Join me with Sophia Eng, author of The Nourishing Asian Kitchen, as we discuss her journey into homesteading, motherhood, homeschooling, blogging and becoming a cookbook author.
About Sophia Eng
Sophia Nguyen Eng is the daughter of parents who fled Vietnam in 1975. During the pandemic, Sophia and her family were living in San Fransisco and purchased their first three egg-laying chickens (paying $300 a piece!) to start building their 1/4 acre homestead. In 2021, they were able to purchase land outside of the big city, and in 2022, they were able to flee the hustle and bustle of life in California to their own five acres in the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee.
They now homeschool their children, work on their farm raising animals (including three dairy cows!), growing a garden, preserving their harvest and sharing it all on their blog, Sprinkle With Soil.
Their website states, “Sprinkle With Soil exists to inspire readers to return to our roots in the age of fast-paced convenience, and value quality of food, life, health, and family and becoming better stewards of the land…all while working full-time.”
Sophia and her husband also host a podcast, Call to Farms Podcast, since her husband is in the military. However, they also farm… so it's another great play on words!
The Nourishing Asian Kitchen Cookbook
Wanting to honor the cultural food traditions passed down by her parents, the meals of her childhood helped form the pages of her cookbook, The Nourishing Asian Kitchen. However, Sophia noticed that the traditional recipes relied on processed ingredients that contained artificial flavors and preservatives.
She was determined to honor the cultural foods passed down by her parents while recreating them with whole-food ingredients she could feel good about serving to her family.
Sophia has curated over 100 delicious recipes that utilize whole foods, classic ferments, hearty broths, and healing herbs and spices in her book, The Nourishing Asian Kitchen.
The staple of the book? Sophia shares that the pho recipes are on repeat at her house. You'll always find a pot of oxtail or chicken pho simmering on the stove. Her daughters know exactly how to serve it up whenever they're in need of a quick lunch.
You can also find homemade sauce recipes (like Korean Gochujang), vegetables and sides (like Daikon Kimchi), meats (like Garlic Butter Chicken Wings), drinks and desserts (I can't wait to try the Vietnamese coffee and Matcha Ice Cream!).
One of the things I love most about Sophia's cookbook and recipes is that she's very careful about sourcing quality ingredients. In fact, before her family moved to Tennessee, she made sure they had access to some of their favorite and trusted grocery stores.
She and I both love shopping through Azure Standard. In fact, Azure is the sponsor of this podcast. We both love that you can purchase bulk, non-irradiated herbs and spices from Azure, which is great for stocking your pantry and used in a lot of Sophia's recipes. I also love buying ingredients I can't otherwise source on my homestead (see photo above)!
If you're a first-time Azure Standard customer, you can get 10% off your first order of $50 or more with coupon code “Melissa10” at checkout.
Where to Find Sophia
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Melissa: Hey, pioneers, welcome to episode number 412. Today's episode, I'm super excited to talk about... We're going to be talking about nutrient-dense foods, nourishing foods, but with an Asian twist. And as we actually got into the interview with today's guest, it was really fun. We ended up talking about their journey from going to not raising any livestock into fully jumping into homesteading and what that has looked like in a pretty relatively short period of time. I think you'll be very much inspired by the story, as well as the tips for creating Asian-influenced, very delicious, nourishing, nutrient-dense foods. So, this was a really fun episode and it came on the heels of me... This is my first episode back for those of you who have been listening to the podcast for a while since my surgery on having a tumor removed from my neck and shoulder area.
So if you miss that story, you can go back and listen to the previous episode, which is 411, and kind of catch that. So, I was just going to give a brief update before we jump into today's episode on that. So many of you sent me messages and comments on the podcast episode sharing about that on the video version that we have on YouTube, as well as on the website. And so, thank you to everyone who made a comment, who said a prayer.
The outpouring from this community has been really amazing and awesome, and surgery went very well, actually better than expected. I didn't have to have a drain put in, got to come home the same day as surgery, and as soon as I woke up in the recovery room, was in less pain than when I went in, which was phenomenal. So no nerve damage, like full function of the hand, and having that tumor out and not wrapped around the nerves and not pushing on the muscles, I already have so much more mobility and the ability to move my head, still healing up at the time of this recording from the surgery.
Actually, I'm very happy, there's my incision. It's healing up nicely. It's actually smaller than I anticipated. It's healing up really, really well. The skin is still partially numb and that just happens from when you're cutting through that many levels of skin in order to get through there, but that is healing. So anyways, I'm so pleased with the outcome of the surgery. It could not have went any better, so super thankful for that, but I ended up coming down with... Two weeks post-surgery, ended up coming down with... I don't know if it's what type of virus it is, some type of upper respiratory virus, and I think because my body was still recovering from surgery and trying to heal that it knocked me on my back.
