thank goodness for a woman’s best friends. They can make you see things more clearly. 

GERI AND DOUGLAS 

Now I’m with Douglas, the father of my two children to whom I was married for 30 years. We share  a great deal of history, and we’re best friends. We may not be lovers, but we love one another. We’ve also grown to accept each other’s many foibles, more or less. Before Covid crashed onto the scene, Douglas would come to Brooklyn from Manhattan to spend three nights a week at my house.  

We’ve been together constantly since the beginning of March, sharing three meals a day, lots of laughs, conversations, and perhaps a handful of arguments. We met when we were juniors at New York University, over half a century ago. 

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”Søren Kierkegaard

FOF Anonymous Survey: Do You Stick Your Neck Out?

Hi FOFriend,

Nora Ephron wrote a book “I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman.” Katharine Hepburn covered her neck with scarves and high collars. Helen Mirren looks like she had plastic surgery on her neck.

Whoever thought our necks could cause such consternation?

Please tell us what you think about your neck by completing this quick and anonymous survey.

 

My Neighbor Mina Is Really Cooking!

Although I’ve had my share of unequivocally unlovable neighbors, now that Mina Stone is my neighbor, it’s easy to follow the well known Biblical commandment. Mina is charming. Caring. Classy. Smart. Attractive. Engaging. And, Mina is a superb chef who is working on her second cookbook. Incredible aromas often waft through the air when I’m sitting on my back deck, which is feet away from her kitchen.  

                           Mina in her kitchen

As a mother of a daughter who is Mina’s age – 38 years old – I’m intrigued by how young women today are leading their lives. I admire the way Mina is leading hers. Besides her passion for cooking, she is devoted to her handsome and talented partner, Alex, an artist; to their adorable 3 ½-year-old-son Apollo, and to her sharp 13-year-old stepdaughter Sophia. 

Born in Cleveland, OH, to a Greek mother and an American father, Mina’s family moved to Greece when she was two years old, then to Boston a few years later, where she grew up. At 18, Mina became a fashion student at the renowned Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, which is less than one mile from where she and I live.

“When I graduated I realized my personality would get lost if I worked for someone because I’d get wrapped up trying to please him or her and I wouldn’t stand out,” Mina told me. “I had all these interesting, artistic friends and I could see the differences between their personalities and mine. They threw caution to the wind and had their own voices. I knew I could find my own voice alone, but if I had a boss I’d surely work harder trying to get his voice out than my own,” she explained.

Her self-awareness at only 22 years old inspired Mina to launch her own fashion line, a small collection of dresses inspired by five vintage pieces that she loved. “You could wear them during the day and dress them up for the evening. It’s nice when you can put on something in the morning that’s so awesome you’re happy to wear it at night. You don’t have to go home from work to change,” Mina said.

Besides getting a sizable order from a fashion retailer, Mina’s patternmaker willingly waited for her payment until the retailer paid her. “I was lucky,” she added. 

THIS IS WHERE COOKING ENTERS THE PICTURE

As orders increased, Mina needed more money to keep her business going. Dating a private chef at the time, she loved  watching him cook. “I didn’t know rich people hired chefs to come to their houses to cook their meals, and I thought it would be a perfect part time job to bring in income while I ran my fashion business,” Mina explained.  So what if she never cooked professionally. Mina was in her twenties and thought she could do (almost) anything!

Mina serving tomato salad with avocados, red onion and cilantro, braised beef with lime, smoky chickpeas and rice

With the help of her boyfriend, she landed a job cooking two to three times a week for a young family on the upper East Side of Manhattan. “I was forced to learn to cook and I learned a lot,” Mina said. “The family would ask me to prepare dishes like goulash – which I’d never make of my own accord – and I’d look up the recipe.” She loved cooking. “I was like a kid playing dress up or house, but I played chef for my friends,” she laughed. Strictly following recipes at first, Mina started altering them as she became more confident. 

Mina also began cooking for fun shopping parties that her retail fashion clients threw for customers. “This was before internet shopping and right before Project Runway. Stores were supporting young indy designers and it was a really exciting time for us in New York,” she explained. 

When the director of a cool art gallery at one of the shopping parties asked Mina to cook a casual dinner for 40 at the gallery, that marked her official entree into the world of professional chefs. Singer-songwriter Debbie Harry was one of the guests at the dinner who ate Mina’s chicken bouillabaisse with saffron and aioli on the side, accompanied by green rice with herbs. “I was starstruck,” remembers Mina, who still cooks for the gallery.

When dinners for 40 turned into dinners for 100 and then 200, Mina gave up her fashion business. The choice to switch careers entirely was seamless. “I was curling up in bed with cookbooks. My heart has switched paths. Besides, cooking was a simpler business model than fashion,” Mina said. She also started to cook for Urs Fischer, an artist, who had his own book imprint, so in 2010 the two of them began working on a cookbook together.

