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I don't believe that grief passes away. It has its time and place forever. More time is added to it; it becomes a story within a story. But grief and griever alike endure.

Wendell Berry
Managing Ourselves book held up in fog

Accepting the Reality of Grief and Loss into Our Organizational Ecosystems

Learning to work through the fog and haze

I hadn’t really planned to write about grief this week. Somehow, though I wasn’t expecting it, grief and grieving seemed to keep showing up over, and over, again. Which is very much what my experience of grieving has been like. Even when I think I’ve got a handle on it, it creeps up on me and catches me by surprise. One minute I’m feeling fine, but half an hour later I can barely find my way through the fog; sometimes it lifts quickly, but in other instances it can last for days.

For most of my life I’ve looked at grief as an exceptional occurrence; a special sort of extreme situation in which sadness suddenly becomes the order of the day. Grief, it seemed, was something one dealt with in isolated instances after a death in the family, a divorce, the closing of a business, or a national tragedy. Of late though, I’ve started to see that grief is anything but incidental—like joy, sadness, fear, and anger—in small but still significant ways, it’s almost an everyday occurrence. Like these other emotions, grief comes up, often unnoticed, without us having much influence on when it arrives, or later, when it leaves. Grief can be so subtle we push through it without admitting to ourselves that we feel it. Or it can be completely overwhelming. As Elizabeth Gilbert wrote after the death of her life partner in the spring of 2018, “Grief is a force of energy that cannot be controlled or predicted … Grief does not obey your plans, or your wishes. Grief will do whatever it wants to you, whenever it wants to.”

In the last month or so it seems like the cycles of grief around me have somehow sped up. A 40-year-old friend in New York—a cheese seller I’ve known for nearly twenty years, with three young kids—died suddenly in her sleep. A former staffer, also in his early 40s, died unexpectedly ten days later. Two different staff members’ grandmothers also passed away. Another colleague has more than a few folks close to her who are fighting through severe illnesses. Still another coworker’s cat is terminally ill. A much-loved salesman we’ve been buying from for decades is retiring, and a long-time supplier is closing his business. A local store that opened about the same time we did in the ’80s is closing its doors. The father of a friend of mine died, and another good friend shuttered his business for good. You may well have read what I wrote a few weeks ago about the story of Lindsay Van Zandt and her mom’s passing. Grief is hanging heavily in the air.

I’d like to pretend this series of grief-provoking, and -evoking, incidents were caused by some coincidental coming together of Covid, a confrontational political climate, and the current crisis of short staffing, but I’ve begun to understand that this sort of steady appearance of grief in our lives is pretty much par for the course. True, it’s tougher right now in the pandemic, but it’s not like feelings of shock, loss, and deep sadness started in March of 2020. Most every week since we opened the Deli in 1982, we’ve had staff members leave, long time customers leave town, and valued vendors go out of business. Projects we are passionate about don’t play out as we want, customers feel let down and complain, products we are excited about don’t do well. Jobs are lost, friendships fade, sports teams lose, neighbors move away. It’s this everydayness of grief and grieving that’s got my attention in the context of our organizational ecosystems. Grief and grieving, I’m realizing, are rarely far away. Which means that the more we can create the kind of organizational ecosystems in which we can openly acknowledge them as part of our daily existence, the healthier our businesses and the people who are part of them are likely to be.

With that in mind, I spent a fair bit of time wondering what the best equivalent for grief would be in the ecosystem metaphor. I settled on fog. Like grief, fog often appears unexpectedly. Sometimes it clears up quickly, in other instances it can last for days. Left to themselves, neither fog, nor grief, cause any real harm; it’s all in how we respond to them. We have no say about when either of them comes on, and there’s little we can do about it other than move slowly and carefully and wait for them to pass. At their most intense, both grief and fog can make it very hard to move forward. While I love the idea of seeing clear sunny skies in Arizona, I realize that most of us live in the emotional equivalent of San Francisco—a place where fog can, unpredictably, appear almost any time.

In one of the most touching and insightful essays I’ve read about the subject, scientist and philosopher Stephen Harrod Buhner writes,

We become experiencers of grief, expeditionaries of ending, explorers of loss, engaged witnesses who must—if we are to travel through the territory and find the other side—let grief have its way with us. And grief … it is pervasive and insistent and relentless. When it finds us, it enters every part of the self, every aspect of our lives. It fills up the senses. The life that existed before, carefully built throughout the years, shatters into a thousand sharp fragments. We then live in the ruins that loss has made of us, and we grieve. Every day, we grieve.