I don't know if I've ever been this sick for this long. Today is my first day actually back at the computer and able... It's the first time I put makeup on in like 10 days. And so, I am very, very happy to finally be feeling better, but I was incapacitated from more this upper respiratory whatever this virus is that I contracted and I think... My daughter got sick at the same time, but she's bounced back. She's of course much younger than me. She bounced back much faster, but I think it's because my system was already like, "Hey, I'm trying to heal from surgery and all the stress of that and now here's this virus. I just can't manage both things," and so just took me out for a while, but super excited to be back and to talk about nutrient-dense foods with today's guest. So, we're going to get into that episode, and today's podcast is sponsored by Azure Standard.
So, you will hear us talking about some of the spices and some of the different recipes that Sophia uses in her nourishing Asian kitchen recipes. And she talks about finding really good non-irradiated spices, and one of those sources is Azure Standard, who is the sponsor of today's podcast episode. And if you are a first time customer to Azure Standard and place a order of $50 or more, use coupon code Melissa 10 for 10% off. And so, Azure is a great place for you to grab spices if you decide to make some of this. Azure also has, from their perishable section, where you actually can get organic chicken. So, if that's not something that you are producing yourself or have a local farm from, that can be an option for making some of these different pho recipes. And if you don't know what that is, don't worry, we're going to dive into all of that into today's episode.
And they also have some dairy options. So, if you're looking for A2 dairy, you don't have a local dairy, I think a lot of people are surprised. Azure definitely has pantry stables, but they also carry some very good high quality perishable items that you can get on your orders as well, so definitely check them out. And then we are going to dive straight into our episode with Sophia. Well, Sophia, welcome to the Pioneering Today Podcast.
Sophia: Thank you for having me here, Melissa. This is an honor to be here.
Melissa: Well, I am really excited. We were talking... Right before we started recording, I was warning Sophia, so I also will warn our listeners that I'm just coming off of the backend of... I don't know if it was an influenza virus, some type of virus that had a lot of upper respiratory issues with it. So if I sound congested, probably more to my own ears than your guys', but if you hear me start to cough, it is because I am just coming off of being actually pretty sick.
So, I am so excited though to talk about nourishing foods and specifically with an Asian twist because while I have been sick, I have been drinking a ton of bone broth, really reaching for those nourishing foods, and it seems to be honestly what I've been craving. There's been certain foods like, bless my husband's heart, he's been cooking through the whole time for us, and he'll kind of be like, "Do you want to have this or this?" And I'm like, "No." And then last night he's like, well, "What if I make a homemade pho and do bone broth with some of the duck eggs?" And I'm like that, "Yes, that sounds really good."
So, it's been really interesting to just kind of see it intuitively what my body has seeming to been wanting, which is very nourishing foods, and so I was excited to have your book. So, for those of you who are listening or watching via the video recording, The Nourishing Asian Kitchen is Sophia's new book and it's on nutrient-dense recipes for health and healing, which came in a perfect time for me, but I also wanted to dive into a little bit both of how... Because a lot of my listeners, and myself included, we're very familiar... Which I know you're forward, is by Sally Fallon, with the Nourishing Traditions cookbooks, so a lot of broths and nutrient-dense foods, but you have the Asian twist on there.
But I also think it's worth having the discussion for people who aren't as familiar with what a Nourishing Traditions or Nourishing Foods look like, with Sally's book, which is all of us I feel like has kind of been the bible when you start to get into this type of food, but what makes up nutrient-dense foods and the backbone of that way of cooking? Because if you come from a very standard American cooking diet, a lot of these foods aren't things that people are making at home or even really getting into their diet. So, I know that was kind of a broad way to come into it, so I would love for you to talk.
Sophia: Thanks, Melissa. So, if you're new to Nourishing Traditions and Sally Fallon, it's basically the book that... It is the bible of nutrition. It's this big, yellow, thick cookbook that I was introduced 12 years ago when I had my first daughter and really started looking into nutrition, but Nourishing Traditions and what Sally Fallon, the work of Dr. Weston A. Price, what he did was... He was a dentist back in the 1930s and he traveled to different Indigenous tribes all around the world, and he was looking to find, what are the key elements to having a nourishing diet? What made these certain individuals have nearly perfect teeth and perfect health and not get sick? And what he found was the utilization of whole foods, classic ferments, hearty bone broths, healing herbs and spices, eating fermented foods. Those are the drinking raw dairy. Raw milk is a big thing with Sally Fallon and Weston A. Price.
And finding all of that is what contributes to the overall wellbeing of someone. And one of the things that Dr. Weston A. Price didn't do back in the 1930s was that he didn't go to visit any of the Asian countries, and that was because there was a lot... Back in the day, even then China and Japan, for example, already started incorporating international foods or colonization. And so, as I started cooking out of Nourishing Traditions when my daughter was born, my parents moved in with us after they retired. And as I was cooking all of this, one of the things that I kept hearing back from my parents was that there was lacking this umami flavor that they're so used to and accustomed to with our Asian cuisine. And because of that, that was something that my mom and I really sought out to do for over 12 years now. It's been cleaning out all of our... Even though we were home cooking all of our food, nothing really... The Asian spices and the sauces and the condiments were from the store-bought versions in the Asian grocery store.
