What the Hygge? – Food brings people together

What the hygge? is an initiative by a friend of mine, Pam and her friends Wex and Rachel. Pam and Wex prepare the food, while Rachel makes the most beautiful designs.

Hygge is a danish word, and essentially refers to creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with equally wonderful people. Perhaps Kinfolk can sum it up better:

What the Hygge?

“Hygge is a coziness we feel and crave – the atmosphere that comes as we spend time with our loved ones, in candlelight, with good food and other soul warmers like a crackling fire… It comes from taking genuine pleasure in making simple everyday things and enjoying them.” — The Kinfolk Table

Needless to say, when they first launched this concept of Hygge last year, I was extremely excited since it embodied everything I hoped to see in Singapore- Forming a community by having conversations about meaningful topics over great food (well-cooked and in it’s most natural form, as far from the preservative/chemical laden food we get daily).

finally had a chance to attend this year, and I absolutely loved the experience. The theme for the Hygge I attended was Sustainability, which is an issue I feel strongly about, especially after my WWOOFing trip in June this year.

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The details of why they chose this team, and some very interesting reads and videos about this topic can be found on their website here. I could go on and on, but I feel that they summarised it perfectly in their post. I’ll just focus on my experience at Hygge instead!

I barely have any photos, since the picnic started at 7pm, and it was starting to get dark, especially with the gloom from the haze.

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Singapore does have it’s beauty too! This was taken on our way to the kayaking platform at Macritchie Reservoir. I love how it’s mysterious, yet beckoning.

When we arrived, there were already quite a few people there. I was eager to meet new people and to learn about their lives and why they were here!

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With the wind gently blowing our hair, and the heaviness of the hazy air on us, we huddled around the picnic mat, listening to introductions as the candle flames flickered with the wind. The food was laid out in the centre, and I couldn’t help but think about how food is central to our lives, yet we often look at it merely as a necessity for survival, rather than truly savouring the food and the conversations that often accompany these meals with people who matter.

As we went through each course together, Pam and Wex explained the reasons for choosing to include the dish in the menu and the ingredients that they included in the dishes which related back to the issue of Sustainability. For example, barley which is a low value crop was included in the tabouleh since it helps to replenish nitrogen in the soils (which are being fast depleted to meet our demands for food). Wex also included home-grown basil leaves in the tabouleh to encourage the Farm-to-Table concept and to inspire us to try our hand at growing our own food. Beef cheeks were used to make the beef bourguignon since it is a cheaper cut of meat, and supports the idea of nose-to-tail dining, since no part would go to waste. Although the more popular cuts of beef are preferred for their tenderness, if cooked well, beef cheeks can be mouthwateringly tender as well (as executed by Pam and Wex — It was delicious)

I really appreciated the effort they made in linking each dish back to the theme, and teaching us about such a wide range of topics from farming to the meat industry and recycling efforts.

Our conversations ranged from WWOOFing to chef adventures and simply getting to know each other better and one another’s opinions on food sustainability. Two hours flew by, and I felt that I had learnt so much about Sustainability, and about the people we were dining with. Even though we were strangers to begin with, by the end of the meal, I felt that we were connected by our common goal to eating and live  more sustainably. We may not meet again, but it’s a nice feeling to know that there is such a community in Singapore. (I even met someone who reads my blog, which was really cool! I’m so glad to have met a reader in person. It warmed my heart to hear that she enjoyed reading my posts, even from 2 years back!)

As we ended, we were given a parting gift of a Grow-Your-Own Basil pot. I loved how much thought and effort went into planning this door gift. We were also asked what we would pledge to do to live sustainably, and to write it on this paper that they prepared for us.

This hygge was not just one of those events where you feel inspired, and then go back to your lives as per normal once you leave. We were called to action, in very manageable ways. Be it through eating less meat or bringing our own lunch boxes to takeaway food… we could all make our own impact in our little ways. It may seem small but every bit counts.

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One of my pledges was to cook from scratch, like my hosts on the organic farm. 

After reflecting on what we talked about, perhaps my biggest takeaway was that it starts with us. We may think that we can’t make much of a difference as an individual. But each choice we make is a vote against the current commercial food industry. As pam said, “Every dollar is a vote”. A vote against the horrible conditions the animals are kept in, a vote for the small scale local farmers, a vote for our health. A collective voice to protect our Earth.

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Are you not worried about yourselves, or even your (future) children ingesting all these chemicals? Are you not concerned about what goes into your food or where your food comes from? Are you not saddened by the suffering of the animals and the factory workers and farmers?

I am.

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Alone we may seem small, but if you think about it, each of our daily choices are what led to the current food industry becoming what it is. Producers are here to meet demand, and we the consumers drive the demand. We were responsible for shaping the current food industry, and we have the power to change it for the better. By demanding less meat so the farmers won’t have to inject growth hormones into the animals to meet our demand, by growing some of our own food to reduce the strain on farmers, by cooking sustainably and doing nose-to-tail/root-to-stalk cooking to minimise food wastage… the possibilities are endless.

The change starts with us.

How will you make an effort to live sustainably today?

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