By: Lauren Hugh, contributor

March 16, 2020, a Monday, is a day I will never forget; it’s the day all my jobs essentially vanished.  At the time, I was living in New York City, auditioning and performing, all to continue pursuing a career in acting.  I also was working several “side-hustle” jobs, one being an assistant pastry chef at a social club in Tribeca, when the world shut down.  Given the anticipated trajectory of the COVID-19 situation at the time, I decided to fly home to Minnesota March 18, 2020.  I have been quarantining with my parents in Eden Prairie ever since.  Also, Broadway doesn’t plan to open until at least the new year, which sets a precedent for the rest of my industry, so I don’t foresee going back to New York anytime soon.

I found myself in the biggest creative block of my life.  I had every hour in the day to practice a song or write a play and I was completely at a loss for motivation or new ideas.  I found myself cooking and baking a lot during this time.  I know for many people, cooking can seem like a chore.  However, for me, it’s weirdly therapeutic.  Cutting vegetables and baking beautiful cakes revitalize me.  Plus, I was staying with my family and we all needed to eat anyways.

At the peak of quarantine, cooking an extravagant meal helped me pass the time in the day.  I’ve always had an interest in fermented foods, so like many, I taught myself how to bake sourdough and make kimchi.  Per my dad’s request, I also started making him banana bread weekly.

Since I was baking and cooking all day anyways, and had a wide-open schedule, I eventually started making some food videos on the app TikTok.  In my fifth video, I made a recipe for potstickers, which received over 62.2k views.  I also posted the TikTok videos to my Instagram page, where my friends would direct message me to, “keep posting more!”  I realized that I had an untapped audience, my own generation, and decided to go full throttle creating food content on a blog.

I had tried to start my blog back in college, but I only accomplished two posts because I was so busy with classes and rehearsals.  I decided to revamp my food blog, renaming it “hugh eats with you!” a play on my last name.  On my past blog (Food and Fork MN) I had mainly written about restaurants I enjoyed eating at.  Since that obviously wasn’t much of a possibility during quarantine, I began developing new recipes for my favorite restaurant staples and filming video tutorials for my website, Instagram and YouTube channel.  I figured there were tons of people at home, like me, who were probably finding themselves in need of great recipes and not knowing where to find them or how to make them. 

The reason I opted into the YouTube platform was because whenever I found myself searching for a recipe, I would always gravitate towards the ones that had a video.  Everyone learns differently, so I think it is paramount to have written directions and video content along with each recipe.  I also thought that the skills I gained from acting training in school would transfer well to being a food channel personality. 

I think what sets me apart from some of the other food blogs that have been around for years, is that I make a point to engage with pretty much every social media platform.  You can find me at the ones listed above as well as on Facebook, Pinterest and Jumprope.  Jumprope is a new app with an easy step-by-step tutorial format.  I recently became a Featured Content Creator and Founding Community Member for them.  Although the goal of my blog is to make millennials excited about cooking, I currently have a wide range of viewership across these platforms.  Overall, I want my content to be accessible to anyone, no matter how they prefer to consume it.

I am half Chinese, so a lot of my cooking is rooted in that flavor profile.  Since I’m mixed, my blog includes what is authentic to me and my experience growing up in a mixed household, along with other favorites.  I include a lot of Chinese and American recipes, because one type of food is not necessarily better than the other.  They both have great flavors to offer.  If you put a slice of pumpkin pie and a Chinese egg tart in front of me, I would have a tough time picking only one.

 

Lauren, left, with older sister Megan

 

However, there is a lot more to my blog than just Chinese and American. I love trying all sorts of new foods and am influenced by so many different things/people in my life, and my blog reflects that.  Eventually as my blog grows, I hope to have options for everyone, no matter their food preferences.  I have a few friends that are vegan, so I like to recreate some of my favorite recipes so they can enjoy them too.

