What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a F16 pilots for a very long time until I found out you have to very good at math to become one. The second best thing was becoming a member of the Spice Girls. I was very serious about this until I turned 13 when they split up. When I was 15, I started working in a small brasserie as a waitress, barista, and cook, and from then I always envisioned becoming a chef. I worked successfully as a chef for about 10 years. Becoming a mother made me see that I chose a career path that is almost impossible to combine with motherhood. So now I am a chef of trade but a mother of all trades.
Do you have any siblings?
My older brother, Steven famously tried to kill me several times when we lived abroad in South of America. When I was 3 years old, he painted me from top to toe with white wall paint. My mother had to wash me in turpentine to get it off. Another time he locked me in a suitcase on the balcony, luckily my mother figured out something was wrong when she could not hear me anymore.
Arthur is my half brother, who is 9 years younger than I am; he was my next best thing after my baby bjorn doll when he was a baby. I babysat him a lot and he was a good practice for all my nanny side jobs when I was in my teens. Nowadays he towers over me, and he one time biked from the Netherlands to London to visit me.
Who was your childhood hero?
This is easy, the Spice Girls. They are a big part of my childhood; my mission was to cover every wall in my room with their posters. I remember saving my pocket money to buy magazines featuring them and going to the CD store so I could listen to their music. My aunt took me to their concert in Holland for my birthday, but I was so nervous that I got sick in the line. Until this day I remember every line of their songs and not ashamed of it.
What was your favorite childhood food? Has it changed as an adult?
My favorite food used to be pasta with “green sauce” spaghetti with basil pesto, only made right by my mother. Now as an adult I have many types of favorite foods. I like to say I did not become a chef because I like to cook but because I like to eat. Right now I am into Vietnamese food, I love the freshness of the spring rolls and the healing powers of pho soup and the bahn mi sandwich takes me back to my college time in Houston
Tell us embarrassing or little known childhood anecdote about your
A little known anecdote is that I spent 3 years of early childhood in Paraguay; I spoke fluent Spanish and Guaraní. But when we moved back to the Netherlands, I refused to speak it again. I do still understand a lot of Spanish, and I am sure that one day I’ll return to South America and pick it up like I never left.
Tell us about your parent’s quirks and how they have shaped you?
My father is extremely organized, always making lists for everything and keeps his belongings in an organized manner. He is always prepared for disasters with canned food, bottled water, and first aid supplies. I pride myself with my lists and am always looking for ways of optimizing the organization in my life. People tend to make fun of me, but when we lived in London, I had a rope so we could escape the apartment in case of fire and had emergency supplies and strategies just like my father. I can’t wait until our shipment arrives in Beijing so I can get my emergency supplies in order. I do wonder if my rope will be long enough this time around living on floor 15.
What do you love the most about being a mom?
I love seeing how she is growing into such a funny version of me and my husband. But then I see new things that are so unique to her. I love sleeping with her and feeling her little feet against me in the night and the funny things she says when she wakes up. I love that becoming a mother three years ago has opened a can of worms in my head. I had to face my demons and solve some of the madness that I would have never solved or found if I did not become a mother. Becoming a mother made me a better person.
List up to three favorite childhood books
Harry Potter by J.K Rowling
My grandfather gave me the first Harry Potter book and I was hooked forever I have read the series back to front in English and in Dutch more than five times each, I just read all seven books again when I came to Beijing. The magical world she created is so incredibly precise and amazing that I loved to get lost as a child, and again as a teenager, and then again as an adult. I can’t wait for my daughter to be old enough to enjoy the books.
Kruistocht in Spijkerbroek, Crusade in jeans by Thea Beckman
This is a book I red several times, and it always captured me. It’s a story about a boy who gets sent back into time and lands in the middle of a children’s crusade. It’s a book that all Dutch kids have read. The book is both historically very precise yet a fairytale.
Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Again something that a grandparent got me to read, and I remember watching the old movie of the secret garden with my grandmother. I found it so cozy and scary at the same time, and I always hoped to find a secret garden myself even though I can’t garden at all.
Pauline van Hasselt has just started working for beijingkids. Born in Wassenaar, The Netherlands, she moved with her husband and her 3 year-old daughter to Beijing in June of this year. Prior she lived in Paraguay, the Netherlands, Texas, and London, studying and working as a chef. Pauline enjoys biking around Beijing, finding markets and new restaurants, reading crime and fantasy books in bed, and most importantly, turning her house into a home for her family.