If you love food, family and fun, Girl Meets Farm may be the best thing on the TV menu.
Available to view on Food Network Sundays at 11 a.m. & 11:30 ET/PT, to stream on Discovery+ and for purchase on Amazon Video, Girl Meets Farm stars cheerful, upbeat food blogger Molly Yeh, cooking homestyle meals with a twist in her farmhouse kitchen on the border of North Dakota and Minnesota.
But, Yeh isn't your stereotypical Upper Midwest farm girl. She was born in 1989 in a Chicago suburb to a pair of clarinetists: John Bruce Yeh, who has Chinese heritage, and Jody Yeh, who has Jewish heritage. Molly Yeh attended the Juilliard School in New York City to study percussion, where she met and fell in love with a fellow student, a shy trombonist from North Dakota named Nick Hagen (Yeh's parents also met while attending Juilliard).
Although she was studying music, Yeh discovered a passion for cooking and began a food-blogging career while still in Brooklyn. After graduation, Hagen convinced Yeh to join him back on the family sugar-beet farm outside of East Grand Forks, Minnesota, right next door to the larger Grand Forks, North Dakota.
Now married, Yeh and Hagen live in the same ranch-style farmhouse where Hagen's grandparents lived. He works the farm, and she continued food blogging, created a cookbook, and established a social-media presence. All this led to Food Network signing her for Girl Meets Farm, which premiered in June 2018.
The show shoots primarily in Yeh's kitchen, where she creates recipes that blend her Chinese and Jewish heritage with a love for exotic spices -- and the influence of her husband's background and the traditional foods of the Upper Midwest.
Overtly, faith doesn't play a big part in the show, except for the food Molly creates for holidays -- both Jewish holidays and Christmas, or the Christmas/Hanukkah blend nicknamed "Christmukkah" -- and references to church (probably Lutheran) potlucks and recipe books.
But, Yeh's unselfconsciously easygoing approach to her blended-faith-and-culture family makes the show welcoming to all.
Some big-city TV critics have said that Yeh brings metropolitan flavors and ethnic cuisine to the Upper Midwest, but they forget that the area has ethnicities and cultures of its own, which aren't necessarily known in the coastal urban centers.
At a TV Critics Association press conference in the summer of 2019, Yeh explained:
One thing that's amazing is that there is a huge Scandinavian population there, and I learned all about -- my husband's Norwegian. I learned all about these Norwegian foods that I had never heard of such as Lefse, which is a thin, really tender potato crepe. It's so good with butter and cinnamon and sugar. And Krumkake -- all of these delicious sweets that I had no idea even existed.
There's that element but then there's also the church-potluck genre of food. There's the hot dish, which is a subset of a casserole. And the best ones are covered in tater tots. Oh, and they're just everything you could ever dream of when it's the winter and there's four feet of snow on the ground, and it's 40 below zero. It's so good and comforting.
So I have had so much fun going through my mother-in-law's church cookbooks.
Yeh isn't a restaurant chef -- she's a high-level home cook. Most of the episodes center around a visit from friends or family, or an event, for which Yeh whips up a meal and a dessert.
This isn't the place to look for light cookery, though, as Yeh's more than generous with the butter, mayo, heavy cream and oil. She's also fond of unusual spice blends, and Asian and other international-cuisine ingredients (increasingly accessible now, thanks to the Internet), along with more than a bit of heat.
She explains each recipe with clarity and bubbly enthusiasm, both for the recipe's look and taste -- and yeah, she tastes everything, complete with mmmms and yummms and a joyful, squinched-up face.
The joy she brings to cooking is infectious, and the show tosses in some stop-motion animation (way more difficult than it looks) to move the process along. Not all the dishes are easy, but Yeh reportedly practices them over and over to make them foolproof. So, if you have some basic cooking skills, they're achievable (the show's Food Network page has many recipes, as does her cookbook, Molly on the Range).
With an unabashed love for sprinkles and sparkly charm, Yeh is the opposite of the fussy, temperamental, edgy chefs on many of the other cooking shows. Now a happy farm wife and the mother of a toddler daughter, she's making sophisticated food, but without being pretentious.
Girl Meets Farm also shows a slice of a version of the good life not often seen on TV these days -- country living, farming, home-cooked food, family and friends coming over. For someone who's been stuck in an urban apartment for a year, it's pretty appealing.
Here's a taste:
Image: Food Network/Discovery+
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions.