Ari's Top 5

...We have to find ways to love and support each other through tough times. It is more than just believing that we can win: we need to have structures in place that can carry us through when we feel like we cannot go another step. I think we can move again if we can figure out some of those things. This system has got to come down. It hurts us every day and we can’t give up. We have to get there. We have to find new ways.
Ashanti Alston

Secret #1 Pamphlet

The Natural Laws of Business 

Do they still hold true in a pandemic?


One of the best parts of working with great people is that they ask me thought-provoking questions. Questions that no one ever asked me before. The other day, Maggie Bayless, co-managing partner of  ZingTrain, threw some good ones my way: “How do the 12 Natural Laws of Business apply in a pandemic? Will following them still help when we’re in a crisis? Do they apply differently? And are some more helpful than others to focus on in times of crisis?” Having spent a week working through Maggie’s questions, here are a few thoughts. 

The Natural Laws, as the name implies, would hold true today the same way they would apply in whatever the opposite of a pandemic is. Nature is nature. Natural laws don’t stop working in the rain or in the snow or drought. They don’t dissolve under duress. Or evaporate when there’s economic hardship. 

Are they relevant to the crisis—crises—we’re dealing with right now? My answer is also yes. Certain laws may be pushed more to the fore. But they all still apply. Ultimately, for me, consciously trying to work in harmony with the Natural Laws brings beauty, order, and balance to our ecosystems. The work to live them may not be easy, but it is ultimately a wonderful thing to be part of. As the amazing 19th-century astronomer Maria Mitchell said, “Every formula which expresses a law of nature is a hymn of praise to God.”  

So how can we explain a pandemic in the context of the Natural Laws? Even the healthiest of organizational ecosystems are stressed right now. I know ours is here at Zingerman’s. We furloughed nearly three hundred people who were part of our organization. We’re financially challenged—paying bills on half of normal sales is never easy. But if we do our work well, we will do it in harmony with the Natural Laws. 

I’m not sure the best metaphor for a pandemic in the context of organizational ecosystems. At first, I thought of forest fires. But when a big fire rages, pretty much everything in its path is burned down. And in this case, with the pandemic, some places and some people are still doing ok, while others have fared much worse. Which got me thinking instead about the metaphor of an earthquake. Clearly, when they happen, everyone in the ecosystem feels it. But while some buildings come down completely, others (even some right across the street) are barely damaged. While the impact is evident, most things are still sort of in the same place they were the day before it happened. Many things are still identifiable in their old form, even if they’re no longer functioning. Aftershocks continue. Cracks have opened—people and organizations have fallen in and been lost to us. Grieving and loss commence. First responders are out in the world doing their best, under duress, to make a positive difference.  

Can we rebuild? Yes. I believe we can. It will be a long term project. I remember visiting San Francisco after the earthquake of 1989—parts of the highways that collapsed didn’t come back for years. So maybe, for the moment, I’ll posit that pandemics are the corollary of an earthquake. If that’s the case, then, to Maggie’s good question, the Natural Laws continue—as they did last year and the year before that—to govern the ultimate effectiveness with which we work. So do the Natural Laws still hold true in a pandemic? I believe they do. Living in harmony with them will NOT make all the problems go away. But it does mean we will be more effective as we struggle through the recovery from this massive “earthquake.” 

What does that mean? The conclusion seems likely that the organizations and individuals who live in harmony with the Natural Laws will, for the most part, I believe, come through this period of recovery and reflection, more effectively. University of Michigan professor and agroecologist says, “Our philosophy is mostly one of prevention, keeping the farm strong and healthy with a lot of natural enemies that can combat the pests, rather than trying to solve a problem once it has emerged.” Or as jazz musician Thelonious Monk once said, “Stay in shape! Sometimes a musician waits for a gig and when it comes, he’s out of shape and can’t make it.” 

Maggie and I will talk more on the subject in an upcoming webinar on June 9, but here’s one example. Take #1 on the list of Natural Laws: "An inspiring, strategically sound vision leads the way 
to greatness (especially if you write it down!)."

We were, as it happens, about to start formally rolling out our 2032 vision draft the week after the pandemic hit. A fair few folks I know out in the world assumed that we’d have to rewrite the whole thing. I kept hearing that so much it got me worried. I reread it. And then I reread it again. I talked to many of the partners and staff in the ZCoB about it. I reread it a third time to write this piece. I honestly don’t think we need to change anything. Every benefit of vision still holds. Even under duress, it builds a mindset of pushing for more positive futures. Hopeful people are more likely to hold course. 