And I didn't realize then, I thought, "Well, it's still healthy, we're cooking from home," but it wasn't until I really looked into the additives, preservatives, MSG for example, that's used as a flavor enhancer, that I realized, "Okay, we're going to have to throw all of this away," and I talked about it in the book where my mom freaked out, she came out running and said, "What are we going to cook with?" And I told her, "I don't know, but we'll figure it out." So, it's been a journey with my mom and I in the kitchen replacing all of our traditional... My background is in Vietnam, so Vietnamese dishes. My husband's Chinese American, and so how do we... We're also both born from the Bay Area, so we have a whole concoction of all of these different Asian recipes that we love and we love to... We're self-proclaimed foodies, especially coming from the Bay Area.
We love to eat all the different types of Japanese, Korean, Thai, Indian food even. And so, how do we make this so that it's nourishing? We can cook all of this from scratch without having to go to a restaurant where there's a lot of questionable ingredients including seed oils and preservatives and things that we don't want, and it's been a 12-year journey.
And fast-forward to 2020 was really when... 2019 was when we started homesteading on our quarter acre in the Bay Area. 2020 when things went down, that's when we first started. We bought three egg-laying hens because California went into lockdown and curfews. And in my culture the only other time that I ever heard of lockdowns and curfews was when my parents talked about the fall of Saigon and the things that happened during that time where you could potentially get shot when you left the house during the lockdown. So naturally, my mind went into that fight or flight mode. I said, "We've got to buy some egg-laying hens." We didn't even have a chicken coop. We brought them home in cardboard boxes, and the story is the lady that sold it to us, sold it for $300 each.
Melissa: Oh my.
Sophia: But I have to say that was the catalyst and the aha moment, because on that ride back, we ended up buying three hens, because there's seven of us with my parents, my sister, the kids, everything that we realized... I turned to him when we were driving past the Bay Bridge, and I told him, "I never, ever want our family to be in a position again where we have to worry about feeding our family off of three eggs a day." And fast-forward now, we started a farm, we moved up, got six acres north of Sacramento, and then realized that we really wanted to find a stronger knit community of people who believed and farmed the same the way that we did. And so, we moved out to the Appalachian Mountains in East Tennessee where we still have our five acres, but we have a strong community where we don't have to grow everything. We don't have to do everything ourselves and have some time to actually spend time with the family and write a book.
Melissa: Well, I love that part of your story, even though I know now in hindsight there's like, "You paid $300 for a laying hen?" But I think what that really speaks to is a couple of things, and one is how much value we should be placing on good, whole, real food and being somewhat dependent of the grocery store and how important that truly is because when you look at it of like, "You paid $300 for a hen," that is like, "Oh my gosh," but when we look at it through the lens of, "Well, what is the cost of true nutrition and the cost of being able to feed your family if you can't leave your house?"
And you had that historical context in your mind, and then those... Depending on where you lived in the country I should say, or in the US during the pandemic, because that's obviously the only well I can pull from, there was different levels of severity. I live in Western Washington State, you were in California at the time. I think that we probably experienced more lockdown restrictions than other parts of the country did. So for people who were in that situation, if you weren't in that situation, you might look at that through a different lens, but I actually think that's really important. And I think sometimes it's when we spend what's considered to be a large amount of money... It was $900 for those three chickens, but that was a catalyst moment for you and your family. And I'm assuming, looking back, you're like, "Best money we ever spent."
Sophia: Only because of the lesson learned. So three years later, we realized... It was March 2023 that I realized that we actually now have three dairy cows that not only serve our family... So, we traded three chickens for three dairy cows, but it took three years, but here we are, and not only are we fully self-sufficient in terms of providing nourishing, living, real milk for our own family, but we now ferment it, we turn it into a Vietnamese yogurt, which is actually our top seller for our community, and we're nourishing and feeding our community as well. But to your point, Melissa, about the cost of everything, that's a really good point because when I bought our home in the Bay Area, and I'm almost embarrassed to admit this, there's an app called Instacart that is a food delivery service in the Bay Area, and I'm sure certain larger cities in the country.
But before I even made an offer for that home, I made sure I punched in our zip code to be sure that there were four Whole Foods to deliver my organic vegetables to my house, and specifically, I loved the Whole Foods for longer bread. So, to go from there to where we are today, the biggest thing that I've realized is the cost of our modern convenience. So, how much was I really paying for? Because when it actually really mattered, I was willing to pay that much money for a chicken because of its value during the time, but we're trading that in our convenience, too, and so it's costing either way. It's just, where are the priorities?
Melissa: No, I 100% agree. We have some similar things in our stories where I thought I was cooking from scratch because I was cooking at home back in the day, not realizing a lot of the ingredients that I was using to prepare those meals had negative consequences on my health, until I was having a biopsy of my stomach and esophagus at 29. And so, a lot of the decisions that we make today, and this can be applied to food obviously in the context that we're talking about, but really in anything, your health and food has a direct correlation to health, I think more than most of the general public probably realizes that it's talked about in mainstream media or even mainstream medical. We're discovering more and more how much of a connection is your gut and your health directly related, and that's probably a whole nother podcast or series on that.