THE COOKBOOK AND THE CAFE 

Anchovies and lemon with whipped feta at Mina’s Cafe

Cooking for Artists, a 2015 journal documenting the recipes Mina created for non-stop gallery events, has done well and is sold in every major museum. Drawing on Greek, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures – and adding her own spin as a New Yorker –  Mina calls her dishes “simple and accessible, featuring ingredients you can get from your corner store.” She uses olive oil, lemon juice and salt in most everything she cooks. “People love that I use five ingredients at most in every dish. They say, ‘Hey, I can make that cabbage salad, for example. It’s easy.’ They really use my cookbook,” Mina added.

The title of her cookbook represents Mina’s tribute to the creative communities with which she’s been involved since her days as a student at Pratt Institute. “Artists have always supported my creativity and desire to find my own voice. They don’t control what I cook, but let me shine and let me have fun. I never would have continued cooking if it was for a family on the Upper East Side,” Mina noted. 

A few months before the pandemic hit, Mina and partner Alex opened Mina’s, a cafe in MoMA PS 1, a contemporary art museum in Long Island CIty, New York. It served  “really simple and delicious food you could have with a glass of wine,” including Greek Mezethakia (appetizers) such as Greek sausage with leeks and orange, white anchovies with thyme and lemon, whipped feta and Muhammara, a Syrian red pepper and walnut dip.  

AND THEN, THE QUARANTINE 

Quanatining has given Mina a chance to be together with Alex and their son Apollo. She and Alex have been cooking together since they met in 2008. “He’s a good cook, a natural cook,” Mina said. Being at home has also given her time to work on her second cookbook, which will be a continuing journal of her cooking life. Documenting the opening of Mina’s and bits and pieces of events she and Alex produced at PS 1,” the cookbook will be published in spring 2021. 

Pasta with fresh tomatoes and Greek salad

If you’ve never much been into cooking, Mina recommends preparing something “that has meaning, such as a recipe from your mother, grandmother or another family recipe you can pass on to your kids or grandkids,” she said. “That’s huge because it’s an oral history being passed down. If you want to eat it, you can learn how to make it.”

Mina loves to make good food and have people eat and enjoy it. “I like to tap into what I think someone would want to eat. It’s like a weird psychic thing,” she explained. Unlike the slow-moving fashion business, cooking “feels very fast.” she added. “Chop. Chop. Chop. You cook it. People eat it. Then you start over again. I find it freeing.” 

THE SCRUMPTIOUS RECIPE: REVITHIA (Chickpea Stew with Rosemary, Lemon, and Olive Oil)

“This is my favorite stew, recipe courtesy of my Yiayia (grandmother). The day she told me she thought my chickpea stew was ‘nostimo’ (tasty), I felt I had really accomplished something in life. 

“The chickpeas cook until they are meltingly soft, and then they are drowned in olive oil and lots of lemon juice. After you have had this you don’t ever want to eat anything else. It is a perfect example of Greek food at its best, transforming only a few ingredients into a luxurious meal. 

Serves 8–10

THE INGREDIENTS 

1 16-ounce bag of dried (not canned) chickpeas 

1 tablespoon baking soda

2 yellow onions, peeled and left whole

2 bay leaves

2 sprigs of fresh rosemary

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour 

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

THE STEPS 

1. Soak the dried chickpeas in plenty of water overnight, or at least 6 hours. 

2. When you are ready to make the stew, drain the chickpeas in a colander and rinse them well. Leaving them in the colander, dust the chickpeas with the baking soda (which serves as a tenderizer) and then toss to incorporate, using your hands. 

Chickpea stew, beets and a simple green salad

3. Let the chickpeas sit for 30 minutes and then rinse very well, 3 or 4 times, in order to remove all the baking soda.

4. Place the chickpeas in a large, heavy pot filled with enough water to cover them by an inch. Add the whole onions, the bay leaves, and a generous pinch of salt.

5. Bring the stew to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low and cover.

6. After about 20 minutes, the chickpeas will start to give off a white froth. Skim this 2 or 3 times, and then don’t worry about it. 

7. After you’ve skimmed the stew a few times add 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary and simmer until the chickpeas are very tender, about another 40 minutes. Remove the onions and the rosemary sprigs. 

8. To thicken the stew, place 4 tablespoons of flour in a mixing bowl and whisk them with 1/3 cup olive oil. Slowly drizzle in 2 cups of broth from the stew, whisking to remove any lumps.

9. Bring the stew to a low simmer. Add the flour mixture back to the pot, stirring well for about 3 minutes until the stew is thick and velvety.

10. Taste for seasoning and add more salt (you will most likely need to add another generous pinch or two) and freshly ground black pepper.

11. Ladle into bowls and drizzle with olive oil and fresh lemon juice. This dish is best served on the day you make it.

Variation: During the last 10 minutes of cooking, add 2 cups of cleaned and coarsely chopped chard or kale.

You can also purchase Mina’s book, Mina Stone: Cooking for Artists, here.