Uli Beutter Cohen
We have been longtime followers of @mister_krisp, because we love unicorns and Rice Krispies as much as the next person. What you might not know is that Jessica Siskin, the woman behind the krisp, is a writer and serious book lover. We talked about feminist must-reads, life as a reaction to pop culture, feel-good politics, and of course, Rihanna.
There are a lot of treats in your apartment. Do you have a sweet tooth that gets you into trouble?
I’m an equal opportunity food lover. I don’t discriminate between sweet and savory. But, I’ve always loved Rice Krispies treats. They’re so good.
In your bio, you say: “I’m a human woman, but sometimes people call me Misterkrisp.”
I am a pretty vocal feminist. I named Misterkrisp after the villain in Sister Act 2. It’s a great, female-driven film, so I think we’re okay. I dove into feminism in my mid-twenties. During my MFA I met incredible women who were deeply engaged with feminism and shared their perspectives with me. Before that, I wasn’t using the label “feminist” and didn’t know anyone who was. There’s an expression in French, “l’appel du vide,” which is that moment you’re standing on the edge of a mountain or a cliff and are asking yourself, “What if I jumped?” That’s how I feel about getting into feminism. It’s a sensation I’ve always felt and finally found a name for.
What are some must-read books for aspiring feminists?
Shrill by Lindy West is a great way to get that hard, fast feminism, but she’s also funny and makes you laugh. Rebecca Solnit, especially Men Explain Things to Me, which was a pivotal book for me, and I just got The Mother of All Questions. You have to have a bit of a literary mind to enjoy I Love Dick by Chris Kraus, but she’s unbelievable. The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison is a must. She deals specifically with how women are treated in health situations. Then there is the feminist canon, like Simone de Beauvoir and Susan Faludi.
Will you leave a book unfinished?
Time is a limited resource and we are asked to participate in many elements of culture. Don’t force yourself to read things that aren’t speaking to you in the moment. It’s not the best use of your time. But when I read a book that I love, I quit the rest of my life.
Those kind of books are the best!
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi knocked my socks off. It blew me away. I set my alarm so I could finish it before going to work. And Maggie Nelson is everything and more. I love her books and every time I see her speak, she has something to say that changes your perspective. Am I mentioning all female writers? I think I am.
When I read a book that I love, I quit the rest of my life.
It’s all about mastering your craft and understanding what your craft means to you.
I like messing with gender lines and my favorite thing to read is what you would classify as cross-genre. There’s a connection between what I do with Misterkrisp and what is happening in my literary world, which probably sounds like a very strange comparison. I did my undergrad at the Gallatin School at NYU which is super interdisciplinary. I studied a blend of art history, psychology, and fashion. You make up your own major. I called mine “Psychology and the Visual World.” It was about how what you see affects what you think and how what you think affects what you see. That’s something I continue to be fascinated by.
Do you have a favorite cross-genre book?
The Department of Speculation by Jenny Offill is probably my favorite novel ever. It’s so good. It’s poetic and somewhat lyric, but also a really direct and straightforward account of a marriage unraveling. There’s a chapter called “How Are You?” and it says, “So scared, so scared, so scared…” like, a hundred times on the page. There’s something really self-aware in that book and I think that self-awareness is very important. Whether you’re making Rice Krispie treat art or anything else.
Has making food always been something you’re drawn to?
Yeah, it was always food. I used to make cheeseburgers out of PlayDough. I always go for the cheeseburger. But I don’t know how to cook anything other than Rice Krispies treats. My best friend taught me how to do it. I had to make something for a potluck birthday dinner and googled “rice krispies treats surfboard” because I’m a millennial and that’s what we do. The internet is a crazy place. The minute I saw it, I was like, “Oh my god, I need to make this.” I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I posted a picture on Instagram and broke 100 likes. I continued to experiment. I made bagels and lox, I made doughnuts, and of course pizza. Around this time people were looking for quirky content for their Instagrams. It was also a time when I really cared about that form of validation and a lot of likes.
Self-awareness is very important. Whether you’re making Rice Krispies treat art or anything else.
Does that make Misterkrisp a reaction to pop culture or to likes or both?
I react to whatever is going on. I did Kim Kardashian’s Paper Mag cover the day it came out and I did Rihanna when she wore that dress at the Grammy Awards. I watched it, got up, went to my kitchen and made it. She was barely in her seat by the time I had it posted on Instagram. But lately, I’ve noticed that pop culture has taken a backseat to politics.
Politics is merging more and more with pop culture. Whether that’s a good or bad thing remains to be seen.
I had a conversation with someone recently and they were rushing to watch Milo Yiannopoulos on Bill Maher. They were consuming politics like entertainment. Politics should be engaging, it should not be entertaining. We are blurring the lines. There’s this new thinking that protest is the new brunch. It’s complicated because many people are paying attention now, and that’s great, but is it supposed to be fun? People have consented to see creative Rice Krispies treats by following me. They have not consented to political posts. But, I am a deeply political person, I have a platform, and I’m going to use it. At the very least we know we can’t become complacent. Complacency is what lead us to where we are now.
You have a lot of copies of We Should All be Feminists on hand.
Yes, because feminism has a PR problem. Giving people this book has really helped me to speak with people who are uncomfortable with the label “feminist”. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is also just so cogent. I heard her speak recently, and ugh, she’s so cool. I want to be her best friend. I saw her at the AWP and I was standing there smiling like a crazy person. I never do that. I’m a jaded New Yorker. It was a feeling of pure, unadulterated adulation and joy.
I was crying profusely when Rihanna accepted the Humanitarian of the Year Award at Harvard. She was fully herself and it was amazing.
Yeah, how many people are out there trying to be Rihanna right now? It’s like, what works for Rihanna is that she’s Rihanna. There’s a difference between trying hard and working hard. You go be you.
Can you share a Rice Krispies treats secret? Good marshmallows are the hardest to get. My favorite are Jet-Puffed Marshmallows.
If I could only read one book for the rest of my life, it would be: J.K. Rowling no question. I read the Harry Potter series over and over.
Bookstore or Library? Bookstore
If I were a character, I would be: Neville Longbottom
The craziest thing I’ve ever made: A life-sized dog out of Rice Krispies treats. It was my parents’ dog, a golden retriever. It took me four hours.
Something not to miss: Burning Man. Everyone should go once in their life.
There’s a difference between trying hard and working hard. You go be you.