My blog however, isn’t just an electronic cookbook with fun and delicious video content.  I genuinely want people to learn something when they visit my blog.  I also quickly realized that a lot of random food facts and tidbits I had in my head were not widespread knowledge.  Any chance I get, I try to include those in my posts, to make someone’s food experience just a little bit easier and hopefully more interesting.

After the riots in Minneapolis I created an extensive list of “Black Owned Food Establishments to Support in Minnesota.”  I initially posted it to Instagram where it has received more than 7.5k views and numerous reshares on the platform.  I created it as a way for those who might not be able to lend a hand to the Black Lives Matter movement in other capacities to contribute by simply eating/ordering takeout.  It is a list of Black-owned food establishments across Minnesota so people can consciously support the Black community.  I hope to be able to create more content like this on my site.  Ultimately, I want my blog to be a resource and a fun way for people to not only cook, but truly learn about their food, where it came from and how that dish they’re eating came to be.

The circumstances that caused this blog to blossom were definitely not ideal, nor what I had planned.  However, it gave me the time to explore something that I have always wanted to.  Like me, I imagine many of you are finding new ways to reinvent yourselves, or put time and brain power towards an idea that has been festering for a while now.  If anything, that is a silver lining of this crazy time.  I don’t plan to stop acting.  This silver lining simply gave me an opportunity to expand myself and showed me how my love of acting and my love of cooking can complement each other, and with that, the possibilities are endless.

Overall, I love food and I think it is a great way for people to come together, I mean – we all have to eat!  I started this blog, because I love being able to share my food or a meal with other people, and I can’t currently hold an elaborate dinner party.  We are so fortunate to be able to have all these virtual platforms to connect at a time like this.  So, chatting with you all through online comments will have to do for now.  I plan to continue growing my blog so that community and conversation through food can inspire us all, and be a positive light no matter where we are.

 

Helpful Links:

Lauren’s blog: https://www.hugheatswithyou.com

Instagram: @hugheatswithyou

 

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image8June 2018 was definitely not a good month.  Three titans of their respective fields passed away: Kate Spade (fashion designer),  Anthony Bourdain (chef and food travelogue host), and Charles Krauthammer (political analyst).

Bourdain’s unexpected death was a complete shock to his many fans.  TV channels attempted to numb the pain by running marathons of Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” and “No Reservations.”  What these Bourdain reruns confirmed was that the New York chef was an intrepid consumer and unabashed champion of street foods.   There is nothing more vital to a city and a city’s health than good street food and more of it,” he said.  “Street food makes traveling interesting.”

In fact, he had spent the past two-plus years working on Bourdain Market, a major food market on the Hudson River.  The market was based on Asian night markets where he had spent many occasions eating and drinking amidst the locals.  His ambitious food project was to include approximately 100 retail and wholesale local and overseas food vendors, butchers, bakers, cheesemakers, fishmongers and food stalls.  He was hoping to bring the experiences from his shows to the market’s visitors, connecting them with authentic delicious foods and rich culture.  Sadly, the project was canceled in December 2017 because of the many challenges, including obtaining visas for international food artisans and vendors.

 

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One of Bourdain’s “must-try” street food in China is bao luo fen (抱羅粉).

A Hainanese specialty, this rice noodle dish is both sweet and savory.  Soft and translucent, the rice noodles are tossed in a fragrant beef broth and corn gravy, and topped with sliced, lean pork, beef jerky, and roasted peanuts. The dish is named after Baoluo, a town in northeast Hainan Province.

Other popular Chinese street foods include:

 

By Elaine Dunn

As any kid visiting relatives and friends during Chinese New Year will attest to, the next best thing after receiving the red packets is the variety of snacks that are offered.  What lays under the lid of that Tray of Togetherness (攢盒) -- the round candy box – can make or break the visit!

