by Brooklyn Cribdon | photos by Amanda Cribdon Photography
Have you ever had that moment where your tastebuds were dancing with excitement because you decided to try something new? If you have, you’ll know how marvellous it feels. But how many times has that happened where you knew the food was made right in your community, or in “your own backyard?” If you’re looking for new dishes to try, ingredients to cook with or snacks to share, the Saanich Peninsula has some incredible, local food businesses you may not know about. I was lucky enough to sit down with four of them and ask “What’s your food story?” Their answers may surprise you.
Our first story comes from the visionaries behind Vumami Foods. What is Vumami? It’s a combination of “Vegan” and “Umami.” Umami is a fifth taste (outside of sweet, salty, sour and bitter) conceived by a Japanese scientist in the early 20th century. Umami is described as meaty, bold and savoury. Nick Baingo and Lauren Isherwood knew they wanted to bring umami into the lives of more people after they experienced the flavour at a Buddhist restaurant in South Korea. They’ve been able to achieve this in the form of their dazzling Umami Bomb Shitaki Chili Oil, which is not only vegan but also derived from sustainable ingredients with a nearly zero-waste production. This condiment can be used on “literally everything” to enhance flavour and add depth to your eating experience. Vumami found a home in the form of Beauregard Cafe’s shared kitchen space. Nick and Lauren are so grateful for the warm community they’ve found on the Saanich Peninsula, as it has allowed them to build strong relationships and develop their business over the past year and a half.
If you’re familiar with the local farmers markets, you’ve likely seen a stand with a fun and memorable name: Bean Boy. Bean Boy homous packs a punch with unique flavours such as Chipotle Roasted Garlic, Sweet Chili Lime, and Curry Currant. Bean Boy’s founder, Kevin Meadows, cited his instinct for experimenting with ingredients and a love for good food as what ultimately led to such distinctive flavours. This homous is not only made with sustainable, organic ingredients, but it boasts an interesting oddity. Unlike many traditional homouses, Beany Boy doesn’t use tahini as a main ingredient. This results in a lighter spread that lets the other delicious flavours shine. Kevin has been making his products on the Peninsula for nine years and he finds pride in hearing and seeing the relationships that his customers have to Bean Boy. From shipping homous overseas to a relative, to children adamantly walking up to his booth to purchase their favourite flavour, Bean Boy homouses make people excited about local food.
3 J’s Smokehouse Island Jerky
Sometimes, a protein-rich snack is just what your afternoon hike calls for. This is where 3 J’s Smokehouse’s Island Jerky comes in. In the heart of Sidney’s Business Park, Jerry, Jodi and Judy are busy making 1,600 bags of beef jerky a day. Jerry has been in the meat industry most of his life but settled into the welcoming community of Sidney after leaving Alberta. His goal is to produce simple, delicious snacks. Notably, none of Island Jerky’s three flavours (original, teriyaki, and pepper) contain any sugar or honey. Island Jerky is also smoked instead of dehydrated, allowing for an enhanced taste. Island Jerky thrives in the local farmers market circuit and has received great encouragement from the Saanich Peninsula community.
Adriana’s The Whole Enchilada Deli
Last, but certainly not least, the authentic and home cooked flavours from Adriana’s The Whole Enchilada Deli offer nothing but comfort. After emigrating from Mexico to Canada, Adriana Ramirez began her business in 1995. After a few iterations and locations, Adriana landed The Whole Enchilada deli in the Keating area. Beyond its famous corn tortillas, the deli also has a wide selection of Mexican meals ready to take home. When asked about what inspires her flavours, Adriana says: “My cooking is a subtle fusion of my life in Canada and all the memories that kept me experimenting to find the flavours I know by .” Notably, after moving to Canada, Adriana said she was inclined to try new cuisines from Japan, India and Thailand, which sparked a curiosity and integration of new ingredients to her dishes while staying true to Mexican traditions. She is most proud of a recent milestone: completing and publishing her first cookbook – Adriana’s The Whole Enchilada: Mexican Food Made with Love. A work in progress since 2007, the pandemic allowed her to finish the task and honour her late mother.
The flavours found across the Peninsula are vast and diverse. Hopefully, you’ve discovered something new that you’d like to try! Here’s where you can find this article’s featured products: Vumami’s Umami Bomb: Sidney’s Lifestyle Market, Deep Cove Market; Bean Boy Homous: Sidney Street Market and local Victoria grocers; Island Jerky: Sidney Street Market or Sidney’s Fairway Market; Adriana’s Yellow Corn Chips and Chia Chips: their deli in Keating, Keating Co-op and Brentwood Bay Fairway Market (don’t forget to pick up her newly released cookbook too!). No matter what you decide to try next, I hope it excites you.