Food Vancouver Select Guide: Interview with Grammy Award Winner Hilary Hahn
Recently violinist Hilary Hahn completed an Asian tour with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. A passionate musician and known foodie Food Vancouver had the chance to ask Hilary Hahn about her culinary tastes plus receive a favorite recipe:
Food Vancouver: As you travel throughout the world you must dine at numerous restaurants. Do you have a favourite city and restaurant that you always visit?
Hilary Hahn: I do have my favorites; it’s hard to choose just one. A couple of my culinary haunts are gourmet, but most are holes in the wall that serve delicious, authentic food, and all are fairly small. A few of the more casual that come to mind are Freddie and Pepper’s pizza in New York City; Burma Superstar in San Francisco; Dushanbe teahouse (for the tea and vegan food) in Boulder; and an amazing fresh-pasta and wine restaurant in Berlin (I could walk you to it but can’t for the life of me remember its name or address). One of my most memorable eating experiences took place in Milan, in a random restaurant near the train station when I was in my late teens: Tuscan bread soup and pasta with wild boar sauce. That was probably the first time I realized that travel could be good for the stomach as well as the mind.
FV: You mention in your online journal that you like to cook. Do you prefer cooking quick and easy meals or gourmet style from recent cookbooks?
HH: I don’t often have the time or equipment to make much gourmet food, but whenever possible, I try to cook for myself. It’s really important to me to eat the best ingredients possible, and while restaurants can offer wonderful dishes, it is often an acrobatic feat to find out the exact contents of a recipe and where the ingredients have come from. Also, in some parts of the world, basic items like freshly-made tofu and brown rice can be hard to find on menus.
Nutrition is crucial when one lives on the road. When I’m traveling – which is all but a few days a month – I bring along a small Crockpot. I’ll go to local butchers and pick up unusual cuts of meat and to farmers’ markets for local vegetables, and then, in my hotel room, I’ll make a soup or stew for dinner. I don’t buy any kinds of broths, so I always make sure to have leeks and lemon grass on hand, as well as a certain kind of mild sea salt.
When I’m at home, I’ll sometimes take a whole day just to cook a big gourmet feast for myself. (If guests come over, I tend to stick to more tried-and-true recipes, or I make a batch of my mom’s sweet-and-sour beef stew.) Cooking in my own kitchen helps to remind me that I’m finally home.
FV: Favourite snack food on the road and at home?
HH: Odd as this may seem, salted roasted laver. It’s sold in bite-sized sheets in Korea. I love curling up on the sofa with a cup of tea, watching a DVD, and munching on laver and brown rice cakes. I break them out in airplanes too, sometimes, and get weird looks.
FV: Strangest or most exotic food you have ever tried?
HH: I look at all foods from a local perspective. After all, many of the foods we’re accustomed to strike visitors as strange or are acquired tastes: pumpkin pie, sausage, buffalo, bear fat, chit’lins, sauerkraut, dill pickles, buttermilk, and honey, for example.
The more unusual foods I’ve enjoyed overseas have been raw quail eggs, extremely fermented (“10-year”) kimchi, reindeer, oxtail, and a wide variety of exotic fruits and vegetables. Nothing too wacky in that list, but I’m sure I have many more adventurous eating experiences ahead of me! The only thing I don’t think I could ever try again is sea urchin.
I’m told that when I was a baby, I didn’t waste food – I didn’t throw it, and I ate every last scrap on my tray. I grew up in a junk-food- and candy-free household, so as a kid, I had no interest in hot dogs, pizza, hamburgers, or lasagna; if my family went to a dinner party, I’d raid the “grownup” table. I also loved spicy Asian cuisine; my favorite Thai soup was a fiery Thom Ka Kai. None of those tendencies have changed much over the years, although my taste preferences have expanded with my traveling experiences.
Hilary Hahn's Tart Homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipe
Hilary Hahn official web site
By Kevin Freeman
Images supplied by Hilary Hahn
Articles on Food Vancouver: