Because food connects us all, Yahoo Life serves up tons of table talk with people who are passionate about what’s on their menu eraseda series about food.
Actress and public health advocate Soleil Moon Frye grew up before our eyes, spending most of her life between film and television sets. Though she’s strayed a long way from her endearing ’80s personality, Punky Brewster, she’s always valued food and the connections that good food gives her.
“Food is how we’ve always celebrated our love,” the mother of four told Yahoo Life. “It’s really an opportunity to talk about gratitude and what we’re thankful for.”
The 45-year-old multi-hyphenated woman grew up in the entertainment business, and her early journey is documented in the 2021 documentary child 90which Frye co-directed and executive produced with Leonardo DiCaprio.
But where has Frye been when she wasn’t working as one of Hollywood’s favorite starlets? In her mother’s kitchen. “My mom was a chef and a food artist,” she says. “Food is literally such an important part of our lives. It was so amazing because so many of my early memories are sitting there and watching her or her letting me stir and bake with her. She would create the most stunning dishes and I’ve always been very impressed.”
She recounts lavish holidays with incredible celebrations as some of her fondest childhood memories. “She was a single mom who raised us and worked those crazy hours, but food was a way to bring us all together,” she shares TThe proud family: louder and prouder Star. Now, as a mother, she continues that tradition, with her own kitchen serving as the focal point of her family.
“We love to cook together,” she says. “That’s really important to us. We love grilling with the family and making chocolate chip pancakes in the morning. They love it when I make that special maple syrup with butter as a secret ingredient—and lots of love.”
Raised as a mom to a professional chef, Frye has an adventurous palate and enjoys many different styles of cuisine, from Asian to Italian. Hoping to rub off on her kids, she enacted a foolproof plan to raise picky eaters.
“We’ve been doing these ‘mystery taste tests’ since they were little, which I always enjoyed doing with them,” she recalls. “I’ve had friends who had kids who were picky about food, and I feel like this really pushed my kids to explore food more by making it fun.”
Luckily, it worked and now the family enjoys dining in a variety of globally inspired cuisines. She cites her homemade clams, Korean barbecue, chicken masala, and even spicy Cajun food as some of her kids’ favorites.
As for the latest food trend in her home, it’s all about her new favorite kitchen gadget: a rice cooker. “Lately I’ve been really working on perfecting rice — which has been hysterical. I was very grateful for the gift of a rice cooker for Mother’s Day. I’m so excited I just stare at him.”
Though the busy mom has eclectic tastes, she’s had to adjust her diet as she’s gotten older. “I still feel like a teenager, but even though I’ve aged a bit, I find I definitely need protein when I’m working or just chasing the kids,” she says. “My body has changed.” She lists beef jerky, protein bars, almonds and cream cheese as her favorite snacks to stay fueled.
Eating out is still a popular pastime. She has a long list of places to go, but counts two Californian spots — Jon and Vinny’s in Los Angeles and Gjelina in Venice — among her favorite restaurants. “These are places that make me so happy and my heart sings with joy,” she says.
“I could eat from this menu all day,” she says of Jon and Vinny’s, an East Coast-style Italian restaurant loved by locals and visitors alike. Your order in the posh restaurant? The restaurant’s signature spicy fusilli, pizza, chopped salad and chocolate chip cookies… with salt.
Her family can’t get enough of In-N-Out, the popular West Coast fast food chain known for its animal-style burgers. “We treat ourselves to that every now and then,” she shares. And her kids love IHOP, the US chain known for pancakes. “It reminds me that my dad took me,” adds Frye.
Frye spoke to Yahoo Life about her work raising public health awareness, a cause close to the heart of the actress. “Growing up in the ministry was always very important to our family,” she says. “Besides my children, the work I get to do with CORE is what I’m most proud of.” Community Organized Relief Effort was co-founded by Hollywood star Sean Penn.
Her most recent project includes working with the Ask2BSure campaign, a public health awareness campaign dedicated to educating parents about meningitis B. The vaccine, which has only been available since 2014, may prove life-saving against meningococcal disease. While the disease affects people of all ages, it peaks in adolescence, particularly in teenagers and young adults.
“I really wasn’t aware of that,” admits Frye. “I think, like many families, I assumed that children would be vaccinated against meningitis when they were younger. I didn’t realize that meningitis B is completely different and how life threatening it is.”
Frye hopes her partnership with GSK will encourage parents to engage in an open dialogue, both as families and with their healthcare professionals. “I think it’s important that we educate ourselves, have these conversations and make decisions that are right for our family,” she says. “Everyone is different, it’s just a matter of making the right choice for you.”
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