A vision alone is not enough. In the week since I first drafted this piece, the country has, understandably, exploded with rage, sadness, and anger after watching the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. If George Floyd’s death was an isolated incident it would be easy to assign it to the category of “bad cop kills innocent victim.” But because he was one of millions of Black and Indigenous People of Color who have lost their lives over the course of 500 years—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly and quietly, sometimes economically, sometimes spiritually—by a culture, a system, and a long-standing set of deeply held (if not always openly acknowledged or understood) beliefs about race in North America, the massive response seems right. And natural. 

I have much, much more to learn as we all process this pain and more importantly begin the long, introspective and interconnected work to address the causes behind it. Not the momentary issues. The root causes. In the organizational ecosystem, beliefs are roots. Five centuries of root system makes for some deep roots. They don’t come out easily. As an element of the ecosystem in which all this has been taking place for so many generations I am—we are—by definition a part of the problem. But we can, by choice, opt to be an active part of the solution. The Zingerman’s 2032 vision includes a section that addresses this subject. Does it fix everything? Of course not. Have we implemented it all well here? Of course not. We have a long way to go, much to learn, and much improvement to be made. (Natural Law #8: "To get to greatness you’ve got to keep getting better, all the time!")

As many of you already know, I’ve been working for the last four or five years to put together a list of additional Natural Laws. Ones that I didn’t understand when the first list (prompted by Paul’s suggestion) was put together 10 years ago. This is a good place and time, I think, to share a few of the top entries. All three are things that I’ve written about elsewhere; neither is anything I invented. Like all the Natural Laws, they’re anything but new. They just are. They’re true, all the time, whether we want them to be or not. We ignore them at our own risk. While we can hold nature down for periods of time, in the end, nature will trump artificially imposed constructs. As Masanobu Fukuoka writes in One Straw Revolution, “If we throw mother nature out the window, she comes back in the door with a pitchfork.” Violating these laws will not, in the long term ever work.” In which case, our entire ecosystem—and all of us in it—will continue to fail. 

So for the moment, here are three from my draft list:  

If we want to create a positive healthy organization we must do it based on positive beliefs. Racism is based, by contrast, on negative beliefs. It’s based on hierarchical thinking. It’s based on the belief that one can gain advantage by holding back and pushing down another. Those beliefs violate human nature. 

Secondly, everything l learn about working in harmony with nature (and I have a LOT more to learn) tells me that the healthiest ecosystems are the most diverse. When we destroy diversity in nature, we pay the price. We get monocropping, droughts. Dust bowls. When we destroy or demean diversity in our organizations—whether our businesses or our communities—we pay a similarly severe price. In the ecosystem metaphor I’ve been working on, culture is “soil.” Leah Penniman, in her powerfully good book, Farming While Black, writes, “The question is not how to add life to the soil, but how not to destroy it.” To do that, as Eunice Minettte Schuster wrote a hundred years ago, we do best with “Diversity in unity, unity in diversity is the ideal.”  

Third from this working list is that health comes from humility. Believing that we have the answer, believing we aren’t part of the problem, believing that we can achieve success alone without support from those around us, believing that we have not benefited from the advantages or our ecosystem . . . is the opposite of humility. It may win short term headlines, but nature tells me that in the long run it’s simply not sustainable. 

If we come together to live respecting every single human being, working actively to rebalance our ecosystem and right past wrongs, each taking ownership of our part of the problem, we can create positive movement forward from the pain we have ourselves created. Like physical therapy, the work to heal will be painful. But we all need to do the work. As the poet Gary Snyder said, “When an ecosystem is fully functioning, all the members are present at the assembly.” This recovery is not going to be quick. It will probably make the economic recovery we face look easy. Ecosystems can’t be changed for the better in 8 hours. But this, I believe, is our work. Today. Tomorrow. For the rest of our lives. If we stick with it, work to right past wrongs, honor human rights, slowly, good things will come to our organizational and community ecosystems. 

Get the Secret
P.S. Paul wrote a powerful piece on behalf of the ZCoB.

P.P.S. For more on the Natural Laws, see Secret #1 in Part 1, and Secret #36 in Part 3. Your discount code on ZingTrain’s site is community2020. 

P.P.P.S. The free webinar Maggie and I are doing will be on June 9 at 1PM EST on how the 12 Natural Laws help organizations during times of crisis.
Arugula, Avocado, Pistachio, and Sumac Salad

Arugula, Avocado, Pistachio, and Sumac Salad for Spring 

Lovely light salad for spring

While we’re working on bigger and far more important long term issues, here’s a small scrumptious spring salad that you can put together in under 10 minutes.