Shawn Ginwright, Professor of Africana Studies at San Francisco State University, speaks eloquently about the immense emotional challenges that so many people live with. Ginwright points out that the idea of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome implies that the trauma has ended. But for many people, he says, trauma, and the grief that goes with it, is a constant presence in their lives. He calls these settings “Persistent Traumatic Stress Environments.” Dr. Ginwright says:

The most egregious consequence of living in a persistent traumatic stress environment is the inability to feel. We know from research that emotional numbing is a coping mechanism to avoid processing the emotional turmoil. It’s like hiding from your emotional self, stuffing all that emotion into a box, and stuffing it neatly away down in the basement.

Ginwright’s work is focused on helping young men who are caught up in underserved, very often violent, ecosystems, but his words resonate with me. When I began going to therapy thirty years or so ago, it became clear that, even with all my middle-class upbringing, advanced education, and socio-economic advantage, I had no real emotional vocabulary either, and little understanding of how to process grief. I can now see some of how that happened. I vividly remember, back when I was a boy of twelve, my mother and grandmother coming home in the morning from the hospital after my grandfather had died (of ALS). They said little, at least not that I can remember, just came quietly in the house. While we went through the funeral and sitting shiva, I don’t remember anyone talking about their feelings. They were, of course, dealing with grief, as best they could, in their own quiet way, but what I learned from them was, as Shawn Ginwright describes, to “stuff all that emotion in a box.”

Unfortunately, I’ve learned the hard way, denial doesn’t work. The grief stays with us, quietly waiting, coming in at times as Carl Sandburg once wrote about fog, “on little cat feet.” Unresolved grief grows, quietly compounding like a 401K. You’ll see little change in the day-to-day, but many years later when it comes due, it will almost certainly have gotten bigger by far. It’s about forty-five years ago this week that my father died. As shared in the End Notes of Part 3, I hadn’t seen him since I was seven. When he died, eighteen years after my parents had divorced, no meaningful conversations about his passing took place, at least not in my presence. My mother and my aunt both mentioned it to me, rather matter-of-factly, but no one, including me, said more than a few words about it. Fifteen years later, as part of the work to get back to my own past in order to better deal with the problems of the present, my therapist had suggested I write a letter to my father. I didn’t get very far—a few paragraphs in I started crying, harder than I had in maybe forever. The grief I hadn’t allowed myself to feel when he died came back with a vengeance all those years later.

On top of our personal challenges, it’s important to acknowledge what we could call the pandemic-induced “collective grief” that’s hovering in our greater ecosystem as well. Loss of loved ones and much-loved local businesses. The loss of contact, physical touch, and jobs. There’s a loss of innocence, a loss of the sense of safety, and the loss of futures we’d hoped for. The uncelebrated graduations, the gatherings that didn’t happen, soccer games that weren’t played, after school get-togethers that went by the wayside, and unheld holiday gatherings all lead to low-grade grief. Add to all that the gloom of an impending tragedy of climate change, our long overdue national reckoning with racism, and the grieving some are doing—and some might still need to do—for the loss of a national past that never really existed. This is, as author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie describes it, “A dark time inexorably darkened.”

Above and well beyond all that, there’s also the collective grief that nearly every culture carries. Even if these stories aren’t about actions that are directly connected to what we do at work, our colleagues could well be impacted by it. Whether something happened last Saturday or in the last century, we will likely still feel grief in the here and now. Find any “group” in history, and if you study even a small bit you will see that each has its stories of suffering to tell. My mother and my grandparents were shocked and devastated by the situation in Germany in the 1930s and news of the Holocaust. Writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s family lived through the Nigerian Civil War. Native Americans live with the destruction of their way of life, Armenians with the tragedy of the massacres that happened during WWI. Black people in the U.S. speak about carrying the pain of many centuries of trauma. As Marissa Evans wrote recently:

The grief we feel today also echoes back through time, to our ancestors, enslaved people who mourned long before I existed, and to those who endured the indignities of the Jim Crow era. Our traumas are handed down through the generations and intensify with each new death and realization that American systems were never designed to work in our favor. We know, too, what the inequities mean for our future. Our pain comes not just from those we’ve already lost, but from those we stand to lose over time. A specific sadness emerges when you realize that someone may be denied the chance to be their ancestors’ wildest dreams.