But it's this thought on, to your point, there's things that we pay to today, but we don't understand the cost of them. And so you can buy something... Because unfortunately right now, most of the inexpensive or cheap food is not the healthy food. Now, should it be that way? Again, that's a whole nother subject that we talk about subsidies and all these different things as to why that is in America, especially right now, but that is kind of the reality. And I know if you are living literally dollar-to-dollar and paycheck-to-paycheck, you're like, "I can't afford some of these higher dollar items with the way things are right now," or, "I have to get really creative," but there is a cost that is being paid. It's just not in monetary upfront and I think that's what you're saying.
And so, I feel like we have to take that into the equation, and I get that in certain circumstances, that's very hard to do, but you will pay a price. It just was going to come down the road and going to... In my experience, it has been more expensive when I had all the medical tests and the medical bills and all of that, "Oh man, hindsight, it's a thing," but to your point, there is a cost that's being paid for these cheap foods and directly yourself with your health, but also our greater economy in the earth, and there's so many things. So, I'm super passionate about this, so it's really fun to connect with somebody else who is as well, but I do kind of want to go back to the Asian part of it because I have to say, when I first saw the title of your book, my husband... Obviously, neither one of us are Asian, but my husband loves Asian food, and I'm like, "Oh man, I don't really know how to cook Asian food. I don't have much of an Asian influence where I lived or anybody that I know."
And so I'm like, "Oh, man," and we live pretty far out rurally. We used to have a Korean restaurant. Actually, they were from Korea in the town next to us, and it was our favorite thing. I'd never had banchan before, and we would go and get the banchan. I'm like, "Oh my gosh, this is good." We had all these things, it was so, so good. And they made their own homemade kimchi that was served, and we loved it, and unfortunately it ended up closing down about two years ago and they haven't reopened. And we were like, "Oh, we miss that so much," so when I saw your book, I'm like, "Yes, I'm going to be able to figure out how to do it from a real food perspective," to your point, how to do some of this.
So first is, and we kind of talked about it a little bit in the beginning, but if you're looking at, "I want to make more nutrient-dense foods for my family," some of those basic staples and then the Asian flare, and I want to come back to asking you about the Vietnamese yogurts. I got to put that out there. I got to put a pin in that because I want to come back to that. So for me, definitely bone broth, not just the broth you buy from the store in a can, but truly nutrient-dense bone broth. For me, that is the base of so much of my cooking, but I want to hear from you, too, some of those, what you'd be like if you do nothing else, do these three or four things.
Sophia: Very good question. So very basic, when I worked on these recipes with my mom, it was full-time working, and I worked in startups in the Bay Area, so I'm talking 80 hours a week, and I told mom, "Can you just show me the shortcuts? I want to make sure it tastes good, it's quick and easy, but it's the most nutrient-dense." Also, my background is in optimization, and I also grew up in an immigrant family, so I'm always like, "What can I do to maximize everything with very little?"
And so, that's a really great question because that's just how I normally think about things. I grew up with my mom using and buying a whole chicken, broiler chicken is what we call it now, but she would call it [foreign language 00:22:09], which is directly translated to a walking chicken, and she would buy it directly from the farmer, and she would teach me how to gut it. And this was just how I grew up, and we grew up eating chicken feet, and chicken liver, chicken neck, chicken head. We use the whole thing, nose to tail, but I can never really talk about it as a child growing up.
Melissa: I have to ask you, did you use the heads and the broth? That's the one thing I haven't done yet. I do the feet, I haven't done the heads and the broth, do you?
Sophia: Why not? Because we butcher our own chickens now.
Melissa: I do too. You were talking about embarrassed about... I'm almost embarrassed to say that I haven't used the head in my broth making yet.
Sophia: But I'm a little particular, I do make sure I remove all of the hair off of it because it does... I just don't want hair in my broth. That's not something that mom taught me, it's just something I just don't want to.
Melissa: You de-feather the head first and then-
Sophia: I de-feather the head, yeah.
Melissa: That's the nitty-gritty. Do you pluck or do you skin the head to get the feathers off the head because [inaudible 00:23:12]-
Sophia: [inaudible 00:23:12].
Melissa: Just pluck them? Okay.
Sophia: And it should pretty much come all the way off.
Melissa: Right, because it's already been started if...
Sophia: So going back to it is, so in the cookbook, I actually have a whole chapter dedicated to [inaudible 00:23:28], and it's because this is just... It's redemptive of my childhood, number one, but also number two, a lot of the ingredients that you can get from the Nourishing Asian kitchen that are required in here, either you can make them yourself from scratch or you can get them from Whole Foods. So, now Whole Foods is selling Mary's Organic chicken feet, there's Mary's Organic chicken heart, but a lot of the things you can source from your grocery store. We're pretty rural too, we're in the mountains, the Appalachian Mountains, so we rarely have to go to the grocery store since we're raising most of our food and growing most of our vegetables now. But if this book was available at Whole Foods, you could just literally walk around and pick all of the ingredients and items from Whole Foods and then cook everything from here.