Every traditional Chinese home will have a candy box sitting prominently on their coffee table or sideboard during entire 15-day Chinese New Year celebration.  This candy box, also known as the “Tray of Togetherness” because it is always round in shape to signify unity and completeness, is filled with an assortment of bite-sized preserved candied fruits, sweetmeats and candy (obvious, isn’t it?) associated with auspicious symbolism: luck, prosperity, good health and fertility.

The box is traditionally made of red or black lacquer with characters and images representing good fortune or happiness on its lid and on the shallow porcelain trays within.  The number of trays are usually six or eight as the number six represents luck and eight represents prosperity.  However, the box in the photo below has seven compartments!  Upon additional web surfing, I found the number of trays can range from five to nine!  So … go figure.

It is also customary to place two tangerines with stems attached on top of the candy box because the word “tangerine” sounds like “gold” in Chinese and its color resemble gold.  So, it pays to add a touch of “wealth” to the sweetness.for the coming year.  The stems of the tangerines represent longevity.

Aside from the snacks, other auspicious foods families eat throughout the New Year are long noodles to signify longevity; fish because it sounds like “surplus/abundance” in Chinese and represents abundance in luck and wealth.  One caveat on eating the fish – one never flips the fish over because in the old days, that can mean a fisherman’s boat turning over at sea!

Families also eat a vegetarian dish on New Year’s Day as a “cleansing” gesture.  The dish is made with a kind of seaweed that resembles long hair (gross to look at and a taste for which this writer never acquired!) but because its name sounds like “get rich,” everyone makes it!

Of course, there are the “cakes.”  The sweet version, niángo (年糕), is made of glutinous rice flour, almond extract and brown sugar, then and steamed.  The slices are then dipped in egg batter and deep fried.  The savoury version, law brag go (蘿蔔糕) is made with rice flour and grated daikon, with bits of Chinese bacon, mushrooms and spring onions.  It also is sliced and pan-fried after being steamed.  (This savoury version is readily available at dim sums.)  The name of these “cakes” in Chinese is “go” and homophonic for ”high.”  Therefore, eating them means kids will grow tall and adults will rise high in their jobs!

Happy Year of the Dog and happy eating for another year!

 

 

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There was a joke where I used to work:  How do you get staff to attend an unpopular meeting or presentation?  Provide free food!It appears free food is not a joke in China.  The Chinese take it very seriously.  

Charitable “sharing fridge” not shared

In early October, a new community kitchen with a refrigerator stocked with food meant for needy hungry folks opened in Shanghai’s Putuo District.  However, not all in line looked “needy.”  And once the community kitchen doors opened, families scrambled inside to grab what they could.  A retiree was stopped for trying to take all the food in shopping bags.

Local media, reported on Oct. 13 that 30 food boxes donated by a restaurant were gone within 10 minutes, and sometimes, taken by a single person!  Food placed in a similar fridge meant for seniors in another part of town was taken by people from outside the neighborhood. 

To prevent greedy “snatchers,” the Putuo kitchen has placed volunteer guards who make food takers complete a form before leaving with food.  Other locations are devising “management” strategies.

By Elaine Dunn

The Year of the Monkey is just around the corner.  If you are thinking of throwing a party at home in celebration, be sure you know what auspicious foods to include!  Additionally, the number of dishes served should be six, eight or 10, which means smooth, getting rich and perfect respectively.

Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival or Lunar New Year, is probably one of the most important Chinese celebrations for all Chinese the world over.  Given the importance of food in Chinese culture, it is no surprise that foods will be the centerpiece of any New Year celebration.  Chinese New Year is not only a time for family to get together, it is also the time for households to honor heavenly deities and pay respects to ancestors.

Foods with special significance and why

What gives certain foods their sway to impart luck and good fortune?  Some are based on their shapes; others are based on the sound of their names.  Traditionally, Chinese New Year celebrations start on New Year’s Eve when families gather for a reunion dinner and to celebrate the departure of the Kitchen God (so he can report to the higher heavenly authorities the favourable behavior of the family during the past year).  

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