Grieving is far easier for me to write about than it is to experience. When the fog of grief settles in, we can find ourselves feeling lost, alone, unable to see far enough out front to know where we’re going. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, the end of a project, or the end of a relationship, as Stephen Buhner writes, “The truth slowly sinks in. … the life I/we once knew is ending.” At an extreme level, we can barely function. As Dr. Buhner says:

We fall and the fall is endless. There literally is a “rent in the fabric of reality” and we feel it every moment of our daily life. The old world that we relied on for so long is gone and that reality, that world, will never return. … We have lost an integral aspect of our identity, a mirror which has told us for decades who and what we are. At its loss, for the first time maybe, we are incredibly, deeply, terribly, alone. Existentially bereft.

So, what do we do with all this understanding of grief as an everyday issue in the workplace? I’m still processing the answer to that question, but at the moment, here are eleven things that I’m beginning to believe would help us make the reality of grief and grieving into accepted, if not particularly welcome, parts of our organizational ecosystems:

Actively share the Five Stages of Grief

I didn’t learn about Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ “Five Stages of Grief” until I was in my thirties, but I sure wish I’d learned them at thirteen. “Denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance” are, in my own way, most definitely what I have experienced. Experts in the field I’ve studied all seem to say the same. So why not share Kübler-Ross’ simple “recipe” for working through it? It’s true that, as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes, “We don’t know how we will grieve until we grieve,” but it might be a bit “easier” to go through the grieving when we at least have some idea of what’s coming.

Honor that we each have our own ways of grieving

Grief expert Dr. David Kessler says, “Each person’s grief is as unique as their fingerprint.” For some, it will be best handled in the form of organized religion. For others it’s better to find private ways of grieving on our own. Some folks will grieve loudly, while others (like my mother and grandmother) will want to stay silent. Some people will want time off; let’s find ways to get it to them. Others still prefer to come to work, to have some sense of normalcy to help them get through. It’s important, I’ve learned, to let each person do it in the way that works for them, because, as Dr. Kessler says, it’s our judgement of how others are grieving—not the actual grieving—that causes relationships to crash after a loss.

Support each other through the struggles

Shawn Ginwright writes, “Healing comes from sharing our stories and holding space to hear one another’s pain, and joy, without judgment.” We can get through tough times if we do it together. Even just reaching out with care and compassion—in person, on email, through a text—I’ve come to understand, can help. As David Kessler says, “What everyone has in common is that no matter how they grieve, they share a need for their grief to be witnessed. That doesn’t mean needing someone to try to lessen it or reframe it for them. The need is for someone to be fully present to the magnitude of their loss without trying to point out the silver lining.” Making it OK for someone to share their struggles (of course in appropriate ways and at the right times) with coworkers can help a lot. Here we’ve also had an Employee Assistance Program for most of our forty years in business. It’s a confidential service that’s available to anyone who works here and anyone in their family.

The more we love, we all learn over time, the more it hurts

As the inspirational teacher and writer Hilary Stanton Zunin, who sadly passed away early in 2021, said, “The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief. But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love.” If we didn’t love our spouses, kids, coworkers, and pets so much, their loss would pass quickly. Thankfully that’s not the case. The two go together. As the late Lou Reed sang in “Magic and Loss,” “There’s a bit of magic in everything; and then some loss to even things out.”

Understand that deep grief is very hard to get through

Deeply felt grief can be, quite simply, debilitating. We feel it in our bodies and experience its impact in our brains as well. There is no easy way around it. As author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote after the loss of her father, “Grief is a cruel kind of education. You learn how ungentle mourning can be, how full of anger.” Two weeks of bereavement leave may be helpful for many, but grieving a loss may take two years.

Understand that it takes time

With that in mind, I try to remember to stay patient. Grieving is not an action step to put on someone’s to-do list. As Stephen Buhner says: “What is really true is that grieving takes time, a lot of it. And it’s a slow process.” Trying to force ourselves, or others, through it quickly it will backfire. Patience is essential to the process.

