French Impressions: Michelle Hum, a self-proclaimed Francophile and foodie
30 Wednesday May 2012
Michelle Hum, student at the University of Minnesota, is pursuing double majors in Journalism (Advertising) and Psychology as well as a minor in French. She has been in charge of many of the digital aspects of A Woman’s Paris since November 2011. As the youngest interviewee for AWP’s French Impressions, most of her biography is yet to be written. Today, she is maneuvering her way into the world of advertising with hopes of being an account planner and one day living overseas.
Michelle is a self-proclaimed Francophile and foodie. She is also a dabbling linguaphile. Growing up, her parents stressed the importance of having an international understanding and acceptance of other cultures. Travelling was part of this. Michelle has been fortunate enough to visit countries on three continents and live in France during a semester abroad. In order to stay connected with many of the cultures she experienced, food has become very important to Michelle. Whenever she wants to revisit Penang, Malaysia, all she needs to do is prepare a bowl of Asam Laksa. Her love of exploring new cultures has also spurred her interest in languages. Though only currently able to speak English and French, she is also learning Mandarin and starting to teach herself Spanish.
AWP: Name the books and movies, work of art and music, fashion or cuisine that have inspired you.
MH: I have thought about this question longer than any other question on this form. After filling out everything else, I had to come back to this but I have no answer. There is not any singular piece that has served as the catalyst for my personal expression. I am inspired by the everyday trivialities of life. Maybe one day I will find that one piece that rocks my world.
AWP: Do you have any role models?
MH: My mother may be surprised to read that she is and always has been one of my biggest role models. Oscar Wilde wrote, “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy.” Unfortunately, I am picking up many of my mother’s eccentricities, but luckily some of her virtues have rubbed off on me as well. My mother is a successful entrepreneur and wife. She once told me that despite growing up in Malaysia, she always knew she would one day find happiness in the U.S. After literally traveling half way around the world to do so, she did. My mother has always had a drive to attain anything she desires. If I can accomplish what my mother has in her personal and professional life, I will consider myself very fortunate.
AWP: What is the last book you read?
MH: The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell
AWP: What is the best (or worst) advice you’ve ever given or received?
MH: Before I studied abroad, one of my friends told me, “No matter how bad it gets, remember, it will be a good story later.” This piece of advice not only helped me manage some less than ideal situations in Europe, but has also helped me keep an even head under stress in the States.
AWP: What handed-down wisdom did you receive from your mother or father?
MH: Before leaving me for my freshman year in college, my dad said something to the effect of, “Have fun. It’s normal to make mistakes but don’t make any life-altering mistakes you will regret.” I don’t know why that has stuck with me. In the past few years, I have made some choices I regret, but none that were life-altering. I have made some life-altering decisions, but none that I regret.
AWP: In your youth, what did you imagine your adult life would hold? What influenced this vision?
MH: As a kid, everyone tells you, “You can be anything you want when you grow up.” This is a terrifying thought. I could be anything, so I tried to figure out what I wanted. For a while, I thought I would become a bio-medical engineer. I also toyed with the idea of teaching, pursuing a PhD in psychology, and in 8th grade briefly considered becoming a diplomat. Sophomore year of college, my future became less nebulous when I found advertising and account planning. Finally, I found something interesting that fit my skill sets.
AWP: In your early teens, what formed your romantic fantasies of adventure and love?
MH: A lot of my sense of adventure came from travelling. Being the child of an immigrant, my family and I often went to Malaysia to see my mom’s family. When my dad worked in China, we had the opportunity to live with him for just over a month. After I started learning French, my high school organized a trip to France. I have been so fortunate to have been able to experience so many different cultures growing up and this has helped nurse my desire to continue exploring and continue seeking new adventures.
AWP: What were your favorite childhood things to do?
MH: I have always loved reading. As a kid, I used to hide so I could read undisturbed. One summer I got so caught up in my books, my mom banned me from reading.
AWP: What nourishes your passions?