The salad starts with some nice spring arugula. Lay a bunch of leaves on a plate, one plate per person—these proportions I’m sharing are enough for two. Take a nice ripe avocado. Cut it in half and take out the pit. Scoop the avocado halves out of the skin and place them, cut side up, on the plate. Crumble a bit of feta on top. I’m hooked on the full, smooth, and not salty flavor of the barrel-aged Greek feta we have at the Deli. The fresh City Goat cheese from the Creamery would work well. And that Sardinian ricotta salata that we have at the Deli would be terrific. Sprinkle on some lightly toasted pistachios. I love the baby pistachios we get from woman farmers in Afghanistan—we have them at the Deli and at the Coffee Company. (If you don’t have pistachios I’m guessing that chopped almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts would work well too.) Sprinkle a little bit of fleur de sel and some of the Marash red pepper flakes from Turkey—they aren’t all that spicy-hot, but you can add less or more to fit your taste. Drizzle on some extra virgin olive oil. Then sprinkle a good bit of crushed sumac. 

The sumac is the key to the salad—it brings a lemony tartness to the mix that fills the sour role that vinegar or citrus would play. It brightens up the dish beautifully with its color and brings it alive with its sour sweetness. It’s the sumac that makes the salad into something special. 

Sumac, if you don’t already know it, is the fruit of a tree that’s native to the Middle East, and the dried, crushed berries are used throughout the region. Its tart, sourish, lemony flavor, and big aroma are a great addition to all sorts of food. At the Deli we have some super good sumac sourced from Turkey by our friends at Épices de Cru in Montreal. It’s a beautiful deep rusty red color. Sumac, Philippe and Ethne de Vienne say, “is traditionally used to acidify and give a fruity flavor to grilled fish, meat dishes, marinades, and vegetable salads. It is an essential spice in the cuisines of Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan, among others. Sumac is also a basic ingredient of za'atar.” In Jordan, folks will commonly sprinkle it on top of hummus and baba ghanoush. It’s essential in the Palestinian dish of Musakhan—roast chicken with onions, sumac, saffron, allspice, served over flatbread. You can sprinkle it on anything—it's wonderful on ripe tomatoes and/or cucumbers (along with sea salt and extra virgin olive oil) when they start showing up at the market later this summer. For what it’s worth, sumac is also said to have a host of health benefits—a positive impact on blood pressure, high in anti-inflammatories and antioxidants. 

The salad itself is a series of gentle flavors highlighted by the lively sourness of the sumac. The deep red of sumac looks great on the green of the avocado and the arugula. The toastiness of the pistachios provides textural contrast too. Toast a slice of True North or Paesano bread from the Bakehouse and dress with some good olive oil. Appreciate the moment. Maybe make plans to make a positive difference. 

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Chernushka Rye Bread from Zingerman's Bakehouse

Chernushka Rye Bread

Special bake for this Saturday June 5 and Sunday June 6 


This weekend a Special Bake is coming up of one my favorite breads of all time—we only make it a few times a year so I would be seriously remiss if I failed to fill you in about its imminent arrival. On Saturday, June 5 and Sunday, June 6 you can get a loaf at the Bakehouse or Deli, or have it shipped from Mail Order. If you’ve had Chernushka rye before, you’re likely one of the small but mighty cadre of men and women who love it dearly. If you’ve never had it . . . if you’re inclined towards slightly exotic but not over the edge flavors, I’m gonna bet that you’ll love it too. It’s pretty low risk—if you buy a loaf and you don’t like it, don’t worry—we’ll just give you your money back or swap you out for a bread you’d rather be eating. 

Chernushki (the Russian plural for Chernushka) are the tiny black seeds that you might see in some more formally written about as Nigella. While they have a bit of a peppery flavor, they aren’t related to peppercorns. The word “chernuyi” in Russian means “black,” which is what they are—very deep, dense, black in color. Chernushka seeds are (also known as kalonji) are native to the Middle East and India. They’re used a lot in bread but also in other recipes as well. Their flavor is intriguing. For me, almost intoxicating. It’s said to have a hint of thyme, licorice, onion . . . if you want to cook with Chernushka seeds, sprinkle them on salads, pasta dishes, and more. Really good on roasted potatoes! Plays well with other spices too for curries or the classic Bengalese masala Panch Phoran (which also includes cumin, fenugreek, mustard seed, fennel). 

