Ari's Top 5


How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment
before starting to improve the world.

―Anne Frank


“We’re All Leaders”
Is a Better Way to Work

A newly printed pamphlet of Secret #22

Sometimes, many years after a record is released, a song that originally received very little attention later turns out to be one of the most significant pieces on the album. While a few other cuts might have become hit singles, these other tracks were mostly ignored at the time of release. Secret #22, “We’re All Leaders,” fits that bill. Ten years after it was published, on page 85 of Part 2, A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Being a Better Leader, I believe #22’s time has arrived. Of everything in the book, this essay might end up being the most important. Which is why we’ve decided to publish the piece for the first time as a free-standing pamphlet. The calendar alone is a good omen. 2022, after all, seems the ideal time to release Secret #22 from Part 2, right? 

Like so many important learnings in my life, the story of Secret #22 is centered around a change in my beliefs. As Gareth Higgins will teach us on Tuesday evening, November 1, at the Roadhouse, when we change our beliefs, we will soon change our stories. Over time, the two in tandem come together to change our worlds. The shift I write about in the pamphlet might seem small, but in the long run, it’s radical. For the first thirty years of my leadership life, as I write in the essay, “I saw leadership and management as one and the same.” That all switched suddenly one day while journaling back in 2011, when I had one of what Stas’ Kazmierski taught us to call “belated glimpses of the obvious.” Here’s how I explain it in “Secret #22”:

A “leader,” I now believe, is not the same as a manager. Being a great leader requires no title and no particular experience. No one necessarily appoints a leader; leaders don’t necessarily have any particular set of responsibilities and they’re often invisible on an org chart. There’s no age requirement. Education can help but it hardly counts for anything if what you learned in the classroom isn’t applied in a constructive way. Although leadership is most often associated with power and hierarchy, the truth is that it’s not all that connected to either. In fact, the only thing that truly gets you into the ranks of leaders is the decision to lead combined with the ability to actually start leading.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, we have always wanted an organization in which everyone working believes that they “really can make a difference.” In these rather challenging times, encouraging everyone to lead is more important now than ever.

Much earlier in our organizational history, we had asked everyone at Zingerman’s to take responsibility for the quality of our service, and then (through Open Book Management) for our finance. At first, the idea of applying this same sense of equity and inclusion in leadership thinking seemed strange, but the more I thought about it, the more evident it seemed. As I wrote in Secret #22:

​​I’m all about clearly defined job responsibilities and leaders stepping up to serve the organization. But the more I work my way through and around the idea of this whole thing, the more strongly I feel that the time has come—I sense that maybe the 21st century will be the era in which we free the idea of leadership from the old prejudices and preconditions that have surrounded it for most of the 20th. Maybe instead of just turning the old pyramidal org chart upside down (you know, the old inverted triangle) it’s time to, at least conceptually, just flat-line the whole thing once and for all. If we’re getting out of the old-school hierarchical structure and into a more inclusive, creative, free-flowing, fun, and egalitarian approach to work, why limit leadership thinking and activity to a tiny slice of organizational life? 

Now, ten years after the essay came out, we have made a lot of progress, and we still have work to do to make this our daily reality. Maybe after you read the pamphlet, it will become part of your reality, too. If we do it well, we will meet the challenge that Peter Koestenbaum put forward: “A well-led organization consists of nothing but leaders.”

What does this belief look like when it’s working? When he took office in April 2019, Volodymyr Zelensky challenged every Ukrainian to think of themselves as “the president of their country.” Secret #22 advocates for the same approach, applied to our company instead of a country. In the day-to-day, we want an organization in which a new busser wiping down a table will also be giving thought to the impact of their action on the whole organization; a place where a staff member working the counter understands that if they overhear a customer expressing a concern, we want them to gently jump in to turn things around; where everyone realizes that helping to make decisions about our organizational benefits plan or to comment on business trends is an important part of their work. A workplace where everyone knows not to settle for so-so, but, rather, to push ourselves—even if it is a bit more work in the moment—to “do the right thing.” I love the way Peter Block poses it:

We choose between Maintenance and Greatness.

We choose between Caution and Courage.

We choose between Dependency and Autonomy.