MH: Whenever I get stuck on a problem, I like to go for a walk. The last time I needed inspiration for one of my projects, I walked through Seward. By the time I got back, I had the whole project outlined and it all just came together. The paths by the Mississippi are also a good place to find that spark of creativity.
AWP: Was being stylish important to you growing up in your teens? Is it now?
MH: Style has become increasingly important to me in college. Before, I was a t-shirt and jeans kind of girl. Perhaps it is from living in a larger city, or simply being surrounded by more creative-types in the advertising program. All I know is now, my outfits are much more deliberate than before.
AWP: How do you define style or fashion?
MH: Fashion is an outward expression of one’s inner feelings. The quickest way to brighten your mood is to put on a bright outfit.
AWP: Tell me about your cooking and eating habits and traditions.
MH: Growing up, my mom made cuisine from all over the Eurasian continent but half of our meals were generally Chinese. She is famous for her Char Kway Teow. Most of what I know about cooking, I learned from her. In my kitchen, I like to make a lot of Malaysian curries or quick stir-fries. During school breaks, my eating habits get a lot better.
AWP: What was your most memorable meal to date?
MH: After a couple days of inadvertently being on the Special K diet while travelling in Italy with a friend from high school, we decided to treat ourselves to a dinner at a nicer restaurant. Not knowing what gnocchi was beforehand, I pointed to that on the menu. When it came out, it was the most delicious, light, yet creamy puff of flavor I have ever had the pleasure to eat. Served with a white wine, it was incredible. Admittedly, the fact that we hadn’t eaten much other than cereal and pizza beforehand may have had something to do with how incredible the gnocchi tasted. Almost a year later, it remains the best meal I have ever had.
AWP: What is in your refrigerator right now?
MH: Dim Sum leftovers, home-made soy milk, shrimp and bok choy for a stir-fry tonight. My fridge isn’t usually that Asian, but my parents were just in town and we went grocery shopping together.
ART OF LIVING
AWP: What natural gift would you most like to possess? What talent are you most thankful for?
MH: The more languages I try to learn, the more respect I have for multilingual individuals. I would love to have a natural gift for languages. I have been told one of my best assets is my willingness to assert myself. If there’s something I want, I have a knack for finding a way to achieve it.
AWP: What question are you tired of being asked?
MH: How tall are you? Answer: 5ft on a good day.
You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris® post, For the love of yaourt (yogurt), by Michelle Hum who writes about her love of French yaourt; this tangy, creamy, dairy product that can stand by itself –– although a dab of honey or handful of fresh fruit never hurts. Recipe included for Gateau au Yaourt au et au Citron (Lemon Yogurt Cake) by Ina Garten.
Alsace Asparagus, Best in April, by Michelle Hum who shares the delicate taste of white asparagus dressed with a simple olive oil, balsamic, mustard vinaigrette during springtime in Montpellier, France. Recipe included.
Tartiflette: French Comfort Food, by Michelle Hum who tells us about Tartiflette: a French dish of potatoes, bacon, and Reblochon cheese enjoyed during ski season in the Alps. Recipe included.
La Chandeleur – Le Jour des Crêpes, by Michelle Hum who introduces us to the celebration of Chandeleur, also know as Le Jour des Crêpes, and her new found favorite spread, Crème de Châtaigne (Chestnut Jam). Recipe included.
French Onion Soup – A Paris Meal to Remember, by Michelle Hum who recalls the aroma of sweet, caramelized onions, dry wine, and rich broth carried with the steam and its first taste – serendipity. Recipe included.
A Woman’s Paris — Elegance, Culture and Joie de Vivre
We are captivated by women and men, like you, who use their discipline, wit and resourcefulness to make their own way and who excel at what the French call joie de vivre or “the art of living.” We stand in awe of what you fill into your lives. Free spirits who inspire both admiration and confidence.
Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening. — Coco Chanel (1883 – 1971)
Text copyright ©2012 Michelle Hum. All rights reserved.
Illustrations copyright ©Barbara Redmond. All rights reserved.