Patti the Pickle Profile: Lauren Temkin, Cultured & Saucy

Lauren [left] and Simone [right] on a recent trip to Fairview Gardens.

Lauren [left] and Simone [right] on a recent trip to Fairview Gardens.

Patti the "big dill" Pickle here, sharing tidbits of what you can look forward to at this year's Santa Barbara Fermentation Festival. Recently, I had the opportunity to get CULTURED with Lauren Temkin of Cultured & Saucy (formerly Cultured Cuisine). The company brings us the latest trend in gourmet health foods, using traditional small batch lacto fermentation methods and recipes to create outstanding foods rich in probiotics and flavor.

I enjoyed learning more about their new line of ready to use dressings, tapenades, dips, chermoulas, chimichurris and gremolatas... gourmet goodness!

Patti the Pickle: What was the greatest "cultured" lesson you learned from your mom growing up?

My mother sent me to an alternative school where we started each day in a circle, collectively deciding on the day’s curriculum. My early math skills all came from the kitchen. We baked, canned, churned butter and made ice cream. Had Sally Fallon or Sandor Katz been around we would have fermented, but learning to be interested and fearless in the kitchen gave me the awe and wonder to delve into the bacteria swarming world of fermentation!

Patti the Pickle: What inspired you to start Cultured & Saucy in Santa Barbara? 

I have been obsessed with fermentation for quite some time, although until you asked this question I never gave much thought to why it became my passion. Once I found fermentation (at the Santa Barbara Fermentation Festival!), I started fermenting anything and everything. I became totally immersed in anything to do with fermentation. 

My father’s illness and eventual death could have led to my obsession.Watching my father deteriorate of a rare and lethal hereditary form of ALS, Lou Gherrig’s disease, was a life changing experience. What started as a speech impediment killed him within 2 years of diagnosis. Autoimmune diseases didn’t mean much to me before dad was diagnosed. Delving into fermentation included doing a lot of reading into inflammation. I believe inflammation is the cause of most health issues. There is nothing simpler or more delicious one can do for daily health than to eat fermented foods. My sister Simone and I decided to work on a product that could be added to any savory food. We strove for a sauce that not only provided healing qualities but also made preparing meals quick, easy and bursting with gourmet flavor.

Patti the Pickle: Cultured vs Fermented. Give us the 101! 

Why don't we tackle three often misunderstood words; cultured, fermented and pickled.

They can all mean the same thing or something totally different. It was a tough decision to choose which one suited our product best.

Fermented: Means naturally fermented, lacto fermented, wildly fermented or spontaneously fermented. All of these methods are used to make fermented, cultured and pickled foods, which is why these three words can at times mean one in the same.

Pickled: Can mean either naturally fermented or canned with heat, vinegar and/or sugar. Be careful that you understand the difference between these two - canning with heat never means fermented!

Cultured: Can mean that cultures are added or food is fermented from naturally occurring cultures. Some like to add cultures to reduce salt and fermentation time. I believe everything is done in its own time. I don’t add cultures to our foods, but instead allow the cultures or bacteria that exist on the vegetables to naturally ferment our products.

Patti the Pickle: How did incorporating cultured foods help you overcome your food allergies?

When I was fourteen months old I hurt my eye and wore a patch for a long time. We were a healthy family, nothing frozen or canned.  By the time I was five I was dealing with embarrassing red swathes of irritated skin and a constant snow storm on my shoulders. I didn’t realize that people are supposed to poop every day. I was allergic to more and more foods daily, had a foggy brain, distended belly and food cravings.

I became an expert at restrictive diets. I stopped eating gluten in 2004. I still avoid gluten but have eaten traditionally fermented bread, like New Vineland, a few times and was able to digest it without issue. I approached the bread with trepidation, but after talking with the baker about his process, I decided to give it a try. Since I understand the basics of fermentation I know that true sourdough bread has reduced gluten. I think that due to my consistent diet of cultured and fermented foods, my gut is healthy enough for a more varied diet. I am able to eat pretty much what I want, but I still avoid processed foods.

Patti the Pickle: Your products incorporate a lot of global, bold flavors. What is your top seller and a personal favorite?

Our boldness comes from my business partner, sister and spice master Simone. She has been a private chef and caterer for most of her adult life. We both grew up with a French stepmother whose father was a Cordon Bleu Chef, and we lived in India, Israel, Holland and Germany.

Picking a favorite flavor is so hard! I love the bold lemon mustard punch in Double Dill Dijon, that Mandarin 5 Spice sends me on an Eastern culinary voyage, but Bombay Curry is the one I’d take to a deserted island.

Patti the Pickle: You also offer classes on Lacto Fermentation. Please explain why people should incorporate this ancient art into their diet.  

We live in earthquake country. The best earthquake preparedness kit I can think of includes fermented foods!

Where else could you get the power pack of predigested super absorbable fresh raw nutrition that lasts months? No electricity? Dig a hole a few feet deep, place your sealed jar in a box and bury it, or place in cellar/basement. Properly fermented foods can last 4-8 months if kept around 55 degrees. This is one of the reasons that ancient cultures have been able to survive winters and droughts for thousands of years.

The science and health benefits behind fermentation are really exciting. I hope that you explore it and get hooked on fermenting.

Patti the Pickle: We are excited for your attendance at this year's festival. What can we look forward to?

You’ll get to try our saucyness! Our products are flavor enhancers; they are designed to make any savory meal more digestible and healthfully delicious. We are talking to a prospective food vendor about pairing our sauces with their menu items. At the festival, we encourage attendees to bring us something savory and try it with one of our samples. Our foods are made to enhance your meals, not to be eaten by the spoonful. 

When Rachel Hommel is not parading around town in her pickle suit, she can be spotted at the farmers market, practicing yoga, and dancing to the beet of life. She has written for Edible Magazine and the Santa Barbara Independent and is this year's press contact and festival staff member.