Amy Emberling, co-managing partner at the Bakehouse and co-author of Zingerman’s Bakehouse (where you can find the rye recipe!) says,

The floral and spicy aroma of this bread is distinctive, foreign, and exotic. To many, it's completely unidentifiable. For me the aroma transports me back 40 years or so to my 10-year-old self, doing errands with my beloved mother during our Saturday afternoon routine. I'm the youngest of four and this weekly tradition was my way to have some personal time with my mother. One regular stop on our weekly route was the childhood Deli of my youth, Ike's. While our Montreal Smoked Meat was being sliced and the adults had adult conversation, I happily explored the shelves full of foreign, unfamiliar foods and took in the unusual smells of the store. Unbeknownst to me, until I started baking this bread here in the ‘90s one of these aromas was Chernushka. It brings me joy just to breathe this bread.

The health benefits of Chernushka seeds are legendary. You’d have to eat a good bit of the seeds to benefit, but why not? Muhammad once stated, “The black seed can heal every disease, except death.” They’re also said to act as a natural insect repellent—take a loaf with you in the back yard and try it out. 

The most important part of this equation though is the eating. I think the chernushka rye is really good with corned beef or pastrami. Or, as Amy alluded, with Montreal smoked meat. Add chopped liver and smoked whitefish salad to the list. Or use it as the base for very memorable BLT. Toast it and spread it Creamery Cream Cheese or goat cheese. Cut a thick slice from a fresh loaf and spread it with that really good cultured butter. FWIW, it freezes well so buy a bunch while you can. 

As a small aside, “Chernushka” was also the name of one of the dogs who went up in an early Soviet space flight. Chernushka’s trip into space started on March 9, 1961. The flight was successful and Chernushka returned to Earth alive and well. 

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A bag of Guatemala Buena Esperanza coffee beans

Guatemala Buena Esperanza

Wonderful new micro-lot coffee from northwest Guatemala 


Steve Mangigian, managing partner at the Coffee Company, says, “This is one of the best Guatemalans we’ve tasted in years!” Since Guatemalans are generally one of my favorites, that was all I needed to hear. As Steve said, “The coffee is super mild, very chocolatey, a  nice balance of acidity to cocoa. And it’s got a long clean and sweet finish.” I agree with Steve—it’s pretty terrific! 

Back in the ’60s, Scott McKenzie sang the famous song: “If you're going to San Francisco, Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair; If you're going to San Francisco, You're gonna meet some gentle people there.” He was talking about San Francisco, California of course. But he could have written it about San Francisco, the small town in northwest Guatemala, not from the farm where this fabulous Buena Esperanza coffee is grown. The gentle spirit of the song, the focus on beauty and love, care and compassion, all come together in this very compelling micro-lot coffee that’s just lately arrived. Pretty much every staffer at the Coffee Company is all abuzz about it. And, now, I am too. I’m betting you will be too! 

The coffee comes to us from a man I’ve yet to meet, Noe Castillo. The beans are grown on his family’s small six-and-a-half hectare- (about 16 acre-) farm. It’s up in the remote mountain regions of northwest Guatemala not far, as I said, from the small town of San Francisco. The region is one of the most diverse in the country, with a strong presence of Maya people—there are seven different Maya dialects spoken in the area. Noe’s mother worked on the farm for like forty years; now his brothers all work there as well. The family clearly has a great work ethic and a strong commitment to quality. Because, with all due respect to Steve, Chris, Asa, and everyone who roasts at the Coffee Company, not even an alchemist could turn only average raw material into an amazing coffee like this. 

The coffee is grown, under cover of shade trees, at about 1,900 meters—the high altitude contributes to complexity of flavor. The beans are “washed” to remove the pulp, which enhances some of its soft mellowness. It really does taste terrific—I’ve seen others use flavor descriptors like sweet iced tea, green grapes, brown sugar, brown butter, honeydew melon, golden currants and raisins. It’s definitely juicy, silky, floral . . . the Guatemala Buena Esperanza is a subtle set of flavors that remind me of freshly made cinnamon toast. It’s terrific. No wonder everyone who works at the Coffee Company has been singing its praises for the last few weeks. 

