Several months ago, I received a lovely email from Patti Flynn. Patti participated in the “Crazy Sexy Vegan Cleanse,” that I coordinated in 2012, which involved no meat, sugar, dairy, gluten, alcohol or coffee. During this cleanse, Patti discovered lacto-fermentation of vegetables. This discovery soon developed into a hobby, which has now turned into a business! I was so inspired by Patti’s story, that I asked her to share it. Read on to learn how Patti went from participating in a cleanse, to developing a new business venture. – A.M.
I have been making soap since since early 2001 and I started my soap company in December, 2001. In my previous life, I was a vastly unhappy chef; I loved the actual cooking, but found everything else about restaurants detestable: the hours, the customers, the pay, the other staff, and the owners. You might say I was an absolute curmudgeon, born to work for myself! The stress levels were constantly insanely high and the remuneration, paltry. However, the skills translated amazingly well into a soap making business. After a time, I was grateful for my years slaving away over a hot stove….they were excellent training for the next 13 years of slaving away over a hot soap cauldron.
I considered myself very lucky to get away from the food industry at all. So, it is with some surprise that I find myself launching a sideline at present, that definitely involves food. Anyone, after listening to me rant about the injustices and indignities of the hospitality industry, might ask themselves what on earth I am doing, taking up my knives again after so many glorious years of comparative rest. It is a very short story:
In late 2011, Anne Marie threw a suggestion out into a soap making forum. The idea was simple: she was getting psyched up to do a cleanse/detox for 21 days and it involved no dairy, no gluten, no booze, no coffee, no sugar, and no meat. Basically, a lot of raw fruit, vegetables, nuts and water. This sounded very attractive , healthy and wholesome, so a bunch of us signed up immediately and agreed to post on our progress. I announced to my long-suffering husband that we would be living on raw vegan food for a time and that I would make it as delicious as possible. He was in.
So I began to experiment with fermenting vegetables. I read Sandor Katz’ excellent books: Wild Fermentation and the Art of Fermentation, plus a dozen more by other authors. Within two years we were eating a serving of ferments every day, brewing kombucha and jun, and I was fermenting everything I could think of. The sour, salty, complex, original flavours were a revelation to us, and moreover, to all the friends and family upon whom I foisted samples.
In May this year, I was in Kyoto with my mother. We walked the length of the fabulous Nishiki market, looking at the incredible array of traditional foods, including PILES of naturally fermented vegetables and condiments. Suddenly it hit me: there really wasn’t anything like this commercially available in Australia, so why shouldn’t I start a business? I was resolved at once and telephoned my husband that very evening to let him know he should clear his schedule and drag out his kitchen knives, because soon we would be chopping tonnes of raw vegetables!
The whole thing has been a surprising turn of events and it all started really because of Anne Marie’s proposal. In hindsight, I can definitely say that was the trigger. So as I delivered my first order in early November, I thought of Anne Marie and sent her a note to say: this is what you have done! In the meantime, I continue to throw the soap pots around. But really, who knows what will happen next? I suppose we could always ask Anne Marie!
I love Patti’s story, because it demonstrates that you can find new hobbies, passions and even business opportunities in unexpected places!