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With vision and reciprocal commitment, power is given away, then grows, then more is given back.

Matthew Barzun
A black and white photo of a hand holding a printed copy of Zingerman's Training Compact

Taking a Look at Zingerman’s Training Compact—25 Years Later

The creative ideas of a German Lit major from Oberlin and an early 19th-century Catalan anarchist could change your organization

Poet Naomi Shihab Nye says, “Questions are very helpful. Begin with a few you’re carrying right now.” So, in the spirit of Ms. Shihab Nye’s suggestion, here are a few questions with which to start this conversation: What if I told you I had a tool that you could put to work in your organization that would increase the use of free choice, honor complexity, and distribute power (carbon) more effectively in the metaphorical cultural soil of your ecosystem? What if the same tool would also increase the odds of making dignity a daily reality, and drive everyone in your organization towards a healthy practice of positive humbleness? Not only that, but it could improve the practical application of equity and increase inclusion in meaningful ways. What if that very same tool, if you stick with it, might likely have the potential to gently encourage the people you work with to learn to think like leaders, and also in less hierarchical ways? And what if that same tool could even possibly start to shift society in a positive direction at the same time without harming anyone or requiring controversial public conflict? What if that tool costs you essentially nothing to implement? It might sound like a fantasy, but it’s actually for real. And, although it’s never to my knowledge been written about in any of the national business articles about us, almost everyone who works here will have seen it and talked about it many times. It’s one of the essential elements of what makes Zingerman’s, as you know it, Zingerman’s. We call it our Training Compact.

We’ve been using the Training Compact here, imperfectly, for over 25 years now. It was developed by Maggie Bayless of ZingTrain back in 1995. Maggie wrote much more about it, along with pieces about many of her other quietly revolutionary training practices, in the Bottom-Line Training® Trainer’s Toolkit. It’s one of the many pieces of our organization that gets little attention in the press, but I would suggest that the Training Compact is one of the most radical, maybe downright revolutionary, things we’ve done in all our 39 and a half years of doing business. The Training Compact has consistently made many of our ideas about freedom and accountability come alive in incredibly impactful ways. While few folks realize it, nearly every product you purchase from us, every service interaction you have, every word you read, or drawing your eyes devour, has been made, baked, brewed, or edited by someone whose work and worldview have been informed by it.

Where did the Training Compact come from? Let me take you back to the mid-90s, shortly after Maggie, Paul, and I had started ZingTrain. One of Maggie’s first projects was to do a “needs assessment” at the Deli for us about training. In the spirit of Natural Law #10—To get to greatness you need to keep getting better all the time—we wanted to see what was working and where the big holes were in the training work we were already doing. Over the course of a couple months Maggie learned many things, and from those learnings she later developed the core of what we now regularly refer to as Bottom-Line Training. There are a couple key components—one is the Training Compact (the other is what we call the “Four Training Plan Questions” which you can read more about in Maggie’s marvelous e-book).

Backing up a bit, Maggie grew up in southern Ohio. She went to Oberlin College where she majored in German Literature. After graduating, she moved to Chicago where she worked in a bank. Eventually she made her way to Ann Arbor where she got a job waiting tables at a local restaurant. In the great coincidental connections of our world, it happened to be the same place that Paul and I were working. Later Maggie would go back to school to get her MBA at U of M. After graduating she worked for a few years at General Motors, then shifted to a small consulting firm here in town where she grew very passionate about professional training design. Shortly after she started that job, Paul and I shared our Vision for Zingerman’s 2009. In it we wrote about creating a Community of Businesses here in the Ann Arbor area, each a unique Zingerman’s business with its own specialty, and each with a managing partner who had a passion for what that business did. It inspired and intrigued Maggie so much that she proposed the idea for ZingTrain. Six months or so later, it was a reality. We started small, as I’ve heard her say so many times now, Maggie working in her attic with “a computer, a fax modem, and a tri-fold marketing brochure.”

