How It Started
Our Beginnings, by Heidi Lettrari
My parents are the heart of Kaslo Sourdough: for over twenty years, they have worked together to build our successful business, and in this short article, I provide an overview of where they come from, and how their life experiences shaped their story.
My dad, Silvio, grew up in a small Bavarian town at the foot of the Alps in Germany in the sixties. Growing up in this culturally 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 region of Germany has much history in different cuisines, customs, art, and people, and growing up there never left him. As my dad has admitted: “My background and upbringing were most influential and the driving motivation for me to study the sourdough phenomena and creating the Kaslo Sourdough Bakery.” Recently, this has also translated into his inventing the first sourdough pasta.
The opportunity to start the bakery came several years after immigrating to Canada. 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 abundant wildlife, natural wonders and seemingly endless landmass. On a visit back to Germany he fell in love with my mom, and she joined him here in the mid-80’s. Together, they started a family, and my dad was able to follow his passion for naturally fermented foods. 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. His days started at 3:00am with making the dough and lighting the fire in the outdoor oven. By 10:00am, he had two batches baked and out of the oven: about 70 loaves.
The dough was mixed, divided and kneaded by hand. Each individual loaf was deposited into the oven with an oven peel (long-handled flat bread shovel), and also taken out with it once they were baked. He was disciplined and learned more about sourdough bread every step of the way. The sourdough culture he created back this is still the one we use today.
Over those two summers, his customer base grew and before long Silvio had numerous requests to make his bread available year long. Since he was using an outdoor oven, it restricted him 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 and my mom needed a way to make a stable income, so the shift to the bakery seemed the way to go. After discussion and planning with my mom, my dad converted his woodworking shop into what became the start of the year-round Kaslo Sourdough Bakery (KSB).
With the support of my mom, my dad devoted his life to studying natural fermented foods , especially anything and everything to do with sourdough. Fluent in two languages enabled him to study literature from both the Americas and Germany. Over the years, he has written numerous articles for the sourdough bakery website about many different things he has learned (www.microsour.com).
At first his research focused on the quality of the bread, but as his studies progressed he realized the health implications of baking with a sourdough culture. There are a number of unique, positive effects on the digestive system from sourdough breads, and this became apparent from the bakery’s customer’s very quickly: people with wheat allergies or sensitivities to wheat were able to eat KSB bread and this furthered my dad’s interest into the health aspects of sourdough. The emergence of gluten intolerance is a continual source of concern for my dad, given the importance of wheat for human civilization.
The Next Generation
My siblings 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 we are and what we value today.
Kaslo is an amazing little mountain town. I didn’t know how to appreciate this town when I was growing up, but after spending the better part of five years at the University of Victoria, I missed this place, my family, and the lifestyle here, and worked hard to find a way to make it my permanent place of residence.
Moving back enabled me to set up the next stage of my life, and build a partnership with my brother and my parents as we developed the sourdough pasta. For the last few years I’ve been focusing on building a future with my husband, Peter, as well as continuing to learn from and work with my family.
My sister helps me out with account management, even as she is living in Victoria, and my brother features prominently in the work here in town: after he finished high school, he undertook an baking apprenticeship in Germany came back to take a central role in my parents’ bakery. Combining all of the skills in my family, we are taking on the pasta trade.
For a moment, I want to mention specifically my mom. Even though my dad undertook the research aspect of understanding the sourdough, my parents have always inextricably worked together: raising kids, baking bread, and now making sourdough pasta. They are a perfectly matched team.
My mom was integral to facilitating the growth of the bakery, handling the orders and managing the money. Alongside that, her expert cooking skills always ensured there was a delicious meal on the table for all of us. These are all factors that playing important roles in the creation and day-to-day running of the Kaslo Sourdough Bakery.
With the excitement for our new product growing, I wake each day day with more determination to build my 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 parents’ mission first, but now it’s become mine: to make amazing food products that are healthy, and health promoting in every possible way.