So all that to say, you don't have to go to the Asian grocery store. And I actually don't go and buy much from the Asian grocery store, especially because of just how I like to source things, but if you were only going to do a couple of basic things from the Nourishing Asian kitchen, my number one thing is pho, which is the healing broth. This is something that I had a lot of postpartum. In our culture, after you give birth, you have 30 days where you can't do anything, you can't move. And either your mom or your mother-in-law or someone comes to take care of you and they're literally feeding you broth 24/7, and that's supposed to help with your healing, but it helps with lactation. And so, I would say the number one thing to nail down is the pho dishes, and there's two that you could make.
One is my favorite one, which is on the cover, and that's the oxtail bone broth pho. This is the exact way I love to eat it. I do put an egg in there, my dad puts an egg in there, and I do have the pickled onions, I have the rare beef. So, that picture on there actually made me cry when I took that photo because I was there. All of these recipes, my mom and I were in the kitchen, and so we made all of these recipes together, but that's the one thing, if you're going to really focus on nailing down, it would be the oxtail pho, and then the only thing is it does take 24 hours to just simmer the broth. It doesn't mean that you're actually hands-on for a lot, it just means that you leave it on the stove or however you decide to cook it for a longer extended amount of time.
The other shortcut that I like to do since we have access to so much of it, is the chicken pho, which is, you could get it done in an hour and a half. So, literally on a busy day from work... Most days of the week, we'll have chicken pho on the stove because it's just something that's easy, accessible, it's nourishing, and it's delicious. The kids, my husband, it's very easy for them to just go to the stove and just serve themselves for lunch.
We always have dinner together, breakfast is usually our yogurt, but I always have that available for them. And then there's the fermentation, which included our favorites, so the kimchi that you mentioned, but there's also the daikon kimchi, and as a gardener, I'm sure... We grow a lot of daikon. I love it. It's great to put into our broth, it's great as just what it does in the soil and how it digs through all of that clay for us over here, but also you can ferment it and it still retains its crispiness in the kimchi. So, it's great to go with your savory food and have that balance with the salty and spicy kimchi.
Melissa: No, actually I love daikon radish. We started growing it I think about five years ago, and I'll always miss one. It's kind of like carrots, or potatoes, the root crops, you'll kind of miss one, and so it goes to seed. And so, I haven't actually had to physically plant in the garden our daikon radish for probably three years now because it just kind of keeps reseeding itself, and I purposely will let a few get really big and go to seed.
So I love it, as you said, just like side note, it's wonderful for the soil. And we don't have clay soil here, I actually have fairly loamy, good soil, but I've been looking at using in our pasture the daikon radish to help with the carbon over the winter months and to build up more carbon in our pasture soil because we have some different areas of the pasture that weren't managed the best. Anyways, so I feel like a newly converted daikon radish fan. I'm like, "You don't know how awesome... It has so many things that you could do with it," and then those seed pods are spicy, but you can eat those. They have this incredible heat to them, which can be a good thing. Anyways, I'm like side squirrel note, daikon radish is amazing.
Sophia: And what's even more exciting is there's all sorts of different types of Asian varieties of the daikon radish. So, you can have the Chinese super long ones, you get the thick ones, and so you get some green ones, and it's just really exciting to play with all of them, and they're great for the soil, like you said. So, we just love to grow a bunch of it, and then of course, when you're ready to harvest, what do you do? So you ferment it, and that is where the book comes in. If you have excess amount of all your vegetables, what do you do with all of it?
Melissa: And I actually wanted to come back because for some people, if you're not used to Asian dishes or hearing them, I only know what pho is... And I'm so glad because I used to pronounce it pho. I would just read it phonetically and pronounce it pho, but I really just found pho probably about three years ago. So, for those who are listening, they're like, "I actually don't know what you mean by chicken pho," and I was so excited when we used oxtail because oxtail is one of our favorites. I love oxtail, and I feel like that is another cut of meat that's not used as predominantly in just regular American cooking. So, I love that you are bringing that forefront because it's amazing. But in a general basic terms, what is actually pho?
Sophia: So, it's an elevated healing bone broth, and it's got all of the healing spices, so from cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, all of the things that when you put them together and you simmer it to just with a regular pot of bone broth, you're elevating your healing elements to it. So it helps with your immune system, it helps with digestion. We have it so often, we rarely get sick, and I don't know if it's because of either the bone broth or the healing spices, but this is just how we live, and the flavor is very deep and very rich. Obviously, there's some this fatty bone broth to it, but all of that is really nourishing, but I would say there's the umami flavor. So, if you're not familiar with that, it's the savory flavor. So, you've got the sweet, salty, bitters, so the umami flavor is pretty much the one thing that sets apart Asian food from most American or European food.
Melissa: And I love that flavor, I'm with you. And bone broth is... It's funny, I feel like when people first start making bone broth, if you're just doing bones and some salt, it can still be good and have a flavor profile, but when you start adding in those herbs and those spices, I feel like that is when you're like, "Okay, this is what bone broth is supposed to be." And so, if you've never experienced that or you've just bought bone broth from the store... I've never personally had a store-bought bone broth that had anywhere near the flavor depth of homemade when you start to add in those different ingredients.
