Pamelia Chia

We cook as a means to listen into people's lives.

"In July 2014, my other half, Wex, and myself began hosting monthly dinners for strangers and friends in the outdoors. We named these dinners Hygge, after the Danish concept describing the coziness that we crave and long for. We felt that our community has become one that is increasingly digitalized and isolated - we have lost the tradition of eating together and sharing a meal, and forging connections through it. People long for a familial experience, even if it's not with our real family. We wanted to provide people that at Hygge, to make the people who come feel as if we are part of a family, through the simple act of sharing a meal. Right at the beginning, we decided that people would be the main focus of our dinners. We cooked as a means to listen into peoples' lives.

The best part of Hygge happens when it gets dark, when the aesthetics of things don’t matter as much and the night slips into a time of sharing, and of stories. This is what I love the most about cooking – it is gathering people for a meal together, to nourish, to share meaningfully, to serve. Our fondest memories of Hygge are when conversations flow organically and raw stories and heartfelt struggles are shared. A community is not built through activities or events, but through shared weakness and interdependence. These moments of coziness and openness are sacred and holy to us. And they are what make all the hard work worth it.

The biggest struggle of doing Hygge is working together as a couple. For example, one challenge is striking a balance between maintaining high food quality (something I am very particular about), and the cost (Wex keeps tabs on this). Also, I am a huge control freak in the kitchen, and I can get quite upset when Wex does not perform a certain task to my expectations. But through our many Hygges together, I have learnt that the means is just as important as the end. If I work my other half to the bone with the aim of being hospitable and extending love to others, it comes across as hypocritical and sorely missing the point.

We are very blessed that Hygge has provided us with a platform to contribute to society as a couple. In 2014, using the profits from Hygge, we bought snacks and refreshments for construction workers, cafeteria cleaners and garbage collectors. This year, we are shifting our focus to raising awareness for various social causes, and supporting initiatives and campaigns. Recently, we have organized a charity dinner for the For A Golden Home campaign, which seeks to restore basic living conditions in homes of Singaporean elderly who live alone in one-room flats. We are grateful that we have been able to contribute to society through our talents and passions, and hope to be able to continue advancing common good through such a humble medium."
Pamelia Chia