In this edition of 'Shakti Stories', I was lucky enough to catch up with another of my plant-based heroes, Tammy Fry, from the Fry Family Food Co. Tammy's parents, Wally & Debbie, are true pioneers in the vegan food industry. They began developing meatless protein products way back in 1991 – a time when tasty plant protein was about as mystical as a unicorn! Today, the whole family are working together on the dream, making the tastiest burgers, nuggets, schnitzels, prawns and stir-fry strips you could ever dream of... all from plants! Oh, and ice-cream too! They're a family of angels, if you ask me! Here's what Tammy had to say...
You're the oldest daughter of the Fry family, can you remember when it all began?
I grew up in a humble home... born to a goat farmer dad and a mum who taught at the local village school. I saw day after day as goats were shipped off for slaughter… some with names, some nameless. I have an enquiring mind and even as a young girl, I questioned everything. “A drumstick – you play drums with that – what IS THIS?”. I was a born vegetarian. Mum, like me, was a born vegetarian. 2 women can be a powerful force!!
Dad left the goat farming trade and starting a construction business, we moved off the farm and into the city. Life took a new turn, and I became familiar with building sites and seesaws made of wooden planks carefully placed over bags of stones, bricks and sand! Then there was one day that changed everything again, forever. Dad walked into the house after taking off his building boots at door and announced that he too was “never going to eat meat again!”. This after inspecting his last building project – a piggery. This was the final straw for him!
The Fry Family Food Co. range today is really impressive. Did it take a lot of experimentation to get it right?
Our home and family has always had a big heart, strong values and a work ethic to boot! We were a family of vegetarians, in South Africa, and I had folks who believed you should follow your dreams and leave a positive mark in the world. Conversations at the dinner table included the trivial school day report-backs and then morality, ethics, the state of the world, and an update on the latest plant based sausage recipe they managed to crack that day!
In the beginning, my parents were working on developing a range of high protein, replacements for meat (an unknown concept 25 years ago) mostly just for our own family and a few friends. And, yes, the experimentation phase took 2 years of “tried and fails!”. The first two products that were launched into supermarkets were the Traditional Sausages and Original Burgers! Now we have a whole array of products. I would say my 2 favs are the Gluten Free Rice Protein & Chia Nuggets and the Battered Prawn Style Pieces!
Tell me more about the family philosophy. What drives your passion for plant-based food?
I think it varies for each member of the family – for Wally, its more about spirituality and the concept of the interconnectedness of all things. For Debbie, it’s primarily compassion. I think once you follow a plant based diet, your reasons for doing it become more and more holistic. For me, it’s about conscious living – being kind, treading lightly on the earth and looking after my own health.
The Fry family seems to be growing fast! Any tips on plant-based parenting?
It’s tough being a parent in today’s world – my advice would be to follow your heart and intuition, not judge yourself too harshly, perfection (as a parent) is unattainable so go with the flow. Be honest with your children and not overly emotional. Give them the facts. Don’t be prescriptive about their diet especially when in the company of others – we are (more often than not) being judged by other parents, so sometimes a little flexibility is required in order to draw others in and not push them away. Our personal choices make a small impact but our influence over other’s choices can make a much bigger positive impact.
How do you feel Australia is responding to the vegan movement?
Veganism is definitely on trend, and for all the right reasons. And this trend is happening worldwide.