About ten years or so ago—shortly after Part 2, including Secret #22, came back from the printer—a businesswoman came to town from Utah. As I remember it, she owned more than a few stores and was already doing well, and in the spirit of self-improvement had flown in to do a week’s worth of training with ZingTrain. She’d arrived on a Sunday evening, and I’d seen her from afar for a minute on Monday, but I hadn’t actually run into her to give her a formal welcome. Very early the next morning, before we were actually open for business, I was sitting at the back corner table in the Next Door at the Deli doing my daily stint of journaling. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a tall woman walking towards me rather quickly, with purpose. Mind you, people walking rapidly towards you at 6:30 in the morning in most restaurant settings is rarely a good sign. Bracing myself to get bad news, I centered myself as best I could, and, trying to appear more alert than I actually was, looked up with a smile. She stopped a few feet from the table, smiled back, and stuck out her hand. Realizing quickly that this was our client, I introduced myself, and welcomed her. I started to apologize for not greeting her personally the previous day, but she enthusiastically interjected: “Don’t worry about it all! I'm just so happy to be here! I had a great day yesterday!” I thanked her—it was a high compliment coming from someone who had clearly accomplished as much as she had. “It’s great what you’re doing here,” she went on. “I love the culture! And you know, I’ve only been here one day, but I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out the secret to what you all are doing!” 

Though I had titled the essays, tongue-in-cheek, as “Secrets” in the Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading books, I was a bit taken aback by her comment. I’ve long said that “the secret here is that there is no secret.” Still, I was curious to see what she’d concluded. “That’s great!” I said. “Tell me more!” She answered with confidence and enthusiasm: “Well, I know I’ve only been here one day. But I can tell. You’re just hiring all these young entrepreneurs and then turning them loose.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the reality was anything but. Mostly then, and now, we hire history majors like me muddling through life just as I had been so many years before. Or maybe English majors,  high school students, college dropouts, people who’d been laid off from other industries and didn’t know what to do next, or retirees looking to stay busy. Of the 400 or so folks working in the ZCoB at the time, maybe half a dozen had come here because they aspired to be business people. Instead, I just smiled, thanked her for sharing her insight, and offered her my cell phone number in case she had any questions that I could be of help with. 

After she left, I kept thinking about what she had said. A few weeks later, it hit me. Her inaccurate conclusion suddenly gave me clarity. Although I’d never thought of it that way, I suddenly saw that in a sort of inverted way she might be right. While the people we were hiring had not come to work at Zingerman’s as “aspiring entrepreneurs,” we had in essence “fooled her” into believing they were. We were teaching everyone we hired—regardless of job title, age, gender, race, seniority, or previous experience—how to think like a leader and a business person from the first day they started work. 

What do most organizations do? Rather than teaching front line folks to think like leaders, they train them to “do their job”—to play their proper, much more narrowly defined role in the company.  Direction and decision-making in that model come from the top, from the people whose “job” it is “to think” and make decisions. Everyone else follows orders. Whether it’s in business, in non-profits, or in countries, I will suggest that this old model—in which decision-makers are different from doers—does not work well. While it may appear to function for a while, in the long run, it is neither a healthy nor a holistic way to work. Power—“carbon” in the organizational ecosystem metaphor—leaves the cultural soil. Folks on the front lines focus on getting by rather than going for greatness. Over time, excellence and energy erode, slowly but surely causing the organizational equivalent of climate change. Cracks in the culture begin to appear, crises come with ever greater frequency, and coming up with solutions becomes more and more of a struggle. 

I’d already been planning to write this piece for a few weeks now, but conveniently for my context, a few days ago historian Francis Fukuyama published a piece in The Atlantic referencing the repeated failures of this sort of hierarchical, autocratic, governance: 

The weaknesses are of two sorts. First, the concentration of power in the hands of a single leader at the top all but guarantees low-quality decision making, and over time will produce truly catastrophic consequences. Second, the absence of public discussion and debate in “strong” states, and of any mechanism of accountability, means that the leader’s support is shallow, and can erode at a moment’s notice.