Steer clear of silver linings and dismissals

One of the saddest situations around grief in the work world is coworkers dismissing someone else’s struggles. As Phyllis Windle writes, “Premature reassurance and pressure to accept a loss just short-circuits the grieving and recovery process.” Remember that what seems an almost insignificant loss to one person can be overwhelming for another. When my Corgi Jelly Bean died six years ago, at the age of seventeen, it was honestly harder for me than the loss of some of my close relatives.

Honor the memories

To “re-member” means to keep memories alive; to tell stories of those we’ve lost and of projects that failed so that they can stay part of our culture long after they’re gone. Finding small ways to honor those who have left our company—both in the business sense and personally—can help. Publishing essays about the deaths of my mother, and four years later, of my friend Daphne Zepos (in the Epilogue of Part 3) helped me process the pain. Writing about Frank’s retirement, or Maggie Bayless’ move to a smaller role at ZingTrain, have helped me work through those losses as well. In the process, I hope I’ve helped keep their memories and contributions to our lives alive for others to learn from. One memory I try to honor regularly is that of Stas’ Kazmierski. Stas’ passed away in the spring of 2017 at the too young age of 72. I keep his memory alive by regularly referencing Visioning, Bottom Line Change, and many of the other tools and stories he shared with us.

Use systems and ceremonies

One of the things we learned from Stas’ is the “Group Organics” model. If you’d like a PDF of the article he co-authored with Catherine Lilly, email me and I’ll send it to you. It walks us through the stages that every group goes through. One of them is termination—the endings that trigger grief and grieving, and how to best address them. As Stas’ and Catherine explain:

First, there must be some team reflection on the experience of the team, including an evaluation of the pros and cons. Second, individual group members must identify the lessons that have been learned and will be taken forward beyond the ending. Brief ceremonies, such as good-bye luncheons, going away potlucks, and Best Wishes cards also help deal with the emotional and symbolic aspects.

We do this sort of work here in our practice of ending every meeting with “appreciations.” When someone moves on, other members of the group will say something to appreciate the contributions they made during their tenure. When wrapping up a project, we now nearly always take time to do a Liked Best/Next Time. William Bridges’ transition model also helps us to understand that each of us will go through the emotional stages of change at different paces.

Remember to appreciate the beauty and bring love to all we do every day

Learning to live in appreciation and gratitude is something I’ve worked at for many years now. I’m many miles from mastery, but I try hard, every day, to be appreciative of the people, pets, products, and even the problems that we have right now. As Turkish playwright Mehmet Murat Ildan writes, “In nature, everything has a job. The job of the fog is to beautify further the existing beauties!” When we acknowledge grief as a regular and reasonable and inevitable part of our ecosystem, it helps us to better appreciate the positive things that we have, and to acknowledge their—and our—temporary presence on the planet. ​​As therapist Francis Weller writes, “There is some strange intimacy between grief and aliveness, some sacred exchange between what seems unbearable and what is most exquisitely alive.”

Add the Sixth Stage of Grief to the conversation by making meaning

David Kessler worked for years with Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, and with the permission of her family, he took it up again a few years after she had passed away. He added a sixth stage to her original “Five Stages of Grief”: to bring meaning to the loss. This is not to imply that the loss was desirable, or that it happened for some “good reason.” Rather, Kessler’s recommendation is that we will process our losses best by creating something lasting that helps us to both honor the past and, at the same time, bond ourselves into a positive future. After Daphne died, we started the Daphne Zepos Teaching Award to advance her great cause of cheese education. When Jelly Bean passed away in May of 2015, we started the Jelly Bean Jump Up to raise money for Safehouse Center in her memory. David Kessler writes, “Your loss is not a test, a lesson, something to handle, a gift, or a blessing. Loss is simply what happens to you in life. Meaning is what you make happen.”

In the context of this sixth stage, all this work for me is about making meaning from what I’ve been learning about the role that grief and grieving are playing in our organizational ecosystems almost every day. It’s been about making peace with grief’s near constant (if often quiet) presence. To sort through ways to work low-grade grieving into our regular routines, and how to handle that grieving more caringly and more constructively. Grief and grieving, it seems clear, will always be hard to handle, but when we learn to help each other deal with them more effectively, both we, and our ecosystems, will benefit. My belief is that in the process we will create a workplace in which its members can acknowledge their grief, one where it’s ok to talk about sadness and sorrow. An organization in which those who have made it out the other side of “the fog” of grief can freely share stories and experiences to help others learn. A place where we can honor grief’s impact on all of us, while still finding ways to move forward together.

