Welcome back – you may have noticed it’s been a little while since I’ve been writing. As per usual – life just took over. In a nutshell – Christmas came and went, my daughter and I squeezed in a quick trip to Germany in cold February and introduced her to her two great grandfathers, uncles and as many family members we could, she turned 1 (I cannot believe it’s been a year!), we made the move to the South Coast more permanent by selling our unit in Sydney, we went on a road trip to Victoria – to then come back here and realise (again!) what a beautiful spot we have chosen as our home.
In August busy lisi was interviewed on SBS German Radio and I thought I’d share this interview with you. You can listen to it right here:
Or on the SBS website: http://tinyurl.com/nvcb9k7
Now, unless you are either a German speaker or are interested in listening to people speaking a foreign language just for the fun of it, listening to the interview might seem like an odd thing to do. But because I thought you might like to find out a bit more about busy lisi, who I am, where I’ve come from and why I do what I do, I’ve translated the interview and you can read all about it below. Just a word of warning – it is quite long, so grab a cuppa and get comfy!
Initially, the interviewer asked me how and why I started and whether I’m just baking for Christmas.
Until now, I’ve mainly baked for Christmas. I started with Christmas biscuits, vanilla crescents, coconut macaroons, nut macaroons, etc. I then started baking stollen, but only without marzipan until now. I have last year also had demand for a marzipan filled stollen. I also bake Nuremberg Gingerbread*. So yes, until now just for Christmas and I sell at local markets or on my website and also take direct orders via email for example.
So if someone was to order a stollen, you’d mail it to them?
Yes, I would and have done that in the past. I’ve already sent stollen to South Australia, Melbourne and Queensland. So I know they all arrive in one piece. The biscuits I send in a tin, and only send it in a tin, because bags would be too fragile. The gingerbread shouldn’t be a problem either, except maybe for the chocolate coating in summer here at Christmas time. But I’m sure I can manage and would love to mail orders to customers.
You are a young Mum, is this a home business that you have started, then?
Yes, but I started this, well, I studied HR and Chinese and before starting my fulltime graduate position, I had a lot of time on my hands. And when I’m bored, I tend to have funny ideas and because I’ve always liked baking and people, like neighbours, really liked my biscuits and I always wanted to have my own business, I just started. I just went for it and opened a market stall at the market in Mosman and tried it. It worked really well and I now bake from home and the daughter, Lina, only arrived on the scene in 2014, so last year. So now I am a young Mum baking from home – previously it was just something I did on the side.
Where have you learnt to bake? Did you learn from your own mother?
Yes, and I baked a lot with my two grandmothers (Omi & Oma). I started baking when I was about 3 or 4. When I was little I was never allowed to roll out the dough, Oma did that. I then placed the little shapes on top and cut out the biscuits. I also baked a lot with my mother. And once you are on the other side of the world and miss things like these, you start baking and cooking a lot more. And if you can make things taste like they did back home, that is very fulfilling.
Well, I used to bake as a kid as well, but I never got beyond licking the dough from the bowl, I have to admit.
Yes, that can happen. Lina is too little yet, she can’t roll out a dough. So far she’s been playing on the floor or might have a peek into the pot to see what I’m cooking.
So your proper or learnt job, your degree, you haven’t really had any use for that now?
Oh yes, in my fulltime job. I started towards the end of 2011, when I started baking as well. I am in HR in Financial Services in Sydney and am currently on parental leave. I am now considering an earlier return and working part time. HR is what I studied and I do like working in HR, I think the baking is a type of compensation. When you are working in a large corporation, and running busy lisi, as my business is called on the side, and I can design my business cards and play around with the website, I have full creative freedom. There is nobody there who tells me how I should or shouldn’t do things. And with that I believe I am then also more content in my work in HR.
So it’s a bit of work life balance in practice?
Yes, maybe, exactly.
What does your working day look like when you bake? Do you receive orders, or do you just bake whatever you feel like baking and your customers are happy to buy that?
Yes, I prefer having orders. And as mentioned earlier, I have so far only baked around Christmas time. At work I also baked a cherry crumble cake, or a marble or apple cake for someone. He then sold them by the piece to other employees to raise money for charity.
When I have markets on, I roughly know what I’m likely to sell and then I also bake on order. I even have customers at work now, who start asking in February whether I am likely to bake this year so they can buy their 4 stollen. The family is waiting for my stollen!