In Russia, this would describe Vladimir Putin. In Iran, it’s a small, closed group of mullahs. It’s also, I would suggest, in generally much gentler ways, what is still happening in the majority of American companies. Forty years ago, Robert Greenleaf made much the same point in Servant Leadership:

To be a lone chief atop a pyramid is abnormal and corrupting. None of us are perfect by ourselves, and all of us need the help and correcting influence of close colleagues … The pyramidal structure weakens informal links, dries up channels of honest reaction and feedback, and creates limiting chief vs. subordinate relationships which, at the top, can seriously penalize the whole organization.

In their new book, Humanocracy: Creating Organizations As Amazing As The People Inside Them, Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini (he’s Italian, so the name is pronounced “Mi-kay-leh”) suggest that the problem is not the individual leader: “What if the inhumanity of our organizations is symptomatic of something deeper, something that has nothing to do with any particular manager or organization?”  It is very clear to me that a big factor of that “something deeper” is the belief that “leadership” is a job function for the people “in charge.” It’s so widely accepted that hardly anyone argues it. It’s just, like so many unhelpful beliefs, “the way it is.” Secret #22 supports the seemingly subversive belief that instead our work is to instill a leadership mindset in every person we employ. Like all changes in beliefs (see Secret #43 for the Recipe for Changing a Belief), this is a simple shift to speak aloud, but will likely be difficult to actually make real. The new belief? That we do not need to operate our organizations with a single strong all-powerful leader perched precariously at the top of a pyramid in politically-minded ways. Instead, Secret #22 says, we can create a setting in which everyone is expected to think and act like a leader

Secret #22, conveniently for this essay has another connection to “Utah”—Utah Phillips. A folksinger, philosopher, poet, and anarchist, Phillips passed away in the third week of May 2008, at the age of 73. I had the honor of meeting him when he was dining at the Roadhouse a few months before his death. Phillips was both an insightful and inspirational figure, who also happened to be as witty as he was wise. It’s in great part due to something I heard in one of Phillips’ spoken word pieces that helped this new belief about leadership click into place. The story is in the Secret: 

The incident in question occurred in 1916. In a rather interesting, though nearly forgotten, footnote in American history, a ferry full of free speech activists tried to dock in Everett, Washington. The local sheriff boarded the boat and demanded to know who the group’s leaders were. “We’re all leaders here!” was the men’s unified response. The statement was, seemingly, so provocative that the sheriff and his deputies immediately attacked. A dozen and a half people died in the ensuing violence. 

As I suggest in Secret #22, “Had I only known Utah Phillips’ story when I was fifteen instead of fifty, or maybe if I’d studied American history, rather than Russian, it might not have taken me so long to get this glimpse of the obvious about leadership.”

It is a commonly held belief that having “too many bosses” will inevitably create chaos. It’s often, inaccurately, called “anarchy.” Ironically, the idea that everyone thinks and acts like a caring collaborative leader is exactly what anarchism is all about. There’s much more about this in the last piece in Part 2Secret #29 is all about the application of anarchism to progressive business. Anarchism, despite the popular misconception, is all about organization. Over a century ago, Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta made the point: “The need for organization in social life . . . is so self-evident that it is mind-boggling that it could ever have been questioned.” What Utah Phillips, Malatesta and other anarchists I’d studied were advocating for was not chaos. Rather, it was the suggestion that everyone in an organization can and should be creatively and collaboratively acting like a leader. The same point I’ve tried to make in Secret #22.

When we do get people to think like leaders, to engage in the difficult work of collaboratively figuring out the right things to do, they begin to choose freely to participate in creating the organization of their future. Does that mean they all get their way? No, of course not. In this holistic and inclusive model of leadership, no one just “gets their way.” Not me, not Paul, not any of the other partners, not the new person we hired last Wednesday. What we do get is a chance to have a meaningful say in the organization of which we’re a part. And in the process, we gain access to a hugely positive font of personal energy that comes from making free choices the way any good leader would do. 

So how do we make this switch happen? Part 1, Secret #12, shares how we do this through “Five Steps to Building an Organizational Culture”: 

1. Teach it – Leadership, we know, is not innate; it needs to be taught. Back around the time we opened the Deli in the early ’80s, anarchist Howard Ehrlich wrote, “The process of empowering people in an organization requires a formal program of education.” We need, in that spirit, to teach leadership to everyone. Do we get it right all the time? Of course not. We do work at it, though. All of our leadership classes are open to everyone who works here. As Peter Koestenbaum says, “To teach is systemically to help others learn to think and act as leaders do and to integrate leadership intelligence into the achievement of organizational goals.” 

