All posts by Shelly Hacco

Pumpkin Spiced Fall

By Emiko Akama-Garren

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

The American fall time consists of many traditions and holidays, and those who are not familiar with them may find the traditions amusing and sometimes odd. This time of year is heavily centered around food, with the most important item being the pumpkin. Pumpkins play a role in Thanksgiving, Halloween and essential fall activities like going to a pumpkin patch. So, it is no surprise that pumpkin spice has become an essential part of the season. I always feel more festive and start to get into the fall mood when I see all of the seasonal pumpkin-flavored items available.

Pumpkin spice products are continuing to spread and major brands continue to introduce new pumpkin fused items for the fall time. The limited availability of the flavor has been a key selling point for the products. Some of the most popular items include candles, soap, cookies, drinks, baked goods, snacks, and even pet products. The most quintessential pumpkin spice item to try is most definitely the pumpkin spice latte. Social media, especially Instagram, has created a large following and obsession for pumpkin spice latte fans of all ages.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

It is already a shock to many non Americans how many different products that feature pumpkins are available, so it is even more surprising when people find out that pumpkin flavored coffee is such a sought after trend. Pumpkin spice lattes have become quite the commodity and bring in huge profits for coffee companies. Pumpkin spice lattes are typically made from milk, pumpkin puree or flavoring, pumpkin spice seasoning, a sweetener, and coffee.

Starbucks is the main party responsible for starting the pumpkin spice latte craze and turning the name of their drink into an acronym and widespread hashtag (PSL). Since Starbucks has launched their drink, over 200 million drinks have been sold and it has quickly become their most popular beverage. Now many other coffee chains offer their own versions of pumpkin spice coffees. Starbucks starts to offer the PSL in the beginning of September and it is only available “while supplies last”. This period is usually right up until when they bring back their holiday drinks.

Photo by Maddy Baker on Unsplash

Pumpkin spice no longer just creates a flavorful sensation but it also creates an emotional one. The widely loved trend admired by many Americans is slowly starting to spread, but understandably has not been picked up as quickly in foreign markets. There is no better place to try pumpkin spice food than in America as a way to celebrate the beginning of the fall holidays. Trying out and tasting this fall trend is the best way to understand the American obsession, and might just help you feel some of the holiday spirit.

Featured Image by Chris Hardy on Unsplash

Emiko is a recent graduate from the Sol Price School of Public Policy and Marshall School of Business. She was born and raised in the Bay Area, California up until high school, when she moved to Switzerland and then France. Emiko lived in Switzerland and Germany all throughout high school and then studied abroad her first year of university in Paris. While living abroad, she was involved with Model United Nations and was a figure skating coach for international students and local students looking to work on their English. She loves meeting new people, traveling, dancing, figure skating and entrepreneurship.

SUSTAINABILITIPS: How to Incorporate Environmental Sustainability into Your Day

By Josie Macdonald

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

One trend that has been gaining traction lately is the push towards integrating environmental sustainability into our everyday lives. The issue with trends, however, is that they always fizzle out. Changing small practices in our everyday lives to make them more sustainable is easy and can have long lasting impacts on future generations. As humans, we have created a lot of great technologies that make our lives more efficient. The tradeoff has been the negative impact they are having on the environment. Sustainability involves using practices in our everyday lives that reduce waste, reverse the impacts of climate change, and allow us to support the continual health of the population. Living sustainably is too important to just be a trend! So, what can we do as a generation to make sure sustainability stays relevant?

Here is an açai bowl I had! It was delicious, nutritious, and completely plant based. It even had protein because of the peanut butter!
  • Eat less meat! Animal agriculture is unhealthy for the environment because of the pollutants that are released by factory farms. In fact, factory farming is one of the leading contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, it is not very sustainable. Chickens, pigs, cows, and most of the other animals we eat are herbivorous, so they don’t eat any animals. Thus, eating animals is like eating second-hand plant nutrients. Also, they eat much more than humans. If we eat less animals, factory farms will breed less animals because it is not cost-beneficial for them, and the crops used to feed animals could directly feed humans (and since we eat less, it would feed many more of us)! As if sustainability and was not a good enough reason to eat less meat, the impact on our health is another great benefit. One documentary that I watched on Netflix called The Game Changers explained the numerous health benefits of a plant-based diet. Even if you don’t want to give meat up completely, try starting with Meatless Mondays! Starting a plant-based diet can seem very intimidating and limiting at first, but in my experience, it can also create opportunities to try new foods!
Photo by Stijn te Strake on Unsplash

  • Use less water! One thing we have probably all heard is to remember to turn off the water when we brush our teeth, and that is very important. The EPA estimates that leaving the water running while we brush our teeth wastes an average of 4 gallons per brush. If you brush your teeth twice a day, that is 2920 gallons (11054 liters) per year! Another simple way we can save water is by buying low-flow shower heads. They are usually inexpensive, and there are a wide variety of options to choose from. Another benefit for you is that you will save more money on your water bill each month!

