A conversation with Food Network’s Molly Yeh about food, family and RootsTech
Food Network’s ‘Girl Meets Farm’ host will be keynote speaker at free online global family history conference
As young as age 7 or 8, Yeh remembers writing down the names of all the boys she had crushes on in school. From there she moved to documenting her life in scrapbooks, followed by a blog that captured her adventures in New York as a college student. The concept of journaling helped her to discover her true calling.
“(Journaling) helped me find my passion for food because I realized that’s all I wanted to journal about ... and that snowballed into a career in food,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful, creative outlet.”
Journaling may be part of Yeh’s remarks when she speaks at RootsTech 2022. Food and family recipes will definitely be discussed.
The bestselling cookbook author, blogger and host of the Food Network cooking show “Girl Meets Farm” will be a keynote speaker at the all-virtual family history conference scheduled for March 3-5, FamilySearch announced Wednesday.
“I love genealogy and the prospect of potentially learning more about my family history,” Yeh said.
Yeh joins actor Matthew Modine, French baker Apollonia Poilâne, Argentine singer and actor Diego Torres and African boxing legend Samuel Azumah Nelson as keynote speakers at RootsTech. Elder Ulisses Soares, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and his wife, Sister Rosana Soares, will be the featured keynote speakers at the event’s Family Discovery Day.
“Girl Meets Farm” started in 2018 and is currently in its sixth season. The show features recipes inspired by Yeh’s Jewish and Chinese heritage, with a taste of the Midwest. She has received multiple awards for her skills and presentation as a culinary host.
Yeh rose to national prominence with the release of her memoir and cookbook, “Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories From An Unlikely Life on the Farm.” She also created a popular food and lifestyle brand, www.mynameisyeh.com, which has been recognized by Saveur and Yahoo as “Food Blog of the Year.”
She has other talents outside the kitchen. Yeh is a Juilliard-trained percussionist and has performed with orchestras around the world, in off-Broadway theatre and as the glockenspielist for the pop-band San Fermin.
Yeh lives on a sugar beet farm near the North Dakota-Minnesota border with her fifth-generation farmer husband, Nick, and their daughter Bernie, according to her Food Network bio.
In advance of RootsTech, Yeh spoke with the Deseret News about her decision to participate in the global online conference, her growing fascination with family history and how it inspires her to explore new food recipes.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Deseret News: What appealed to you about being a keynote speaker at RootsTech?
Molly Yeh: I would say that my heritage and my family history is the No. 1 inspiration for my work, what I do, the recipes that I create, the food that I am drawn to creating and exploring. I feel like my whole purpose, my whole job, starts with my family history. So to be able to explore that and tell my story and also learn more of my story from it seems like a no-brainer, honestly.
DN: What interesting things have you learned about your family history?
MY: My dad’s side is Chinese. My mom’s side is Ashkenazi Jewish, and they have history in Hungary, and before that, Spain. My husband’s dad’s side came from Norway. His mom’s side is French and English.
(My interest in family history) really has to do with recipes. As I’ve been planning recipes for my show and exploring my family history, I’ve talked to my dad about recipes that his mom made for him growing up. There are a lot of recipes that I’ve uncovered recently that are very comforting for my dad that I’ve started recreating and making for my daughter.
I’ve been able to pick up so many traditional Ashkenazi Jewish recipes from my mom’s side.
From my husband, Nick, who is fifth-generation, I’ve learned all sorts of Norwegian recipes.
So all the things I like to talk about with my family history have to do with recipes and food. From everything like family celebrations to the food that I cook, even if it’s not for work, it is my source for traditions, for recipes, for stories, and the values that I want to instill in my daughter now as a mom (I’m expecting a second child). It’s sort of my North Star for how I go about raising a family, and a lot of that includes cooking for my family.
DN: What are you hoping to share with the world at RootsTech?
MY: There is so much positivity that can come out of sharing your story, your heritage and your culture, and then also embracing others, learning about other cultures, other family histories and recognizing and honoring differences in other people’s stories and celebrating those differences. You learn that everybody has a different story.
I think it’s so fascinating to learn about and get to know one another and work toward understanding people who have differences, and embracing those differences. I think it’s so important to coexist with so many different types of people. It makes the world a happier, more delicious, more exciting place when you can recognize differences and celebrate those differences.
DN: Family means different things to different people, especially as they are exploring their family history. What does family mean to you?
MY: For me it’s like a centering point. It’s like my gravity. It’s where I look to at the end of the day. It’s comfort. It’s my purpose. It’s why I do what I do so that I can be the best mom. Family is just the most important thing. It’s why I want to do a good job at my job. It’s why I want to be a good mom. It’s why I want to carry on traditions. Coming home at the end of the day to have family is, I think, what life is all about.
DN: The theme for RootsTech this year is “Choose Connection.” How do you stay connected to your roots and your extended family?
MY: There’s a simple answer of we have a family text message thread that we send ridiculous photos to all the time.
But for me, the deeper connection is digging into the recipes that my parents grew up with and exploring those, and asking Nick’s great aunts and all of his family members for photos of the little note card with the scribbled recipe from their ancestors and recreating them, whether for personal enjoyment or on the show.
It starts with the food and the stories just grow out of those recipes.
DN: Do you find that heritage continues to expand your interest in other cultures, customs and international foods?
MY: Absolutely. I think just knowing the stories behind my family recipes, the meaning behind them, and knowing that it’s so much more beyond a list of ingredients and a list of steps, knowing that it has so much tradition. There is so much in those words and steps that can be pulled out of it. That informs the way that I read recipes from other cultures and cuisines.
DN: What is one really delicious family recipe you like to make?
MY: I just made this potato dumpling called klub. It’s Norwegian. It’s really dense, doughy and comforting. There’s a piece of ham in the middle that gets boiled and sautéed in butter. It’s just so cozy and it’s everything I want when it’s snowy.
There’s a sister to that dumpling made with blood in it. There’s blood klub and potato klub. The blood klub was the first one my husband’s family taught me how to make. It was right after we got married and I was like, “Oh my gosh, what have I gotten myself into?” I did not like that one at all. But when I learned there was this doughy, delicious potato klub in existence, I had to go and get that recipe. That’s one that’s fairly new to our holiday rotation, but it’s a keeper.
DN: You talked about reaching out to people and exploring family history through recipes. Do you have any advice on how to best go about that?
MY: First, just go out and ask. Every single person I’ve asked, no matter how close I am to them, they are excited to give me their recipes.
I have received those recipe cards that say, “Add just enough flour until it looks right.” I’m like, “What is that supposed to mean?” I’m definitely calling up Aunt Ethel or Aunt Judy and saying “What does that mean?” Having them talk me through it has been valuable. Having them on speed dial helps a lot. Just ask questions. There’s no harm in clarifying.
Learn more about RootsTech by going to RootsTech.org.