2. Define it – This is the conversation that Secret #22 started for me—to make the case for an organization in which everyone is expected, from day one, to take responsibility for leadership. I share the expectation in the Welcome to ZCoB orientation class. Leaders, in this context, are people who care about the collective and act caringly; people who focus on serving the ecosystem, not their egos; people who, rather than just complaining, are willing to speak up and seek creative, constructive outcomes; visionaries, not vigilantes. 

3. Live it – Formally we work to spread leadership thinking with systems like open book management, Bottom Line Change, Lean, open meetings, etc. It’s embedded in Stewardship and supported by Servant Leadership, as well as our Community Shares program and our commitment to having Staff Partners as part of the group that runs the ZCoB by consensus. Less formally, we can do this work in small but meaningful ways through casual conversations—sometimes I ask new staff what they think about big strategic issues we face, or share a bit of the stress I might feel about sales levels. In the process, I can help them experience the sorts of conversations that leaders are likely to have all the time. Their comments are almost always insightful. I also work to encourage folks to speak up and share ideas and concerns (awkward though it may feel) and encourage them to take the initiative to lead change. My hope is that we can create a workplace in which we can make real Maria Shriver’s call to collaborative action:

Be the difference. Your power is vast, and it’s within. Use it. … A place where active citizenship isn’t just something to put on a poster but rather where everyone learns early on that although none of us always get our way, everyone matters. 

In the spirit of everyone taking full responsibility, “Living It” requires those without formal authority to engage as leaders. As Iranian author Roya Hakakian writes: “Those who wish to see democracy regain momentum around the world must do their part.” 

4. Measure it – While I know we can do better in this, we do have a number of indirect measures. The number of people who come to huddles and the frequency with which people initiate Bottom Line Change are all factors. There are also the many ZCoBbers who teach classes but are not managers; front-line staff who participate on our cross-business committees figuring out our benefits plans, upholding customer service standards, implementing safety programs, supporting sustainability innovations, etc. The number of Community Share owners in the ZCoB is the highest ever right now at 229. 

5. Reward it – This is something for all of us who make decisions about things like pay rates to pay attention to—to be sure that we are both formally and informally recognizing and rewarding those who step forward as positive leaders. Not the people who take potshots or critique without suggesting constructive alternatives, but those who (regardless of job title or formal authority) are willing to speak up, make suggestions, and help do the hard work to make meaningful change happen. Don’t underestimate your impact. Even small acts of appreciation can make a meaningful difference for someone who’s never before been in a leadership role. As Hamel and Zanini share, “When ‘ordinary’ employees are given the chance to learn, grow, and contribute, they’ll achieve extraordinary results.”

Speaking of extraordinary, here are some real-world examples of people who might typically have been on the periphery stepping up to lead in settings that are far riskier than what we experience in our organizations. While it might be easy to think they are completely unrelated to what we do at work, I believe the actions of these three young women exemplify Peter Block’s call to choose greatness, act in courage, and think freely. Tetyana Burianova is a 26-year-old Ukrainian who, before the war, organized rave parties. A year later, her life is very different: “Right now, it feels inappropriate to go clubbing. I do want to go back to my former life but only after the war. While there is war, my life, like everyone’s, is only about volunteering. … We are making a new Ukraine.” Or there’s this from a 16-year-old high school student (staying anonymous for her own safety) who’s been out demonstrating in Iran in recent weeks: “What good am I if I simply sit outraged at home? Myself and fellow students across Iran have decided to stand in protest on the streets this week. I’ll do it even if I have to now hide it from my parents.” Closer to home, I saw this story about Jennifer Jones in Georgia, a Morehouse School of Medicine PhD student, who finds herself in a situation in which new voting rules have made it significantly more challenging for her to be able to vote. Her willingness to choose leadership is inspiring. 

