In my kitchen there are a few ingredients that make their way into every meal. Ever since I can remember Bragg’s Liquid Aminos was right up there on my priority spice shelf with the salt, pepper, and sriracha. So you can understand my excitement when I had the chance to meet Patricia Bragg at the Haleiwa Cacao Festival last Sunday. I know what you are thinking. How could I get sidetracked talking with the owner of company that is famous for its soy sauce alternatives and healthy apple cider vinegar when there was so much chocolate all around me? The answer is simply that Patricia Bragg and her father Paul Bragg have been making what they call live natural foods for 100 years and I wanted to learn more about their products and the story behind their long tenure as leaders in the healthy food industry.
It would be easy to spend hours listening to all the stories Patricia has about the Bragg company and family. She proudly says her father coined the phrase health food and created a new idea when he started lecturing about the benefits of eating organic food. Shortly after opening a health food store in Los Angeles he began making Bragg products like Liquid Aminos, Apple Cider Vinegar, and Nutritional Yeast. For a while her father had so many healthy ideas for people, that the company sold 365 different organic products, one for each day of the year. Today her company sells ten USDA Organic Certified products and you can see how much she cares about the quality of her company’s goods in the way she enthusiastically emphasizes that her Bragg’s Liquid Aminos are not made from genetically modified soybeans and are even certified by the Non-GMO Project.
As we talked I was amazed to find that Patricia and her father have encountered criticism and ridicule over the years. The Bragg Live Foods company and its adherence to strictly organic and healthy products grew alongside America’s fast food craze and while the American diet sunk to new unhealthy lows, the Braggs marched to their own organic drum. Occasionally, their products caught the eye of Hollywood stars like Madonna, Clint Eastwood, and Katy Perry or Olympic Gold Medalists like Murray Rose and Betty Cuthbert, but mostly Bragg’s was a quiet alternative to the mainstream food culture. So I suppose it was only natural to find her giving a special guest appearance at the Haleiwa Farmers’ Market. Hawaii is a special place for the Bragg family and Patricia still gives free exercise classes at Waikiki beach every week just like her father who started the tradition over 50 years ago.
So while I did spend a fair amount of my time this Sunday tasting chocolate and learning about how chocolatiers take the seeds or “beans” from the pulp of the cacao fruit, clean and roast them, and finally add sugar and milk to make gourmet Hawaiian chocolate, my favorite part of this year’s Haleiwa Cacao Festival was meeting a pioneer in healthy and organic foods. It is nice to meet the maker of the key ingredient of every stir-fry I have ever made.
Aloha and ‘Ai Ihu Pono!
Winter 2012 Hawaii Food Warrior
This post is from one of the interns in the Real Time Farms Food Warrior Internship Program. These interns are collecting data, pictures, and video on the growing practices of our nation’s farms, gathering food artisans’ stories, and documenting farmers markets. We all deserve to know where our food comes from!