One of the unexpected conclusions of Maggie’s study of our training was that seemingly strong new staff members were leaving. The problem, surprisingly, was that although the managers thought the new employee was making great progress, the trainees felt like they were failing. There was, Maggie saw, a mismatch of expectations. The trainees compared themselves to long time colleagues who had mastered the job; the managers were expecting much less of a new employee than someone who’d been there for two years, but the trainees didn’t know that. Feeling like they were falling short, the new hires would decide to gracefully exit in the best interest, they believed, of all involved. As she struggled to find a good solution for this not very good problem, Maggie was reading Stephen Gill’s book, The Learning Alliance: Systems Thinking in Human Resource Development. A long time, much loved member of the progressive learning community and a loyal Zingerman’s customer, Stephen died in December of 2019. His spirit and his creative teaching on training continues on apace all over the country, and here at Zingerman’s through Maggie’s meaningful adaptations of his work. Maggie definitely remembers that we taught the Training Compact in the very first Zingerman’s Experience Seminar on March 31 and April 1 of 1996.

So, what is the Training Compact? Visually, it looks like this:

Trainees agree to:

  • Take responsibility for the effectiveness of their own training.

Trainers agree to:

  • Document clear performance expectations.
  • Provide the training resources.
  • Recognize performance.
  • Reward performance.

As I often say, the stuff on the left side of the Training Compact was essentially what Paul and I had already been trying to do. It was helpful to have it written down, but it wasn’t a huge shift. The big change was what Maggie put on the right side of the Compact—it made the trainee responsible for their own training. Twenty-five years later, the statement sounds reasonable to those who read it (and to folks in the ZCoB, almost obvious), but it was one of the most radical moves we ever made. Here’s a bit of what Maggie wrote in her e-book, The ZingTrain Bottom-Line Trainer’s Toolkit:

In a nutshell, trainees own the fact that they will learn what they need to know to be successful on the job. The Training Compact is reviewed in every class and on every training shift. If we’re doing our jobs well, we’re talking about it during the interview process and encouraging candidates to demonstrate their willingness to take responsibility for the effectiveness of their training by asking lots of questions. At the end of the day, no one can make someone else learn. We each decide for ourselves if we will do what it takes to learn what is needed to be successful in our jobs. And if we’re not clear on what is expected or if we are not getting the training resources we need, it is our responsibility to ask for help.

What was so radical about this simple construct? It shifted the responsibility to be more equitable. The change was incredibly effective. When Maggie pointed out to me and Paul that you simply cannot make anyone learn, I immediately started to compare the old top-down training model we were still using to my experience of high school. “They” could make me show up at class, but whether or not anything actually entered my brain in a meaningful way was ultimately up to me. (It was only ten years or so later that I came to see that I’d short-circuited so much of my own learning with my stubbornness.) Since this is the same training model that’s typically applied in all sorts of hierarchical organizations (and societies), those who are lower in the hierarchy are taught to wait for direction; the boss has all the answers; the trainee/student/supplicant is essentially helpless. They have no real say, little power, and very little emotional buy-in to what happens in the classroom/business. Hardly anyone I know says that they like this model. But the reality is that the systems and structures nearly every organization uses still support it. In The Power of Giving Away Power, Matthew Barzun calls it the “Pyramid mindset.” And he says, “The problem is this: The Pyramid mindset will not leave politely.” I know many well-meaning organizations that are all about equity and yet still begin the staff member’s employment with an inequitable training experience.

So how does the Training Compact lead to positive benefits? By stating from the get-go that neither the trainer nor the trainee can do the work well without the other’s insight, the Training Compact quickly teaches humility, collaboration, and curiosity in super practical ways. It drives folks to ask questions from the time they start working here. It gets people’s voices in the room on the first day, and it includes even the newest person we’ve hired in the conversation. The Training Compact helps get new people thinking like leaders because from the time they start, we’re telling them that they’re responsible for the effectiveness of their own training. It teaches equity because both parties are, as we say it, 100-percent responsible for the work. As Maggie writes, almost everyone who works here will tell you, “The trainer remains 100-percent responsible for the effectiveness of the training, but the trainee is 100-percent responsible as well.”