My grandmother marched with Dr Martin Luther King; my family fought for this. I am the next generation that she was fighting for, and I am not about to let up. I will not risk getting to cast my vote. I will not stop fighting, and I will not be complacent in the difficulty of this process.

The risks any of us take to step forward to lead in our organizations are, practically, much lower than what these three young women have done. Still, speaking up, sharing hopes and dreams, asking awkward questions in an organization of which you’re “just a small part” or a “new person” do make a meaningful difference. They are powerfully effective acts of leadership coming from people who are clearly not in charge. As Stef Kerska, who once worked at the Bakehouse said about Secret #22,

[The] idea of leadership on page 109—we’re all leaders—is a radical one. I like to joke about my experience of seeing our dishwasher go by and comment on loaves we just baked as being too light. His job was to take care of the dishes but he felt a responsibility for the quality of the product we put out. Everyone has the opportunity to lead or teach. I feel like everyone is empowered to if it’s for the right reason to do what you need to do. … It’s so easy to say that we’re all leaders but to experience it daily is pretty powerful.
Back when Utah Phillips was a young man, pamphlets were one of the most effective ways of sharing radical ideas. What we now think of as “social media” was, back then, printed on paper and sold at relatively affordable prices in order to get the concepts inside widely disseminated. The newly-published pamphlet of Secret #22, ten years after it first came out, could just be the push someone you know needs to take the lead. Buy a couple, give them to some key staffers in your company, and then meet them for coffee to talk about the contents. As Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini write, “If you’re ready to build an organization that’s fit for human beings and fit for the future, we invite you to start right here, right now.”
Procure your copy of the pamphlet

For more on our approach to leadership, check out ZingTrain’s “Leading with Zing” seminar.

Leadership, spread widely through a country or a company, can make a world of difference. To help make that happen, you can pick up copies of the newly-released pamphlet on the Zingerman’s Press website for 22% off with the code LEADERS22.

mullet, a lemon, mashed potatoes, and sautéed spinach on a white plate

Fresh Mullet at the Roadhouse

Terrifically tasty “trash fish”
makes a rare appearance in Ann Arbor

If you aren’t already familiar with mullet, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Mullet has gotten little attention in the headlines of the mainstream food world. It’s often written off as “trash fish”—fish that are used more frequently as fish bait than to bring in customers to a restaurant. Scholar Michelle Zacks calls mullet “the Rodney Dangerfield of fish.” Over the next few years, I’d like to change that association. Mullet is delicious, has a great history, and fits perfectly into the Roadhouse’s commitment to “really good American food!” I think mullet is marvelous. I was super jazzed to see it show up on the Roadhouse specials list last week. 

The mullet on the menu is coming to us through the good work of the folks at Locals Seafood in Raleigh—two guys who decided to step up and take a leadership role to get better quality fish and shellfish from the North Carolina coast to quality-conscious customers like us around the country. We’ve been getting wild-caught shrimp from them regularly for the last few months, and more and more we’ve been bringing some of the local fish as well—striped bass, speckled trout, and now, this month, mullet. All have been uniformly excellent. As a big fish eater, I’m super excited and so is everyone who’s tried over the last few weeks.

If you were to go to the American southeast—from the mid-Atlantic all the way around to the Gulf Coast—a lot more people will know mullet than they do in Michigan. Down there, mullet is more akin to what we have in the Great Lakes with whitefish, or you’ll experience in Portugal or southern Spain with sardines. In the late 16th century, mullet was essential—both for eating and economically—to the culture of the native Calusa people in what is now Florida. It was a staple for enslaved people before Emancipation, and it remains a working-class staple in the region to this day. In 1910, Forest & Stream Magazine called mullet “the common diet of the people all along the coast … familiarly known as ‘Biloxi [for the coastal Mississippi town] Bacon.’” Shane Townsend writes:

Mullet has fed generations of common folk. People had lined up alongside birds, gators, and snakes to gather mullet. There’s no grandeur in that history. Many folks who’d been proud to have the poor man’s fish when they needed it, were less proud of the familiarity once they’d climbed a rung on America’s ladder. … as incomes increased, mainstream taste and need for mullet waned.