When we weave grief and grieving effectively in our everyday existence, our fog might lift a bit more quickly; we will, I hope, see through it a little more clearly. I can’t say I’m looking forward to the losses that will inevitably come in the days, weeks, and months ahead, but embracing grief and grieving in this way makes me at least a bit more confident that we can handle them more holistically when they come, and that all of us will be better for it. It’s not easy work, but I believe that our lives and our organizational ecosystems will be healthier places for it. As Anne Lamott writes:

Your anger and damage and grief are the way to the truth. We don’t have much truth to express unless we have gone into those rooms and closets and woods and abysses that we were told not to go in to. When we have gone in and looked around for a long while, just breathing and finally taking it in—then we will be able to speak in our own voice and to stay in the present moment. And that moment is home.

Become a Better Leader in 2022

PS: (In Part 3, I wrote a bit about how the Buddhist teaching about a not-yet-broken vase had helped with processing my mother’s passing in May of 2008. I don’t have room to include it all here but if you have the book, it’s on page 145. If you don’t have the book and want to read it, email me.)

Consider joining me, a host of great speakers, and a few hundred caring collaborative participants at ZingTrain’s December 9 online symposium. “Intentional Leadership: Your Guide to Leading in 2022.” You can use the catchy code they gave me (ARI) to get an additional 20% off the early bird price! Head to for more details.

A stick of salami with a cut end, thin slices laying next to it.

Gentle Giant Salami from Red Table Meat Co.

A hand-cut piece of world-class charcuterie from Minneapolis

If you’re a fan of cured meat, come pick up some of this new salami we have on hand at the Deli. Mike Phillips has been around artisan pork for much of his life. He studied the making of salumi and cured pork with Francois Vecchio, the amazing elder statesman of charcuterie in the U.S. I’ve been learning from Francois for over thirty years now; the fact that Phillips brought Francois in as one his teachers was pretty much a guarantee of the small artisan firm’s good work. In 2014, Phillips founded Red Table Meat Co. in Minneapolis to craft artisan salumi and cured pork products.

The Gentle Giant is one of Red Table’s newer offerings, and Connor Valone at the Deli is already a huge fan. Connor has a great palate and his passion for good food has helped make him an integral part of the Deli’s team over the last few years. The week before last, he emailed to share his enthusiasm for this newly-arrived salami:

Red Table head honcho Mike Phillips teamed up with his long-time friend, neighbor and former coworker, Greg Reynolds, of Delano, Minnesota, who has been growing traditional Hungarian peppers for paprika. Red Table takes those peppers and mixes them with coarsely hand-cut Berkshire and Red Wattle pork meat and fat, and stuffs it (without grinding!) into a beef bung casing before it cures into a beautiful large format young salami. The taste is exquisite, and unlike anything else we have in our case right now. The peppers build from a bright late-summer bell pepper perfume into moderate heat, melding harmoniously with the generous and delicate fat chunks. As always, we preach Mike’s gospel of cutting his salumi into chunks and enjoying it in bite sized pieces as opposed to thin slices, but either way, the Gentle Giant is tasting damn fine. When the staff tasted and scored the Gentle Giant, everyone gave it a 10. And we can’t remember the last time that any product has received nothing but 10’s!

Connor included some of the team’s tasting notes:

  • Brilliant texture, the balance of the sweetness from the pork and the “pop” of pepper flavor. Clean finish, lingers nicely.

  • Paprika is perfect; there’s a tang or a bright note going on; the texture is as worth savoring as the taste. Stupendous!

  • There is nothing about this salami that could be better than it already is. Flavor, texture, seasoning, finish: all perfect!

The Gentle Giant is great on a charcuterie board, for sandwiches, and paired with cheese. As Mike and Connor do, I prefer it cut into thicker pieces, the better chance to chew and appreciate the fullness of the flavor. Like everything from Red Table, the quality of the pork is what comes through, along with subtle supportive flavors of the spices (cheap salamis taste mostly of garlic, but very little of the actual meat). I like the Gentle Giant a lot in scrambled eggs—simply add the cubes of the salami to the eggs while they’re cooking, so it can hold onto its texture and its fat. Add small cubes of Gentle Giant to pasta, green salads, or rice dishes. It’s a wonderful new arrival!

