From interviews with my mom and dad: by Heidi Lettrari
It is inevitable that we all start out with a clean slate when born, and it is the early childhood years that initially engrave their strongest impressions on one’s life. This is when the five senses develop: sight, sound, smell, touch and most importantly taste. These are the senses with which we experience life. The next engraving takes place in the school curriculum. We learn what is wrong and right, discipline, manners, respect, and more.
My dad grew up in a small Bavarian town at the foot of the Alps in Germany in the sixties. Growing up in this traditional rich environment, which reaches back to the Roman Empire and Germanic tribes of more than two thousand years ago, left its imprint on him. This traditional rich region of Germany with so much history in cuisines, customs, art, people etc. would be inerasably stored in his memory. As my dad has said, in retrospect, his background and upbringing were most influential and the driving motivation for him to study the sourdough phenomena and creating the Kaslo Sourdough Bakery. Recently, this has also translated into his inventing the sourdough pasta.
The opportunity came several years after immigrating to Canada that he was able to follow his passion for naturally fermented foods, and in 1991 he baked his first sourdough bread in an outdoor brick oven in the village of Kaslo. For two summers he baked fresh sourdough bread daily. The day started at 3:00 AM making dough and lighting the fire in the outdoor oven. By 10:00 Am he had two batches baked and out of the oven, - about 70 loaves. The dough was hand mixed, divided and kneaded by hand. Each individual loaf was deposited into the oven via ‘oven peel’ and also taken out with it once they were baked. He was unbelievably disciplined day in day out, and was learning every step of the way. The sourdough culture he created back then is still the one we use today.
Over time, his customer base grew and before long my dad had numerous requests to make his bread available all year. Since he was using an outdoor oven, it restricted my dad to being able to bake from the beginning of April to the end of September. At that time, my siblings and I were already born, and he needed a way to make a stable income, so the shift to the bakery seemed the way to go. My dad converted his woodworking shop into what became the start of the year-round Kaslo Sourdough Bakery.
Since then he devoted his life to studying natural fermented foods (sourdough). Fluent in two languages enabled him to study two folded and on two continents. He has written many articles for the Sourdough Bakery website. In the beginning it was the quality of the bread, but as his studies progressed he realized the health implication of baking with a sourdough culture. The many positive effects on the digestive system compared to modern bread that seems to be more of the opposite. Already from the beginning people with wheat allergies or sensitivities to wheat were able to eat his bread and this furthered his interest into the health aspect of sourdough. It was not much of a surprise, of the newly emergence of gluten intolerance, and more or less a prediction of his. He was certainly among those first who worried about rising gluten intolerances, and I strongly recommend reading his latest articles “The Gluten Demon” and “Fatal Flaw” for more information on this.
My brother, sister and I grew up in this environment of sourdough, natural fermentation, and living bacteria, and just like my dad’s early impressions of cuisine and culture in Germany, my upbringing in Kaslo has shaped who I am and what I value today. My dad and my grandparents moved to Kaslo in 1979: a beautiful village nestled between the Selkirk and Purcell mountains. Compared to his hometown in the Alps, it was quite similar, but with a lot more freedom and abounding wildlife, natural wonders and lots of landmass.
This was the amazing town I grew up in. I didn’t appreciate this town as much when I was growing up here, but after spending the better part of five years at the University of Victoria, I became aware of a strong longing to come back, and to make this my permanent place of residence. Now, I’m setting up the next stage in my life, as well as that of the Kaslo Sourdough Bakery. I’m now focusing on building a future with my fiancé Peter, as well as learning a lot from my dad, and working with my brother Stefan, who has already several years of actively baking under my dad’s supervision, and who did his apprenticeship in Germany and is now a full-fledged sourdough baker himself. We are ready to start into the sourdough pasta trade.
Since I haven’t brought up my mother so far, I would like to do this here. Even though my dad is the sourdough expert, my mother has always been by his side, supporting him wherever she could, and they are a perfectly well-matched team. She was integral to helping my dad as the bakery grew, gave him lots of love and support, and with her hard work, made sure there was always a delicious meal on the table and that everything was ship-shape. These are all factors that played important roles in the creation and day-to-day running of the Kaslo Sourdough Bakery over the years.
With the excitement for our new product growing, I wake each day with more confidence and assurance of my own future. It’s not only that I am finding a way to make a living for my family and myself, but also that I am going to be able to provide people with a product that is healthy, and health-promoting for our customers. Many people have already benefited from my parents’ sourdough bread, and now they can also enjoy pasta without having any detrimental health consequences.
It was my dad’s mission first, but now it’s become mine: to make amazing food products that are healthy, and health promoting in every possible way. This is, as my dad would say, my ‘oath’ towards a better healthier tomorrow.
Kaslo, British Columbia
February 23, 2013