Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, June 26, 2020

Book review: Author’s vegetarian success born in Tennessee

Everyone said the meal looked great. And it did: picture-perfect, worthy of a magazine. Golden-brown turkey, chunky stuffing, creamy gravy, and Mom even made oysters. And you? Well, you had a mountain of naked mashed potatoes because animal-based products aren’t your thing, so dinner could’ve been better.

“In Search of the Wild Tofurky,” by Seth Tibbott with Steve Richardson, you’ll see what you’ve been missing.

Seth Tibbott did not grow up a vegan.

He didn’t even practice veganism until he was at away college and a lovely young woman fed him a vegetarian feast, selling him on its benefits.

For a while, Tibbott practiced vegetarianism when he could, in between his travels as a “wandering naturalist” and part-time elementary school teacher. He worked in Alaska, he spent time at The Farm, a commune in Summertown, Tennessee, then landed in Oregon with the germ of an idea in his head.

At The Farm, Tibbott had learned how to make tempeh, a delicious, protein-rich food that’s made of fermented soybeans. He made it for himself and friends, then for the people at The Farm, then for a local Indonesian restaurant, and word spread. It wasn’t long before his new business, Turtle Island Tempeh, was launched.

That was in late 1980. Fifteen years later, Turtle Island still wasn’t profitable. Tibbott felt like the fun had gone out of his life. He had a family by then, employees, lenders to pay, a building to tend and responsibilities that surprised even him.

Long ago, he’d set an income goal for himself, and he wasn’t there yet. But then a recipe that tasted like the wrong season got him thinking. He had a hunch. He sparked an idea.

Within three years, Tibbott had his million-dollar business.

For its first few dozen pages, “In Search for the Wild Tofurky” seems to try too hard. It’s too pally, too peace, beads and love, and a little on the forced side, as if the madcap tone overall needs to be underscored.

It doesn’t. The story does just fine all by itself because it’s unique and unusual, and because Tibbott embraces his “misfit” status as he invites readers to love theirs, too. This lends quirk and authenticity to the story, making it refreshingly believable. It also helps that Tibbott seems able to laugh at himself and to give credit where it’s due.

As for the business advice here, it’s perfect for “bootstrappers” like Tibbott says he was once, again referring to his misfit years by describing someone who doesn’t necessarily subscribe to conventional wisdom.

The tips are useful and understandable, especially for march-to-their-own-drummer types, entrepreneurs who don’t quite fit a CEO mold and those who want to make a living, as long as it makes a difference, too.

For new businesspeople who are confounded by stuffy biz manuals, “In Search of the Wild Tofurky” might be exactly the kind of book you need for your successful launching. If you’re unconventional –and so is your business –you’ll gobble this up.

Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of business books are read in more than 260 publications in the U.S. and Canada.