You can find the Gentle Giant for sale at the Deli. It’s not on the Mail Order site, but we’re happy to ship you some. (We do have the Vecchio Salami from Red Table Meat Co. on the site.) Email us at

Get Gentle Giant from the Deli
A red bag of Holiday Blend coffee beans.

Holiday Blend from the Coffee Company

A beautiful brew that can turn any day into a holiday

If you’re thinking about what to drink when you dive into a nice bite of pie from the Bakehouse, this seasonal brew from the Coffee Company is the perfect pairing. We’ve been doing an annual Holiday Blend for over a decade now—the 2021 vintage maintains the tradition of marvelous flavors while still bringing its own personality to the flavorful fore! This year, Steve, Matthew, Chris, and everyone at the Coffee Company have put together a trio of terrific beans: half Espresso #1, and a quarter each of our Peru Corral de Piedra and our Costa Rica Willows Special Reserve. Matthew says:

When we developed this year’s Holiday Blend, we paired two of our favorite estate coffees from Hacienda Miramonte in Costa Rica and Daterra Estate in Brazil with beans from the ASPROAGRO co-op in Peru. We have been sourcing each of these coffees for many years and are proud to have shaken hands with the producers. These relationships will last many more years to come—the attention and care of the producers are reflected in the flavor of each cup! This blend is rich, layered, and silky smooth with hints of cocoa.

The 2021 Holiday Blend has been tasting terrific in every form I’ve tried, but I was particularly happy with the Chemex brewing method. The “dark chocolate” in it came out nicely and it made for incredibly smooth sipping. However you prepare it, I feel confident that you’ll be happy to have some of this year’s Holiday Blend! Here’s to good things to come!

At the Coffee Company, Deli, Roadhouse, and Mail Order!

Buy Holiday Blend from the Coffee Co.
Cookies with toasted coconut shreds on top.

Almondinger Cookies from the Bakehouse

A tasty vegan cookie and its connection to a classic Ann Arbor park

In our Zingerman’s 2032 Vision, we share:

Our dedication to the Ann Arbor area is a huge piece of what makes us who we are. It challenges us to stay close, it excites us, it makes us creative. It’s a powerful and paradoxical paradigm. By choosing to stay local, we have opened up opportunities we never imagined. We understand the wisdom of Zen poet Gary Snyder’s words, “First, don’t move; and second, find out what that teaches you.”

These new cookies are one of many small ways in which we can grow our community roots more deeply than ever. If you’re not a local, the name “Almondinger” for the cookie is a play on words for the well-known park on the west side of Ann Arbor, located on Pauline Boulevard, about two miles from the Roadhouse. The Allmendinger family arrived in the area all the way back in 1832, a couple years before the farmhouse at what is now Zingerman’s Cornman Farms was built. The family came from Germany—in the spirit of what we’re working toward with staff ownership and inclusive decision making, the name “Allmende” means “common pasture,” or “that which is commonly held.” The family papers are held now at the Bentley Historical Library, which also happens to hold the Zingerman’s archive. The park was founded through a generous gift of three and a quarter acres in 1917 from Frank Allmendinger in honor of his grandfather, John George Allmendinger, the first in the family to immigrate to the area. Allmendinger wrote the letter to the city on May 8, 1917, a few months after the Revolution in Russia had ended the Tsar’s rule and while WWI was in the depths of its long period of darkness. Pauline Boulevard, by the way, is named for Pauline Allmendinger. In the spirit of our move to mill our own grain here at the Bakehouse, Mr. Allmendinger was co-owner of Michigan Mills, one of the last of the local milling businesses I mentioned last month.

The Almondinger cookie is a new vegan addition, along with the new and super tasty chocolate millet muffins. The Bakehouse crew say:

The newest cookie in our line-up features a flavorful blend of coconut (times two, with both coconut oil and toasted flake coconut) and almonds (times two again, with both almond butter and toasted almonds). Over half the flour in this cookie is freshly milled whole grain Michigan wheat, adding even more flavor!

You can nibble them with your lunch, have one for dessert after dinner, or take them on a trip. I like mine topped with jelly or jam because it’s like an “almond butter and jelly sandwich.” Better still, top the jam off with a toasted almond (even one of those nice spicy Spanish ones we have at the Deli) so you get the contrast of the crunch of the whole almond.

