Food blogger leaves city life for Minnesota farm
In Molly Yeh’s kitchen, there are good eggs and not-so-good eggs.
The good eggs, laid by a friend’s chickens, are fried for breakfast. The not-as-good store-bought eggs are whipped into recipes Yeh’s testing, like chocolate profiteroles decorated with matcha green tea and ube (purple yam) glazes or bacon-and-egg pan-fried steam buns. Yeh, the 24-year-old author of food and lifestyle blog “My Name is Yeh,” cooks cuisine inspired by her Jewish and Chinese heritages in her farm kitchen in East Grand Forks.
“I always say my blog is just a diary about my life, and my life right now happens to be about food,” Yeh says. “If, in five or 10 years, I decide that I want to get into bird watching or ceramics or maybe I want to start doing farm work, my blog might turn into a farm blog or an art blog or whatever. My goal has been to make a living off of what I love doing.”
Chicago-raised Yeh – pronounced “yay” – lived in New York City until last year. A Juilliard-trained percussionist, she pursued music, playing and attending concerts.
Yeh’s connection to Minnesota is her boyfriend, 27-year-old Nick Hagen, who also attended Juilliard. The couple met through a mutual friend and played a concert at Carnegie Hall before a romantic relationship unfolded. Hagen, who’s called “Eggboy” on Yeh’s blog for his love of high-protein breakfasts, grew up here, on the other side of State Highway 220.
He’s a fifth-generation farmer who’s continuing the family business of growing and harvesting sugar beets, soybeans, navy beans and wheat. After years in a bustling city, Hagen craved a quieter life, but he wasn’t sure that Yeh was ready for the change.
“I knew that I would be very happy here. I was kind of quietly encouraging it, but I never wanted to push her,” he says. “I wanted to make sure it was right for me and keep my eye on her and see how everything was working out and not say, ‘Let’s move to the farm’ and freak her out.”
A year ago, Hagen surprised Yeh at the airport in New York after she’d visited family in Chicago. The first words out of her mouth were, “I want to leave New York.” The couple relocated to East Grand Forks last summer and recently moved to Hagen’s grandparents’ farm here.
“Farming, it’s unlike some other career paths, in that you can’t move the farm. It really was unusual for Molly, someone who thrives on experiencing new things and new places, to realize we’re settling in and planting roots,” Hagen says.
Yeh’s adjusted to farm life, spending her days writing and photographing the food she makes.
“There was this weird, uneasy feeling when I was in New York of always feeling like I had to be going out because that’s just what people do. I like not having that feeling here. I like the small-town vibe, I do like that everybody seems to know everybody,” she says. “I’ve never lived in a world without traffic. That was something I didn’t expect coming here. Not having traffic makes your life better.”
Besides authoring her personal blog, Yeh is a freelance writer and recipe developer for Betty Crocker, Food52, The Jewish Daily Forward and Food & Wine magazine. She’s also written for publications like Kinfolk, Wolftree, Modern Farmer and the Juilliard Journal.
Her 5,300-plus Instagram followers and blog readers get a taste of her personality by reading blog posts, and it’s not only her readers who’ve become fans.
“My Name is Yeh” is a finalist for Saveur Magazine’s Fifth Annual Best Food Blog Awards in the Best Cooking Blog category. She planned to attend the awards ceremony in Las Vegas this month to see if she wins. “To be recognized for something that I 100 percent do because I love is really awesome and really fulfilling and heartwarming,” Yeh says.
Her writing is humorous, and posts are a fun-loving stream of consciousness complemented by rustic, minimalistic-style photos.
“My Name is Yeh” has become more food- and farm-life centric over the last year. Instead of posts about percussion concerts and city life, Yeh focuses on small-town living and firsts: Her first pair of overalls, first time on a riding lawnmower, and first tastes of hotdish and Cool Whip-candy bar salad.
She can’t find hazelnuts here sometimes, and giant, greasy, folded slabs of New York-style pizza are nonexistent. But Yeh’s learned the beauty of farm-fresh ingredients, small-town camaraderie and the thread that weaves everyone together – food. “People love talking about food. You can talk to anyone about food because everybody needs it, everybody has certain tastes. Regardless of whatever social situation I’m in, someone always has just had a good meal, and they’ll want to talk about it,” she says.
Recalling a particularly Midwestern food experience, Yeh reminisces about the “best ever” ribs she ate a harvest party last year. The One N’ Only, a tiny restaurant on Highway 75 in Euclid, Minn., served all-you-can-eat ribs to mark the end of the sugar beet harvest.
“It was a really great middle-of-nowhere experience,” she says.
Hagen says it’s been his job to introduce Yeh to the reality of farm life.
“She had this very romantic idea that she’d be picking blueberries with dew in the morning at sunrise,” he says. “I said, ‘Well, there’s also other stuff happening.’ I was cautiously happy because she was excited about it, but I knew that she didn’t really know what she was excited about.”
There hasn’t been any early-morning blueberry picking or field frolicking yet, but Yeh appreciates the wide-open space, and she’s learning that farm life has undeniable charm.
A blog entry she wrote to announce her move to Minnesota summarizes her take on smaller-town living in the Midwest: “We love it here. Like, a lot a lot. We love the people, the pace, the one pan-Asian restaurant in town, and the close proximity to our families. We love the opportunities, and we love the low price of marzipan. We love that it’s OK to for real wear plaid, and we love that Eggboy’s family has been here for billions of years. This place is the tops.”