  • Compost! This is one of the most underrated practices in our world today. So what exactly is composting? Compost is essentially the controlled decomposition of biodegradable materials, including but not limited to: leftover food, eggshells, paper waste, and some plastics. Instead of throwing these items in the garbage, we can compost them! Many people can create a compost bin in their backyards, but if you don’t have a backyard, you can create an indoor compost bin. Composting can enrich the soil with nutrients, which creates healthier plants for us to eat because it reduces soil erosion and runoff. Composting is not only sustainable, but it is also regenerative. While it is important to live sustainably, it is even better to be able to live regeneratively. This means that we are living sustainably by not depleting Earth’s resources, but also giving back by creating more resources for the Earth. Composted matter brings a lot of organic matter into the soil, allowing the soil to store more water, sequester (or extract) carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, and give plants more nutrients. By diverting compostable waste from landfills, you will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and it will reduce your carbon footprint!
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
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Have A Bowl of Crossing-the-bridge Rice Noodles Before Exams

By Qianhui Ni

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[4.5 minute read]

What do you normally do before an important exam? In some cultures, people will pray to the god of wisdom, or avoid washing their hair because it is believed to wash the knowledge out of the brain. Some tend to wear clothes with lucky colors. For me, my pre-exam ritual is to have a bowl of crossing-the-bridge rice noodles.

Crossing-the-bridge Rice Noodles from Ludingji at San Gabriel

In Yunnan, China, the local people’s diet holds rice noodles to an equal status as rice. Different from rice noodles from other provinces, the traditional Yunnan rice noodles are made of fermented and milled rice. Thus, they have a very slightly sour taste due to the longer fermentation time in the production process. Crossing-the-bridge rice noodles are the most famous cooking method of these noodles. The soup base is stewed with pork ribs, fresh chicken, fresh duck, and Yunnan ham. After simple seasoning, the thick soup must stay boiling and be put into a large, insulated bowl. You can then add fresh fish slices, fresh tenderloin slices, mung bean sprouts, and mushroom slices to the soup individually. My favorite ingredient to add are fresh raw quail eggs. As the raw quail egg touches the soup, the color of the egg white and yolk changes even before they start changing shape in the broth. This is how we magically make a soft boiled egg in a fully intact shape. When I was a little kid, I always wanted to complete this part by myself but was stopped by my parents since the temperature of the soup was too high. 

You are probably wondering why this dish is named “crossing-the-bridge” and why it is connected to pre-exam rituals. One well-accepted version of its origin story goes like this: in the Qing Dynasty, a scholar living in southern Yunnan used to go study at a pavilion in the middle of a lake to prepare for the imperial examination. To support him, his wife often made his favorite rice noodles and brought them to the pavilion. Every time she got there, the rice noodles had already become cold. One day, she accidentally found out that the thick layer of chicken fat covering the soup helped it stay at a high temperature. The rice noodles, the meat, and the vegetables actually tasted more refreshing if they were put in right before eating. Since then, she always stewed the soup with chicken and other meat first, and waited until she arrived at the pavilion before putting in the extra thinly sliced ingredients and rice noodles. With her support, the scholar eventually got the highest exam score. Because every time the scholar’s wife needed to walk across a bridge to reach the pavilion, people named this cooking method “crossing-the-bridge rice noodles” in order to commemorate this talented woman. Since then, having a bowl of crossing-the-bridge rice noodles has become a popular pre-exam ritual for many local people. 

Spicy Rice Noodles from Ludingji at City of Industry

As part of the cultural heritage of Yunnan, China, crossing-the-bridge rice noodles have become a top cuisine that no visitor to the region should miss out on. Before I went to college, I used to take it for granted because there are so many restaurants that sell it in my hometown. I did not realize how hard it is to find authentic crossing-the-bridge rice noodles until I started my life in another country. However, after visiting almost all the Yunnan restaurants in LA, I found two good ones where you can get a taste of this traditional cuisine: 

Yunnan Restaurant:

You can find two Yunnan Restaurants in LA: one is located in San Gabriel, and the other one is in Monterey Park. Here, when ordering crossing-the-bridge rice noodles, you will have the chance to add all of the ingredients to the boiling soup yourself. Apart from the rice noodles, don’t miss the amazing Chinese Salad with different cold meats or vegetables in spicy sauce. 

Casserole Rice Noodles from Yunnan Garden in Hacienda Heights

Yunnan Garden:

Located in Hacienda Heights, Yunnan Garden has a more spacious dining area. The crossing-the-bridge rice noodles here are put in a big bowl in which the cook has already put in all the ingredients and rice noodles. The soup base is great and I’m sure you will love it. 

If you want to try a new pre-exam ritual before a major exam, try the crossing-the-bridge rice noodles and remember the story of the scholar and the talented wife, and hopefully it will bring you good luck.

Featured Image by Frank Zhang on Unsplash

Qianhui is a doctoral student majoring in Psychology. She received a B.S. in Psychology from East China Normal University in 2019. She is interested in how children learn about social agents and the social world. When she isn’t working in the lab, Qianhui enjoys traveling, reading novels, watching movies, and cooking.