The 100/100 thing came a few years after we’d rolled it out. For years when I taught the Training Compact I would think of the division of responsibility as 50/50. It was the commonly used, socially accepted construct, considered fair by everyone. The problem is that the 50/50 model doesn’t work. Which I would learn—and then relearn—every time something in the training would go wrong. When I’d ask what had happened it seemed to be the other person’s 50-percent that had gone awry. One of the best things I ever learned came from the book The Corporate Mystic, where they taught me that responsibility goes up in multiples of 100-percent. That was a game changer.

As you can tell from what Maggie writes, the Training Compact altered almost everything about our work. When we use it well, the Training Compact:

  • Gives the trainee real, meaningful, practical power to help manage their own learning. We all, Maggie reminded me and Paul back then, learn in different ways. Can’t understand what the trainer is saying? Just ask for help! Ask them to show you again, or say it in a different way, or ask if there’s written material you can take home or a video you can watch.

  • Helps us to manage through the expectations issue. The Training Compact pushed us to make our expectations clear, which in turn makes it easier for anyone to succeed.

  • Honors the trainee for the unique human they are. The underlying beliefs in this construct are that each training experience will be a bit different, and each can and should be tailored to the needs of the trainee.

  • Gives full responsibility to the trainee from the minute they start. This shift supports our belief that we’re all responsible for leadership regardless of level of job responsibility, and that we’re all 100-percent responsible for the health of the organization.

  • Encourages the trainee to speak up from the start. Yes, I know it will still be awkward. Heck, it’s still awkward for me now. Still, the Training Compact makes for better beginnings. The more voices we get into our “organizational room,” the more real life diversity and inclusion we make happen, and the healthier our organization is likely to be.

  • Starts to shift the beliefs of those we hire away from hierarchical thinking. Since most of our society is trained to think hierarchically (as I was), the sooner we start to introduce a different way of working and thinking, the better.

  • Gets better results! This is why Maggie called the overall approach Bottom-Line Training—it improves one or more of our three bottom lines (great food, great service, and great finance). When new staffers are more bought in, we learn from them more quickly, turnover tends to go down, they recommend our workplace to others, and the odds of them mastering the skills needed for their job improve. When their training is going well it manifests in their energy, which in turns increases their service skills and their attention to detail. In the end, everyone comes out ahead! As Peter Senge says, ​​“The only sustainable competitive advantage is an organization’s ability to learn faster than the competition.”

Maggie, I know, is not alone in realizing that the old teacher/trainer as boss, student/trainee as rule-following supplicant doesn’t work well. Jennifer Gonzalez’s progressive podcast, “Cult of Pedagogy,” has a number of talks you can listen to about it. Edward L. Davis, in his book I highly recommend, Lessons for Tomorrow, emphasizes that we can’t continue to make learning an assembly line process: “We need multiple pathways to meet learning goals and a system that encourages individual inquiry and discovery.” Davis supports what Maggie had written into the Training Compact ten years earlier: “Learning is demand driven, not supply driven.” In 2014, Frederic Laloux wrote about what he believes is the future of business: “The biggest change in regard to training is, of course, that employees are in charge of their own learning.” The Training Compact does a terrific job of putting all these progressive educational ideas into a very practical, on the ground, business savvy reality.

Although Maggie might not have known at the time we did this work, the roots of this thinking go back a long way; the ideas of self-management and equity are deeply embedded in the anarchist beliefs about education. Maggie’s progressive thinking about a more egalitarian, inclusive, and effective approach to training was prefigured a hundred years earlier by Francisco Ferrer and his colleagues at the Modern School. Ferrer, Maggie’s good work would indicate, was onto something. As David Whyte writes in Crossing the Unknown Sea, “A good artist, it is often said, is fifty to a hundred years ahead of their time, they describe what lies over the horizon in our future world… ” Ferrer was one of those artists. And so, I will forecast here, is Maggie.