Buena Esperanza, of course, means “good hope.” It’s well-named for any time, but all the more so for the current state of the country and the world. (For more on how to actively work to build hope—at home and at work—see Secrets #44 and #45 in Part 4.) Both for the quality of the growing, the roasting, and the quality of care that Castillo family commit . . . this coffee is, for me, a sign of positive hope for a healthy, collaborative, ecologically sound future. As anarchist Peter Kropotkin once said, “it is always hope . . . which makes revolutions.”
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Bottles of Caricato Estate’s Lucrezia Olive Oil at Zingerman's Deli

Caricato Estate’s Lucrezia Olive Oil 

Elegant oil from the heel of the Italia 


If you’re looking for something new to dress some of those beautiful spring vegetables that are coming on the market, here’s an outstanding option. It’s a new arrival from the far southeastern corner of Italy, right about at the base of where the Achilles tendon would be if you’re looking at the land anatomically. The oil is truly well made, and lighter than many of the peppery and earthy oils from further inland in the region. While some of my favorites—(try La Spineta from an hour north, near Bari) are, in the best possible way, upfront and in your face, the Caricato Lucrezia oil is gentler. For this oil, they use a blend of Cellina di Nardò, Ogliarola di Lecce, and Cornulara olives. The result is definitely more delicate, but still with a whole lot of complexity and character. On a piece of toasted French baguette, it was beautiful. 

Here’s how the folks at the farm describe the flavor: 

It has a moderately intense fruity aroma, with a hint of herbs. Fresh and clean, it is reminiscent of almond and other white fruit. On the palate the impact is soft and round and sweet with the perfect balance of bitter and spicy notes, with a distinct artichoke flavour. The aftertaste is reminiscent of almond and green grass with a touch of spice.

I like the description. And I like the oil. The Caricato Lucrezia would be super with seafood—pour a bit on a piece of fish hot out of the broiler, or on chilled poached salmon steaks. Lovely on an avocado—it’s a great addition to the salad I wrote about above. Great on all the spring asparagus. Super on simple slices of smoked salmon. Ideal on green and seafood salads, on pasta dishes or with spring lettuces.  

The Caricato farm is just to the southwest of the ancient Baroque town of Lecce. Elizabeth Minchilli, who’s married to an Italian architect whose family is from Puglia, says, “No matter how many times I visit, Lecce completely takes my breath away every time.” It’s been years since I’ve been but I also remember it as being remarkably magical. It’s also the home of Pastificio Cavalieri, the place that Cavalieri family has been making pasta for over a hundred years now. If you’d like to read more about them, email me and I’ll send you an essay that will help you imagine the elegance and passion that’s a hallmark of their pasta. The family have been wheat farmers in the area since 1872, and started making pasta in 1918—that’s right, in the middle of the Spanish flu pandemic. (Between the war and the flu, the population of the country declined by about 2 percent that year—over 600,000 Italians died in 1918.) The Cavalieri family are some of the most wonderful and welcoming people I’ve ever met. The Caricato Lucrezia oil would be wonderful with Cavalieri’s pasta and pieces of asparagus. Gently cook the asparagus in a sauté pan, lightly salted, with some of the oil. You can add pancetta if you’re in the mood for pork. (If you have a bit of the Roadhouse’s pulled pork hanging around that’s a great ingredient in this dish too.) When the pasta is al dente, drain. (First though, save a small bit of the cooking water). Toss the pasta with the asparagus and pork, cook for a minute or two. Add a bunch of black pepper and a few tablespoons or so of the cooking water. Grate on a bit of pecorino cheese. Drizzle on some of the Caricato Lucrezia oil before serving! Super! 

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A Pugliese P.S. Pettole has long been one of the specialties of the region. Essentially, it’s bits of dough fried in extra virgin olive oil. If all of y’all have been baking half as much as folks say you are during the pandemic, then the odds are high that you have a few bits and pieces of dough laying around. Pettole are the perfect use for them. The origin story of pettole is that a local woman was baking and her bread dough got too sour before she could bake it. Rather than waste it, she decided to turn into something good to eat. The result was pettole. A thousand years later, they’re an essential element of Pugliese eating. Some people make them savory—adding diced olives to the dough is a common approach. Others make them sweet—usually dipped in coarse sugar after frying, like you would a beignet in New Orleans, or served with the local cooked down wine syrup (vincotto) or with honey or jam. They’re historically eaten especially around Christmas but people love them pretty much any time they can get them. Elizabeth Minchilli, getting right to the point, says – “Pettole. Fried dough. Need I say more?”

Other things on my mind: 

  • Music: Amaria Hamadalher is the ONLY professional woman guitarist in her home country of Niger. The music is amazing—it takes me back to the old acoustic blues but comes from the other side of the world. Pay what you want if you like it—all the money goes to her!
  • Books: Henry Louis Gates' Stony the Road
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