Sophia: Absolutely, and I think there's really nothing else to compare it to. The con is you go to the restaurant and if you order pho, one of the things that I would tell the kids if we're traveling and we're pulling over and they're craving pho, I tell them, "Don't drink the broth,' and the irony of it is that's where all of the nutrient profile is supposed to be, it's in that broth. But when you go to the restaurant, they are using a lot of flavor enhancers and a lot of additives and preservatives and questionable oils in there that it just deteriorates it. So, that's one of the things that we do just to have, as a busy mom working, homesteading, homeschooling, all the things, we actually pre-make our organic pho spices, and we source them all clean. So, it's non-sprayed with, ethylene oxide, non-irradiated.
And that's one of the biggest hacks for me is that we have this available for us, so I can easily get a pot of bones going. And then at the very end, before serving, about an hour or two, I'll drop in our spice bag mix. And what's great is the girls have started doing this, and now we are selling them to retailers. So, it's great because it's also a companion to the cookbook, but it really helps busy families out there who really just want to have nourishing food and are afraid it's going to take a lot of time and don't want to source all of this. We buy all of this bulk because this is how we just live and eat, but it was a good homeschool project for them that seems to be taking off.
Melissa: Oh, no, that's fabulous. It's funny because there's a lot of things really when you get into whole foods, nourishing foods, making them yourself from scratch, that seem like they're going to take a lot of time. Because like you said, if you're not using the instant pot, if you're doing it with a slow cooker or stove top, broth, 24 to 48 hours and you're like, "Oh my gosh, two days?" But there is really no hands on. You're literally dumping stuff in a pot and covering it with water and then just checking the temperature every now and then. It's so hands off, and I feel like fermenting is that way. You're literally just mixing stuff together and then you're letting it sit, but it's not like this hands-on complication part. It takes a long time, but I feel like it actually takes very little of our hands-on time, and I think that can be a misconception when people are getting started thinking, "This is just going to take so many hours out of my day," but it really doesn't.
Sophia: It really doesn't, and the more that you make it, the more you realize, "Oh wait, I don't have to spend this much time," or, "I don't have to do all of the things," and I've already removed a lot of that in the cookbook because mom has a lot of her traditional ways, but for a busy working mom, but also wanting to maintain the optimization of the nutrient profile to it and optimizing for the taste, we have gotten it to a point... It's been a 12-year project for both of us, but we've gotten it to a point where we feel all of the ingredients in there are the least amount that you'll need for being able to enjoy this nourishing, and it's simple enough and accessible enough. That's also one of the other hangups that I hear is, "Oh, no, do I have to go to an Asian grocery store to get all of this?"
And the answer is no. I mostly provide everything that you either have in your kitchen cupboard already, or there's a few extras that you can pick up even at a small grocery store that's a natural food grocery store you can pick that up. I was just in Asheville the other day, or a small one here in our rural town, which is about 30, 40 minutes away, but we'll have still in the Asian section a few condiments that you can pick up. Otherwise, you can make them from scratch or you can order them online.
Melissa: And actually, who's the sponsor of the podcast, Azure Standard, I don't know if you're familiar.
Melissa: With Azure, I get a lot of those types of things. I'm not making my own soy sauce, but I know that they have a good high quality source for some of those things. So, I will get them through there if you don't have one nearby, and then it's easy just to grab on my pickup.
Sophia: Sorry, Azure Standard is just amazing. We order all of our stuff from them, bulk too, and they actually carry high quality ingredients, and I believe our book will be available through Azure Standard soon.
Melissa: Oh, that's exciting. No, I love Azure. They are one of my staples in stocking the pantry just because they do have high quality, they have good prices, and I can't find a lot of that stuff locally. I might be able to find a soy sauce, but I'm not going to be able to find an organically sourced quality the way that I can from Azure. And locally, I'm talking even an hour away. It's just not there, so yes, I love Azure, but I wanted to circle back to the Vietnamese yogurt. So, is that just a specific culture that is from Vietnamese, like a Bulgarian... I do a Bulgarian... I have a Bulgarian culture that I use for the yogurt, or is it a way that it's ferment... What makes it Vietnamese? I'm super curious.
Sophia: That's a good question. So, it's actually a Vietnamese-French yogurt. So if you go to the grocery store, you can... I think the closest flavor that I've been able to find or closest brand is the Oui brand, O-U-I, and they sell in this little glass jars. If you want to try it before you make a whole bunch, that's the one that I would say tastes very close to what a Vietnamese yogurt tastes like, but it's made using sweetened condensed milk that we make with our own raw dairy because we have access to so much of it. But in the cookbook, I do show you how to make your own sweetened condensed milk, and Sally Fallon approves because don't buy canned. There's a lot of bio-engineered ingredients in there, unfortunately, but if you can make your own, and you don't have to use raw dairy, you can just use lowly pasteurized.
Melissa: Yeah, that pasteurize.