If you’re out and about this month, stop by the Bakehouse, Deli, or Roadhouse to pick up a couple of these new almond cookies from the Bakehouse.

Order an Almondinger Cookie from the Bakehouse
A bag of red lentils

Red Lentil Soup to Make at Home

Satisfying soup for cold weather

I love a good lentil, and this time of year, when the weather is colder and darkness comes sooner, I find them particularly comforting. This great soup is ideal for quick cooking, and you can make a big pot of it and work it throughout the week!

The red lentils we have in stock come from the small firm of Zürsun in Idaho. The company was started by John and Lola Weyman to work with small family farms that grow beans in the state, all the way back in 1985, a few years after we opened the Deli. I’m a particular fan of their red lentils both because of their flavor and because they can be cooked quickly.

To make the soup, bring a couple quarts of cold water to a boil. While you’re waiting for the water to heat up, you can add two or three carrots along with three or four stalks of celery, cut into one-inch pieces. Add onion, fresh fennel, or bell pepper if you like, also cut into roughly one-inch pieces. Add a small handful of fresh, flat leaf parsley leaves. Add some sea salt to taste, a few tablespoons of good olive oil, and a couple of bay leaves. If you want to keep the soup vegan, simply simmer the water and vegetables for about ten minutes so that the vegetables start to surrender some of the flavor to the water. Alternatively, if you want to season the soup with a bit of meat, a little of the pit-smoked chicken from the Roadhouse is delectable (also cut into small chunks), as is the pulled pork. Bacon would be great as well, or you could even use a mix of all three. When the vegetables have begun to get soft, add about half a bag of the red lentils and stir. Bring the liquid back to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes until the lentils soften and are cooked through. Just so you’re mentally prepared for the loss, the lentils will turn from red to brown while they’re cooking. Taste for salt, and add a bit of freshly ground black pepper. (The ever-creative Connor Valone made the good suggestion to add a bit of the Mahjoub family’s chopped preserved lemon as well!) If you stop cooking at that point, the lentils will be soft but retain a bit of their round shape. If you want to go longer, they will slowly turn into more of a purée. I like it both ways. When you’re ready to serve, you can crumble some feta at the bottom of each soup bowl, then ladle in the soup. Drizzle on a bit of extra virgin olive oil and more black pepper.

The Red Lentil Soup will keep well all week. If you like, you can use some of your leftovers as a pasta sauce. Cook up any of the great short shape pastas we have on hand, like the Mancini Mezze Maniche I wrote about last week, the Rustichella Saragallo Wheat maccheroni, or the Gentile Vesuvio. While the pasta is cooking, gently heat some of the soup in a saucepan. Add a little of the pasta-cooking water to the soup while it’s heating up to thin it a bit. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and then add it to the soup/sauce. Toss well and then let it simmer for a few minutes so the sauce absorbs into the pasta. Add a bit more olive oil and then spoon it all into warm bowls. Dress with a small bit of extra virgin olive oil and some grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino and a good bit of red pepper flakes!

The Deli Has Red Lentils For You!

Other Things on My Mind


Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by Suzanne Simard is an amazing book about trees and the forest ecosystem. It’s all about collaboration and connection. Stay tuned for metaphorical learnings for the organizational ecosystem model!

IR 60 Indigenous And Black WisDub: A Soundbook And Soundtrack For Critical And Cultural Resistance by Ebilotoh and Dubzaine. I have my print copy on order and already have the PDF downloaded from buying the album. As they say in the liner notes, “IR invites you to a dialogue, hoping it will widen your vision, challenge your preconceptions, and encourage self-reflection.” Includes insight on the pre-colonial histories of anarchist Africa, indigenous peoples’ struggles around the world and more.


Very thought provoking and productive podcast by Kristen Tippett with scientist Katherine Hayhoe about the climate change issue that I started last week’s “Seventh Story” piece with.

Dark Leaves is the recording name of Cornish guitarist Patrick Aston. He plays beautiful English folk, acoustic guitar. Lovely listening. 

Lana Lou, whose latest release is A Rainbow Across the Land, is a solo singer-songwriter that I can’t find any info about at all. I’m loving her work. 

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