Mullet has often been called “the people’s fish” because it was so readily available and so widely appreciated. It’s eaten by nearly every ethnic community and served at nearly every community gathering in the region. Charlotte Harbor commercial fisherman Alfonso Darna declared back in 1990, “Mullet is all you need.”  I’m particularly fond of it when it’s sautéed or broiled with bacon fat. Good grilled over the oak fire at the Roadhouse as well. Michelle Zacks says mullet is “rich, nutty, umami.” I say it’s terrific. Full flavored but not at all strong, mullet is meaty, marvelous, super tasty, and dangerously delicious in the best possible way. If you like fish anywhere near as much as I do, swing by the Roadhouse before the season comes to a close and help lead the way to making mullet the seafood star it has long deserved to be.

Make a reservation at the Roadhouse
three slices of chocolate challah on a white cutting board with a partial view of the rest of the loaf

Special Bake of Chocolate Challah October 28 & 29

A wonderful healthy way to celebrate Challah-ween!

Here’s yet another instance of improved ingredients making an already good product into something particularly special. A few weeks ago, I wrote about how amazing the Chocolate Chip Spelt Pancakes at the Roadhouse have gotten recently—they’re now made with freshly milled spelt from the Bakehouse and the dark bean-to-bar Nicaraguan chocolate from our friends at French Broad chocolate in Asheville. This week, I’m writing about yet another amazing alt-version of “bread and chocolate”: a special two-day-only offering of the Bakehouse’s classic challah, made with lots of fresh eggs and clover honey, but this time liberally laced with that same very flavorful, dark French Broad chocolate.

Basically, this special-bake bread is a more down-to-earth version of the chocolate-loaf goodness that babka brings to the world. Both offer eminently accessible ways to enjoy the beauty of bread and chocolate with a wonderful bit of a Jewish accent. While challah as we make it is a centuries-old European Jewish tradition, I’d imagined that the idea of adding chocolate would pretty surely be 20th-century American. Much to my happy surprise though, I also found references to Hungarian Jewish families doing much the same. Whatever its origins, it’s marvelously good. You can just do what I do and rip off a chunk to eat with coffee or tea. You can toast it and spread it with butter. If you like orange and chocolate, spoon on some orange marmalade. If you pick up the Chocolate Challah on Friday, it can make for a great Shabbos dessert. Or you can use it to make French toast over the weekend.

Stick a reminder in your calendar to come by Friday afternoon to pick up a couple loaves of this special Bakehouse treat. Or order ahead to reserve yours at the Deli or Bakeshop so you don’t miss out. Maybe I’ll see you there.

Order your loaf of Chocolate Challah
P.S. Speaking of Halloween, the Candy Store and Deli are both loaded up with an amazing array of Zzang! Bars, Peanut Brittle, chocolates, gummies, and other assorted artisan sweets from all over the world.
a glass of sipping chocolate with a package in the background

Shawn Askinosie’s New Super Tasty Single-Origin Sipping Chocolate

Dark chocolate artisan “nuggets”
ready to mix with milk

If you’re looking for a great-tasting drink to bring comfort as the colder weather works its way into our lives this fall, check out this superb new Sipping Chocolate from my friend Shawn Askinosie. Everything we’ve gotten from Shawn for the last fifteen years has been nigh on phenomenal and this new offering is as outstanding as the rest. The crew at Askinosie alters the chocolate origin from time to time depending on what’s tasting best for this application. Right now, it’s Tanzania, a few months ago it was from the Philippines. All are excellent. I rarely drink milk, but I made a cup to try it out and it was so good I drank the whole thing in a matter of minutes. Because it’s chocolate and not cocoa (which is alkalized), the flavor is more chocolatey with less of the light, slightly bitter taste of cocoa. 

The chocolate it’s made from is, like everything we get from Shawn, superb. It’s from the Mababu coop in Tanzania. Shawn has been working with the farmers there for about fifteen years now. You can taste the chocolate in its “eating”—as opposed to sipping—form in the terrific Tanzania chocolate bars we have from Shawn at the Candy Story and Deli. Made with rare Trinitario cacao beans, it's been one of my favorites for ages. Smooth, cocoa-y, dark but not at all overwhelmingly so. The Askinosie crew shared that, “When roasted, the beans evoke subtle, fruity notes of strawberry and blueberry and when tempered, it creates the creamiest mouthfeel of all of our chocolates.” The single-origin Sipping Chocolate brings that same super tasty complexity to the cup.