Sophia: If that's what you have, then use that, but then I would use that to make the yogurt in that. And so, that's what makes it the Vietnamese yogurt, and then in terms of culture, I just use... Honestly, it's as simple as I can get. Whatever Greek yogurt culture that I have, whether [inaudible 00:38:04]-
Melissa: So, it's the sweet part, that it's the sweet and condensed. So, I'm assuming it's also probably thicker because it's condensed.
Sophia: It is. It's sweet and thicker and it's tart. So, it's a perfect blend between the sweet and the tartness, so it's not overly sweet, but it's also not super tart that you would get from plain or Greek yogurt or Bulgarian or European yogurt.
Melissa: I'm intrigued, that one sounds really fun.
Sophia: It is really good, and it is our top seller for the community. So it's really cool to see, because again, all of these products that we've made and sell now are things that we eat and use ourselves. And so, we just make them and make a little bit more because we are the market, but as other people learn about it, they love it, and that's really cool for the kids to see, because we're in an area where we took them from the Bay Area to the mountains, and we don't look like anybody else here. And for us to be able to share a little bit of our culture and how we eat, when someone's giving birth, or we have an older member in the community who's gotten sick, but he buys milk from us, I'll throw in some extra broth, like some pho broth for him, and they love it.
And that's one of the things about what's so fulfilling about this life, it's so simple. I just don't feel like it's very special. If we can do it, anybody can do it. It's not overly complicated is what I mean, but it means so much more when you can make it yourself and gift it to others in the community or provide that service for others in the community. Coming from the city, it's almost frowned upon when you live that way or when you give someone that's something that's homemade. You almost expect a gift card to your favorite fancy restaurant, and that has more meaning versus if you were to give that to me now, it just wouldn't mean anything because now I have to drive three hours when it doesn't taste as good.
Melissa: I love, because it really has only been a couple of years since you really started raising your own food and producing it. I know you were cooking that way before, but stepped into the more deeper homesteading path of that. From two years to go from doing it for yourself, but now also providing it for other people, that's a fast growth curve. That's pretty awesome. You guys should be very proud of yourselves.
Sophia: Yeah, it really wasn't anything that we set off to do. Let me just start with that, again, talking about having our groceries delivered to us, but it wasn't until Whole Foods pooled out of Instacart because Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, ended up purchasing and acquiring Whole Foods. And when he did that, that was the moment for me that clicked. And I said, "Oh my gosh, I don't think that organic is truly organic in our terms," and that if we really want to know where our food comes from, either we need to know our local farmers, which we were still buying from, or we need to just do it ourselves. And the more that I looked into it, the more I realized, "I think we're going to have to do this ourselves, because it's a lot more work to go find someone." Like the dairy thing, we own a micro dairy, but we didn't intend on doing that.
The grass-fed dairy person that's local here told me she was grass-fed and everybody buys from her, but then I also found out that she feeds conventional grains during feeding. So those are the types of things that like... "All right, if I could just do it myself anyway, if we're going to do it, then let's just figure it out, and that was the journey. So, since I'd say 2017 was when we started growing in our urban backyard, 2019, we started the [inaudible 00:41:50], and then 2020 happened, and then I just started digging into the soil. And when I started doing that and bringing the livestock, it was really just the chickens that other gateway animals, we brought home the three, then it was, how do I bring in more ruminants if we want more protein, if this is going to be a longer term thing?
Again, California and all the stories that I heard growing up, I think I was coming from a different place and everybody was telling us to slow down, everything's going to go back to normal. And I thought, "Well, is it really normal though? Do I really want to go back to that normal and be so dependent on the grocery store or dependent on this app that's going to deliver my groceries for me? Or do I want it to be where I can just now step outside in the morning and harvest all of our vegetables that we're going to use for the day and have it be super fresh and go out to the freezer and thaw out our meat for the day? I don't know, there's something that... If I think about my efficient mindset of being in tech, this is the most efficient way to live, it's the most economical way to live, it's the most nourishing way to live, and it's just a beautiful lifestyle that, yes, it was a drastic and a fast move in the last couple of years, but I can't imagine going back anymore. I don't know.
Melissa: And I feel like it's a journey of rediscovery for me. I feel like I'm learning new things. Even still to this day, we continue to do... Our goal for us every year is to do more than we did the year before. And so, our measuring stick is only against ourselves and what we've done and to incrementally just do a little bit more than we did the year before. And over 25 years, that's really added up to a lot, but even at that, 25 years into raising a good majority of our own food, I still am learning new things every single year.
And to me, even though it's new to me, I know that these are things that used to be very commonplace. It's only been the last century, really, the last 100 years at least in America, that so much of this has not become commonplace. And so, I feel like I'm rediscovering not only these skillsets, but almost a lost part of myself and a lost part of humanity, which might sound a little way too deep and philosophical, but it's really incredible. And I think aside from the food and the nutrition and all the things that come with this lifestyle, which is amazing, I think that can oftentimes be the part that people don't realize that you get with it.
