My first contact with Holly, was over a skype call to Australia a few years ago. The call was setup by a client, in order for me to gain some expert advise on how to make Water Kefir. I was really quite nervous about the concept and responsibility of actively growing bacteria in a kitchen and I naively thought this next hour was to be a drivel of instruction about how to sterilise a jar, and talk through a recipe that as far as I had worked out included a measurement of water, and a few figs. I had no idea that this phone call would actually be the beginning of my love affair with Water Kefir and much, much more.
I remember never wanting that first call to end. Holly’s passion was infectious. She has that revolutionary spirit of a true pioneer, and precision and creativity of a professional chef, but her expert speciality is Fermentation; recipes, concepts, terminology, theories, historical traditions, and the science and art of the processes.
Holly has been practising and teaching the making of fermented foods since 1972. She was brought up in the UK, but now lives in Australia, creating ferments from her kitchen overlooking the sea, and selling them at her local market amongst a community of friends. She has recently published her incredible book Ferment. A complete reflection of her knowledge, her character and her passion, wrapped up beautifully in a warm and playful tone with stunning food photography. It is a delight to read.
Holly is on the front line of the fermentation revival, holding hands with all the other great fermenters, whole foodies and organic farmers that are inspiring us back to traditional ways of cooking; towards a more thoughtful approach to the food we eat, helping us remember that food is medicine, and motivating us to fill our kitchen larders, or any spare cupboard we can find with rising doughs, fizzing ferments, and popping jars.
For a chance to meet Holly, look out on Gutsy for some events we are planning later in the year, but in the meantime take a voyage of sensual discovery in her book Ferment.
What is your current life philosophy?
You never learn less
What 3 things do you treasure the most?
My beautiful daughter India, my hands and what they can create, my mothers works of art. She was a water colour painter and now she is a was, they connect me to the way she saw the world and what mattered in her eyes.
Where or when are you the happiest?
When I’m catering and I’ve bought ingredients I didn’t have on the list because they called to me and then they are just what I need for a random idea that occurrs to me whilst doing something else. I love that feeling of being a conduit, it only ever happens when I am totally absorbed in the present and my attention is off myself.
Who would be your dream dinner party guest? (dead or alive)
Dinner with Ghandi would be something special; though the meal would likely be very simple. A bowl of rice perhaps and a ferment or two.
What is the gutsiest (most adventurous/daring) thing you have ever done?
Assumed I would be a welcome guest on an island in Canada, I hitchhiked there from Vancouver, I walked and was ferried across small islands and the water between them, to be where I was sure I was meant to be. Fortunately I was well received. It was bliss walking the beaches amongst the flotsome and jetsome and under the arbutus trees.
How would your greatest friend describe you in 3 words?
In the words of two besties…
Yolande says - Creative, Generous, Foody + Stinky because we share a market stall and my Kim chi overrides the sweet smell of her meringues dominates the air
Lizzie says - Masterful, Vulnerable, Grounded
What inspired you to start bringing ferments into your life? Was it a particular person / place / a food you tried?
The concept of food as medicine and being introduced to the idea that ferments aid digestion circa 1972 when I was 14
Do you have any gut friendly tips that are part of your daily routine?
Well yes I guess I do. Chewing well, resonant breathing, enjoyment and sharing well prepared diverse, colourful and delicious organically grown, locally produced wholefoods. Also including a mouthful or two of a delicious ferment with every meal. Diversity seems to be key and I think living with cultures can only be of benefit.