Coriander. For some it's a wonderful aromatic herb that imbues food with a delightful fragrance. For others it tastes like soap. Some people of European ancestry have, for some reason, a genetic wiring causing them to dislike the herbaceous plant because of the aldehyde molecules.
The happy pair that is David and Stephen Flynn, who trade as The Happy Pear, like coriander. It crops up a good bit in their recipes, probably because it is delish. Any online scout about the Wicklow chaps will lead you to the conclusion that they are a bit like coriander. Some people really like them, others less so.
The reason is probably because they have an almost evangelical commitment to promoting the benefits of a plant based diet. For some reason that raises the dander of those with a carnivorous intent.
The difference between the attitudes to coriander and the Flynns is that the herb haters have a genetic predisposition, while those who dislike the message of The Happy Pear chose to do so. Across the telephone line it is impossible to tell which of the monozygotic pair it is, it could be Stephen or David. If the multitude of online pictures of the smiling twins are anything to go by then facing them in person would make telling them apart even more difficult.
David does preach 'the message', but not in a preachy way. It's all good sense, and it is doesn't feel like a commercial for a better life. It is nice to engage in a conversation where someone says: “Food is just one part of being a happy, fulfilled human being,” because it is true and it is said without agenda.
Just past half way into a thirty minute conversation David succinctly makes a statement that is probably the bones of the Happy Pear philosophy: “It is not about trying to make anyone a vegetarian or a vegan in spite of my own personal views. I think there is no perfect way of living. We all just want to be happy. Ultimately everyone has to cut it up how they want. Our message is to try to get more people to eat more veg. If you want to eat meat or burgers, well great, just try to eat as much whole foods, fruit and veg as you can. The more whole foods you eat the better your body will function.” Simple really.
Mood for food
The duo are on there way to this county next week as part of the Taste of Cavan. As Cavan gets in the mood for food the brothers Flynn will join Neven Maguire, Richard Corrigan, Fáilte Ireland Food Champion Gearóid Lynch of The Olde Post Inn, ‘The Great British Menu’ star Eddie Attwell of St Kyran’s Country House, RTÉ’s Chef Adrian, ‘No Salt Chef’ Brian McDermott, Shane Smith of Airfield Estate and Bord Bia’s Máire Dufficy and the delectable Catherine Fulvio.
The Happy Pear is many things. It is a family-run natural food store, three wholefood cafés, a superfood sprout farm, an own-label food manufacturing and distribution business, a coffee roastery producing house roasted Happy Pear coffee and a fermentation kitchen producing a variety of fermented foods.
Their talent as food creators is more than apparent in the two books of recipes that they have produced, and a third has just been released. However their exploitation of social media to promote the business and disseminate 'the message' is where they truly excel.
Well over half a million viewers have taken in the vibrant yellows, gorgeous greens, pulsating purple and rich reds of the Happy Pear's culinary creations. They are masters of the art of eating with the eyes. That talent has seen them utilise what was once called emerging media - a very visual media by its very nature - to its full potential.
It doesn't matter if it's pesto or kimichi, if the lads are making any part of a meal, they make it look like there is no more crack to be had in the entire world.
In the pictures or videos they are making every effort to outdo each other with winning smiles. Perhaps that is one of the reasons they are so divisive, 'cause they look so darn happy.
David acknowledges that looking good is good for business: “We are all mammals, but mammals with names, and phones, and jobs and seeking self actualisation. If you look good and healthy then it may attract people to what you are doing,” he says of the like-and-shareability of being a Flynn.
Operating online brings out the opinion of people who can hide in the ether and take shots at others' success. “Food is a political thing, or almost like a religion. That can make it difficult for some people. We steer away from words like vegetarian or vegan because they can be very charged. People find it divisive and binary, not really inclusive. If it is just about healthy food then it is more inclusive and more people can relate to it.”
So the message is definite, but not militant.
“I always have had a message right since we started. Through our own life experience we have found that we felt better by changing our diet and it was the catalyst for so much else in our life. It left us feeling more fulfilled and happier and inspired us to set up a business. At the core of that is sharing the message of our experience,” David says slipping between the I and the we as he expounds on the beliefs he shares with his identical twin.
“Our business is built on a message and trying to share as much as possible. We found that social media was something that could amplify it. At this stage we have been at it 13 years and we have 600,000 followers across a variety of platforms. So there is quite a lot of people who are interested, it is a really amazing tool. It is one of the first things new start ups should think about because it is free, but it does takes time, effort and energy. People are looking for hacks on how to grow instagram accounts and they expect one golden nugget, but it just grows organically over time.”
The Taste of Cavan Friday August 11 will see the Flynns work their magic as they demonstrate to visitors what 'the message' looks like on a plate. David says that the event in Cavan Equestrian Centre is to be anticipated: “I am really looking forward to it. There are over 120 local suppliers taking part in it. We are hoping to spend some time there beforehand and get to see what is going on. I am sure that there is a lot of innovative and creative things happening. Local is hugely important to us, most of what we do is about building up the local economy.”
The journey to Cavan will be considerably shorter than the one that brought the brothers to where they are now.
“I don't like to use the word vegan. When you use vegan people think you are some kind of pious creature and they can't identify with you. For 16 years we have done our best to eat a vegan diet. We grew up eating meat and two veg, as many burgers, chips and pints as we could get.
“We went away travelling. We had lost faith in the notion that success is about money. We went travelling separately. It gave us a chance to question social conditioning and our upbringing and go on a journey of self discovery.
“At the same time on different sides of the planet we both changed our diets. We found that was a catalyst to changing so many other things in our life.”
As an inveterate meat eater it is difficult to imagine a life without seared flesh. That is not a belief held by David. When asked if he misses meat he replies: “No, not in the slightest. I have been at it 16 years.
“I can smell bacon and think 'that smells nice', but there would be no inclination to eat it. It is not attractive in anyway, I suppose my wiring has just changed.
“When I started eating a vegan diet it was for selfish health reasons, feeling better in my own body. My body functioning better and having better blood flow, that was the motivation. Over the years the other aspects of it came into play.”
The brothers work hard at their business. Capitalising on The Happy Pear brand is an ongoing operation. Part of that is staying abreast of food trends.
“We are usually in London once a month. London tends to be ahead of Dublin. We go around to a lot of cafe and food shops and see what is going on. Once you are interested in a subject you can't but be aware of what is going on. Social media is a great way of seeing what way things are moving,” David says of his work.
The advice for anyone starting out from the whole foods and plant-based chef is simple: “Do you love what you are doing? Starting up a food business takes a huge amount of energy, commitment and passion. If it is not something you are really interested in then the likelihood of you sticking to it through the hard times is quite slim. Have you done your business plan? How does it look on paper? Get advice. All these things are important. We didn't have a business plan when we started out, but now before we start any project we always run numbers and have business plans and projections because it is always best to have a road map.”
Even with all the demands of the job you get the feeling that David has ploughed a furrow he is very content with: “We don't drink and we don't smoke, our lives are bit different to most people. We have a great time and we feel very lucky and fortunate. We love what we do and we work with people we love and enjoy and we are part of a great community.”
Catch The Happy Pear demo at the Taste of Cavan Food Festival at 3.30pm on Friday, August 11 at the Ulster Bank Chefs' Kitchen. Copies of duo's books will also be available to purchase at the festival.
Pearing it back to basics
Friday, 11th August, 2017 4:16pm