Sophia: That's not something that we realized until... For us, it was just food sustainability. The food system that exists today, do we really trust it, whether it's going to be there tomorrow or the quality that we want for our family? But on this other side, my husband's military or he's now ex-military, and he's got some elements of PTSD, but since we started bringing in the goats and the sheep and the cattle, the dairy cows, that's something that he actually didn't sign up for and he did not want there. It's something that we had on our radar at all, like I was mentioning, but I have seen healing in him, caring for the livestock, which my dad too as well. He would be out there, they would both be out there doing chores, and my dad's got OCD, and he'll still go out there and feed the chickens, and there's chicken poop everywhere, and he'll grab the eggs and it just doesn't seem to phase him there.
But it's just been really healing in that way, whether we have our hands in the soil, which if you look into that as well, there's healing elements and antidepressants in our soil, but also the mental health and the part of that, and I think it's because we're going back to the land and potentially the way that we as humans and civilization in across different cultures, I think this is how we lived and it was a normal natural thing. So, there's so much beauty in going back to that and honoring, of course, our traditions and our cultures and taking it another step. My husband's away, he's doing a Korean natural farming because we're just really doubling down on understanding the traditional Asian farming techniques as well. And we ferment in the kitchen, but we also ferment for the garden, and that helps build the soil health and obviously the microbes in there that are the same microbes that are in our gut.
So the more that we can add organic matter, the more that we can improve the health of our soil, we're growing more nutrient-dense food or grass for animals to eat that they become healthier. And so, we have less of a pest problem, so then the usage of pesticides or herbicides is not going to be necessary or not necessary in gardening. And then of course, bringing all of our harvest into the kitchen and cooking with that and fermenting with them is just a whole nother level that yeah, you can buy from the grocery store. There's definitely things that you can do, but when you're doing it yourself to see the whole cycle and it's completely closed loop, it's just so incredibly satisfying that I just didn't know until we jumped into it with both feet.
Melissa: Well, and to your point on the nutrient density actually is... Unless your soil is nutrient-dense, the food can't be nutrient-dense. No matter what the ingredients you're buying, if they're raised in soil that is not dense in nutrients and the microbiome, all of those different things, the micronutrients, macronutrients that are in the soil, and so much of large agriculture, which is where most of the crops in the US come from... In the monocultural crop and industrial agriculture, that has been lost because so much of the top soil has been lost. The soil isn't fed anything except for synthetic-
Melissa: ... Fertilizers, right, which then robs soil down the road. Talk about that quick upfront fix that robs things later down the road and comes at a higher cost. Well, that's exactly what the synthetic... This would be a whole nother podcast.
Sophia: I know.
Melissa: It's such a good point to bring up though on that nutrient density part, and it almost circles back on itself for me because not only does the food that the majority of us... If you're not raising it yourself, I should say, or buying it from someone that you know is a small producer like you and I are using regenerative agriculture, et cetera, but if you're just buying these ingredients at the store, you're already at a point where it is less nutrients in it than 50 years ago.
Melissa: But if you can at least use the style of cooking, like doing the bone broth and stuff, at least you're getting the maximize amount of nutrients that that food can provide for you just because what it has in it, but at least you're maximizing that. So, still do that because it's going to be better than not, but taking it to that next step, and I kind of feel like that's what this whole journey is.
A lot of people start with the food and then it leads down this beautiful trail as they go down it. So, thank you for coming on. This has been fun, and we could talk a very long time on all of these different issues and rabbit hop around, which I think is really good, but I want to just say thank you for coming to give people that starting point. So if you're not sure where to start... And also even to give the Asian influence, to give some different options and different styles, and to bring in that culture and those different flavors, so that there is that broader sense we still say in those nutrient-dense foods and just helping that come into more kitchens. So, thank you so much for coming on.
Sophia: Thank you so much, Melissa, for having me. It's been such an enjoyable episode.
Melissa: Thanks, so where can... We will have listed in the blog post that accompanies this episode, as well as beneath the video, for those who are watching their podcast on YouTube, we'll have a link to get the book and all of that, but for people who want to go deeper with you and see what you guys are doing, maybe learn more about your farm, where's the best place for folks to connect with you?
Sophia: You can go on our website, it's sprinklewithsoil.com. So it's a play on words. We know before you finish a dish, it's usually sprinkle with salt, but here we also talk about soil like we did in this conversation. So, it's sprinklewithsoil.com, and then we have an Instagram if you want to follow us on our daily, it's Instagram, Sprinkle With Soil. We have a YouTube channel as well, Sprinkle With Soil. And we also have our own podcast, my husband and I do, it's called Call to Farms, and it's a play on the words call to arms because we are a military family, but it's to encourage those of you who are interested in wanting to homestead or to do regenerative farming to support local farms.
Melissa: Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Sophia. This was fun.
Sophia: Thank you so much, Melissa.
Melissa: Hey guys. I hope that you enjoyed this episode and all the different topics that we talked about as much as I did, and for any of the links for any of the things that we were talking about, you can find those at melissaknorris.com/412, and we always have the blog post that accompanies everything, so you can easily click on those links and find things. And I look forward to being back here with you next week. Blessings and mason jars for now, my friends.
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