To make the Sipping Chocolate, the chocolate is broken up into small “nuggets.” The crew at Askinosie makes them by using a special mill that’s designed specifically for that purpose. I’ve been eating them out of hand at home—it’s a good way to sneak an afternoon pick-me-up (keep a container in your desk drawer?). There’s a recipe/ratio on the “can” (it’s made from recyclable cardboard) but Shawn suggests warming the milk or heavy cream and whisking in the small morsels to your own taste and thickness. No additional sugar is needed. Want a second opinion? A few years back the Wall Street Journal wrote that the Askinosie Sipping Chocolate is “basically pure, satiny ganache. The bittersweet chocolate is intense and brooding, brightened with hints of sandalwood and spice.”

Snag some Sipping Chocolate

P.S. You won’t see the Sipping Chocolate on the Zingerman's Mail Order site but we’d be glad to ship some your way. Email us at

P.P.S. Mababu is the co-op with which Shawn has done so much inspiring work. Here’s a talk he did on the subject and there’s a lot more detail in the wonderful book he co-wrote with his daughter Lawren. I’ve shared some of the details of the story in Part 4 in “Secret #45: A Six-Pointed Hope Star”).

a cover of Malatesta: Life and Times the Anarchist WRitings of Errico Malatesta with a mix of pastas on it

Fine e Mezzi: An Anarchist Application for Pasta Cooking at Your House

Periphery pasta steps into a culinary leadership role

Since I referenced Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta above, this recipe idea from Part 4 popped into my head. It’s named for Malatesta’s 1892 essay, “Fine e Mezzi,” which in English would be entitled “Ends and Means.” Published originally in pamphlet form, Malatesta argues that the means we use to achieve something need to be congruent with the ends we’re working to achieve. Because fine in Italian means “ends” in English I imagined something that would treat all the various bits of otherwise orphaned pasta shapes that I almost inevitably have on hand with the dignity they rightly deserve. I started to think about putting all these misfits together in one communal pot, which struck me as a fine way to do a culinary homage to anarchist beliefs—making something special out of what is so commonly discarded; moving away from the uniformity of cooking pasta of all one size and shape; and, in the process, bringing diversity to the fore, highlighting difference instead of hiding it. And so, Pasta Fine e Mezzi was made.

In total, you’ll want about 4 ounces of dried pasta per person for a dinner portion. The concept will be equally applic­able to noodles of any caliber, but the quality of the eating will be dramatically enhanced by using great artisanal pastas. Bring a big pot of well-salted water to a boil and then start adding the thickest, biggest pasta shapes first. After stirring gently and giving them a few minutes to get going, then add the next-­thickest. And then the next-thickest still. I broke the longest pastas into 4- or 5-inch-long pieces to make it easier to eat them with the short shapes. Gentle stirring throughout kept things moving. Keep checking till the pastas are al dente.

Drain the pasta as soon as it’s done, and then dress it immediately with full-flavored extra virgin olive oils and some grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese or Pecorino. In honor of the anarchist colors (black and red) and always in favor of full flavor, I finished each bowl with a generous dose of both black pepper and red pepper (I used Korean pepper flakes, also from Épices de Cru). I then tossed the whole thing into warm bowls and ate it while it was hot!

Fine e Mezze, it turns out, is marvelous. It shows, as Malatesta would surely have appreciated, how something special can be created from what most of society would consider its castoffs and what a product that’s typically ignored or left out can do when it's allowed to take a leadership role. Diversity and deliciousness, economy and excellence, all working together in one warm bowl in which leftovers become the leaders!

Pack your pantry with pasta

Other Things on My Mind


Here’s the link to a podcast I did with Karin Volo, director of the Evoloshen Academy in Sweden.

Rancho Shalom by Evan Kertman is a great coming together of Kertman’s intellectual insights and emotions, with maybe a hint of Bob Dylan and Silver Jews in the background.  Poigant, philosophical folk music to brighten your day.


Charles Eisenstein’s fascinating and inspiring Sacred Economics: Money, Gift & Society in the Age of Transition.

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