Well, I’d love to work for that company where you are in HR!
I once read that Germans when overseas, something like 90%, miss German bread the most. Do you also bake German bread?
I bake a few breads. One is a recipe of my Oma’s. It’s half rye, half wheat flour, not a sourdough though. She used to bake it in a round tin, actually an old dog food tin, washed and cleaned thoroughly of course! I couldn’t find such huge dog food tins here, so now use an old Milo tin. Another bread I bake isn’t really a German recipe, it’s a Nigella recipe. I just added all my grains and seeds and muesli, there are a lot of oats in that bread. And it tastes quite nice and is very very quick and easy.
Other than that, I’ve found a bakery here that makes a lovely rye sourdough, organic even. And that tastes like at home, in the Rhineland. When you are in the bakery and have the ‘grey bread’ – that’s what it tastes like.
Ah, you mention the Rhineland – are you from that region?
Yes, I think, the longest time of having lived in Germany I lived in Duesseldorf. We moved a fair bit. But I grew up in Meppen, up north in the Emsland. And that’s probably why I wanted to move back to the country. Right now I am looking at green rolling hills and that is certainly more like Meppen than Duesseldorf, I think.
Your goods are generally according to German recipes – but your customers buy them?
Yes, they really like them. And you quickly meet the Germans that live in the area. They normally stand at my stall and ask carefully whether I am German and whether I bake everything myself. They of course love to buy the treats. Last year in Kiama, I had a couple of German Aupair girls who couldn’t bake the Christmas biscuits at home, they bought some and were very happy to be able to give them to their host families.
And the rest are Aussies, generally. I was quite surprised to learn that the customers here are different to the ones in Sydney. I now get asked for marzipan stollen, but in Sydney people normally said they wouldn’t like a stollen with marzipan at all!
I can’t understand that!
Yes, so they seem to know stollen, although they pronounce it as ‘stolen’, but they seem to like it!
Have you got plans to grow your business?
Yes, I’d like to start baking in July – for Christmas in July initially, it would be very fitting to sell these things in winter. And then I thought I might bake ‘Stutenkerle*’ in the shape of Easter bunnies for Easter. I normally make them at home anyway, but will have to see how that fits in with part time work.
And the other thing I’d love to do is offer children’s baking classes. But I would need to find a kitchen big enough to teach 5 kids or so. I am convinced that due to having started baking, measuring, weighing, etc., from such an early age, I was never scared of calculating with fractions for example. I believe this is really important and unfortunately often gets lost along the way these days.
Interesting – learning to do maths in a playful way then?
Yes, well, you learn it don’t you. A ¼ litre of milk, plus another third, etc.
Yes, and if you make a mistake, you can taste it!
True, of the dough doesn’t form properly.
I think that’s a genius idea. But you probably need a certificate of some sort for that? To teach kids?
I don’t think so, not for the teaching. But I’d need a commercial kitchen to comply with food safety standards. And then I’d of course need a working with children check, as you need when doing tutoring for example.
Well, I admire you, you are full of entrepreneurial spirit!
Yes, but I need to just take one step after the next. And I find that a little difficult sometimes.
And your husband? What does he think of all this? He must always get great biscuits!
Yes, true, he does. I don’t really eat my biscuits anymore, I still do eat the Nuremberg gingerbread and the stollen, but after baking thousands of biscuits, you don’t really feel like eating them anymore. He really likes them though and also takes them to work, where they love him for it. And yes, he supports me completely!
Have you thought about taking the next step, from baking to German cuisine more generally? There aren’t very many German restaurants in Australia anymore.
Yes, that would be excellent! But I am not sure if the people in this area would take to it. I’ve thought about opening a Pizza place or maybe sell Flammkuchen*. But I am not sure whether the country folk here would like to buy a German style pizza. But I’d love to do that, so if anyone has ideas, please let me hear them!
Given you are from Duesseldorf and I’m from Cologne, I actually thought of the Rhineland ‘Sauerbraten*’.
I think I’ve only made that once, but that would be great, too. Maybe I should have a street food stall with Sauerbraten and curry wurst*?
Yes, curry wurst is selling really well in Australia now.
And I can understand that! Whenever we arrive in Germany, our first trip is to the curry wurst stall, my husband has to eat one.
I feel the same way. It has to be like that, the body needs that.
Just to know where you are!
Exactly! Lisi, I wish you all the best with the baking and maybe a restaurant in future, let us know when you start up again!