You may be wondering about the secret to success in Los Angeles. Well, Kristen Hager has let me in on the secret to both her talent for cooking and for acting. It’s passion. Kristen’s passions intersect in her ability to stay in tune with her body, whether through her fresh and healthy home cooking, or by embodying the raw emotion of her character Nora Sergeant in her current show “Being Human.”
Kristen related the origins of her passion for acting, cooking, and eating healthy, flavorful foods while making a delectable Butternut Squash and Roasted Pear Soup. The enticing aroma of the soup wafted through the air during the shoot, and I can confirm that these passions are talent. From her dad’s homemade beer batter to her mom’s crazy salads, Kristen has inherited the appetite for cooking that will inspire you to pursue your own passions with the same zeal.
So you described your family as hunters and gatherers. You said they like to fish and hunt and grow things. Is that your inspiration for your cooking style? I definitely grew up in a home where eating together as a family was very important, and every night we would sit down together for family dinners. Both of my parents cooked and still do. Because I grew up in that kind of house from an early age, I was in the kitchen helping my mom, cutting things up, baking, being the sous chef essentially. So being in the kitchen is very important to me. My dad fishes, as do I when I go home to see my family, and he also hunts moose, but I’ve never gone and partaken. Nor will I.
Fishing is a little more low-key. Fishing is a little more low-key, because you’re out on the lake, in the middle of the woods, with no one else around...It’s honestly one of my favorite places to be.
Did your parents teach you to cook or did you naturally learn the skill from being around it? My mom taught me how to cook. I’ve always had an interest in it, but when I moved out and went to university, I lived in residence and wasn’t doing a lot of cooking. When I graduated and got my own home, trying new recipes started as a hobby but cooking became a huge part of my life. What I put in my body is really important to me.
So you cook a lot for enjoyment as well as health? Exactly.
I imagine food is an important part of acting and modeling. Do you find your career influencing your diet and cooking habits? More than anything, I just feel better when I’m putting good foods into my body. I read a lot of books on nutrition. Everyone jokes that if I wasn’t an actor, I would be a nutritionist. I just started reading In Defense of Food, which I’m loving. It’s really just a matter of trying to avoid processed foods as much as possible, so I make a lot of my own milks, nut butters, hummus, etc., from scratch instead of buying them.
How do you stay so organic and natural in LA? That’s the great thing about being in LA, you have fresh, local produce year round. Because I grew up in a very small, remote town in Canada, (which honestly feels like winter 8 months of the year), it’s difficult to get fresh produce there.
Luckily, in the summer my dad grows all his own vegetables. I grew up in a house where we always ate really well.
Do you find that being on set and spending so much of your day working affects the way that you’re able to eat? The show (“Being Human”) shoots up in Montreal, and we shoot for five months of the year. And they’re long days, sometimes twelve to seventeen hours. For the first couple of weeks, while I’m getting back into the swing of things, and waking up at 4:30 in the morning, I normally eat the set food. But after about a month of that, I usually start to bring my own lunches. I get sick of the same bland flavors. I’ll make a batch of soup for the week, and even if I’m not making my entire lunch, I’ll bring something to accompany the set food. Everyone thinks I’m crazy, because I work all day and then come home and make myself food for the next day… I need to to hire a personal chef! Wouldn't that be nice.
They would have to live up to your standards for yourself. Do you enjoy baking as much as you enjoy cooking? I love baking! Amongst my friends, I'm "the baker." Honestly, it's my favorite thing to do in the evening, if I have nothing else to do, is to just go in the kitchen and bake. My earliest memories, like we spoke of, are being in the kitchen and learning to cook and bake with my mom. She’s literally the most talented baker I know.
Do you have advice for people trying to be healthy in LA? There are so many wonderful Farmer’s markets that you should absolutely take advantage of. Not only will you be eating better, more nutrient packed foods, but you'll be supporting local farms. I feel like in LA, more than anywhere else I've lived, people want to eat healthier, and make a very conscious decision about what they are putting into their bodies. In restaurants here, you can get all sorts of healthy options that you can’t get in other cities across the country.
Now, let's talk about your show "Being Human!" Will you tell me a little about your character Nora and whether you identify with her? We finished Season Four of “Being Human” and it’s currently airing. I was just a woman who fell in love with a guy, who unbeknownst to her was a werewolf. (She just thought he had some major commitment issues that coincided with the full moon). In the last episode of Season One, he ends up scratching her, and she also turns into a werewolf. So for the past three seasons, I’ve been playing a woman who is struggling to maintain her humanity struggling with being a werewolf.
Her journey is about finding a balance between human and animal. Nora is a very strong character. She’s very driven. She knows what she wants and is someone who really embraces the werewolf. So for me, the challenge at first was: How do I embody the wolf? How do I become a werewolf? It's obviously something that I can’t relate to in my own life. But I quickly realized that It’s very much about being in tune with your body, and your physicality. It's all very primal. It’s such a dirty, gritty role; we wake up after transforming, covered in blood and dirt, naked in the woods. It’s such a raw character, and a very empowering role to play.
You’ve played other roles in the fantasy, sci-fi genre before. Is that the type of role you tend to gravitate towards? Well no, honestly, it’s been coincidental in terms of auditions and jobs I’ve gotten. Rather than seeking out the job, it sought me out. I didn’t choose the sci-fi, the sci-fi choose me. But again, it’s such a fun role to play in. The fans are the best! They are so dedicated and devoted. We wouldn’t have jobs without them. So it’s a really fun world to get to be a part of.
Vegan Butternut Squash and Pear Soup 2-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 2 large cloves of garlic, minced 1 yelllow onion, diced 1 butternut squash peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 inch pieces 1 acorn squash peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 inch pieces 1 pear, cut into 1 inch pieces 6-8 cups Vegetable Stock 11/2 tsp fresh thyme, minced 1/2 tsp fresh sage, minced Coarse sea salt, and freshly ground pepper to tase
1. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot set over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, thyme, sage and a pinch of sea salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 10 minutes. 2. Add the squash and pear. To facilitate in the peeling of the squash, you can pre-cook it at 400 degrees F for 20 min. Pour in the stock, enough to submerge the solids. Turn the heat to high, bring the soup to a boil, then turn the heat down and let the soup simmer until the squash is cooked through, 20-30 min. (10 min if squash is pre-cooked). 3. Puree with immersion blender. (Or work in batches, and puree in blender). 4. Season with coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
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