For those who don’t know of him, Ferrer was a Catalan educator who was born in Barcelona in 1859. His life took many turns—at one point he lived in Paris where he taught Spanish and sold fine wine. In 1901, the year before Rocco Disderide built the Deli’s building here in Ann Arbor, Ferrer founded the Escuela Moderna in Barcelona. It was an anarchist school that was quickly recognized around the world as a leader in progressive education. Historian Paul Avrich wrote in his book The Modern School that Ferrer was, “Simple, direct, unpretentious, he never assumed an air of superiority. … When he spoke his audience listened with attention won over by his manifest sincerity.” Rudolf Rocker wrote, “Every word [Ferrer] spoke breathed sincerity. He had no pose. There was a warmth about him.” Ferrer was not about politics: “I am not a speaker,” he said, “not a propagandist, not a fighter. I am a teacher. I love the children above everything.”

The Escuela Moderna quickly became the center for anarchist education—within four years there were nearly fifty Modern Schools in Spain. There were twenty more in the U.S. and hundreds of other schools around the world that were using some of Ferrer’s methods. Paul Avrich called it “a remarkable educational experiment … under the aegis of the anarchist movement.” He adds, “No other movement assigned education a more prominent place in its writings and activities.” One of the key tenets of Ferrer’s teaching work was to treat students like intelligent equals, to have them share actively in the effectiveness of their own education, and then to use the educational system as a caring and constructive tool for self-development. As Avrich writes, “The school was at once an instrument of self-development and a lever of social regeneration. Ferrer believed that this work could create ‘… an enclave of freedom within the larger authoritarian society. … He dreamed that the entire world would follow its example.’” For Ferrer, education was “continuous, a never-ending process extending from cradle to grave.” In all of these ways, I can see now that what Maggie created by artfully designing the Training Compact back in the mid-90s was well in line with Ferrer’s free-thinking approach to education nearly ninety years earlier.

Sadly, in one of the most controversial legal cases of his era, Ferrer was accused of conspiracy in a bombing that had taken place in Barcelona. The general belief in much of the world was that he had been framed, and large protest marches were held in Spain and around the globe. He was executed on October 13 of 1909; the New York Times gave his killing a good bit of space on its front page the following day. Happily, Maggie is not nearly so controversial and I’m confident that we will be able to keep working for many years to come. And that long after she and I are gone, the ZCoB and others who use it will continue to reap all the benefits of the Training Compact. Ultimately, the Training Compact is one way to live Natural Law #6: If you want great performance from your staff, you have to give them clear expectations and training tools.

Making the trainee responsible for the effectiveness of their own training, to be clear, is not a free-for-all, nor does it lead to chaos. To the contrary, it gives the people who work in the ZCoB the kind of framework and guidelines in which creativity and individuality are actually more likely to come out. As poet Gary Snyder says, “If there is no path there is no freedom.” The Training Compact provides the path, while encouraging people to embrace the freedom, all in the interest of better learning, reduced stress, and improved organizational effectiveness. Brené Brown talks regularly about this metaphorically as the rope handles on a rope bridge across a wide river; you still need to do your part well, but they clearly help keep you from falling all the way off into the water below. The main thing to know is that the Training Compact really works. Karen Shepard, who works at the Candy Store, says, “It’s so great! We had a new staff member the other day. She used to work here, but I still went over the Compact with her. Everyone needs this. I wish I’d had it back before I worked here, when I owned my own business.”

Using the Training Compact that Maggie came up with back in the mid-90s, harkening back as I believe it does, to the progressive late 19th/early 20th century educational work of Francisco Ferrer, really can make all those positives I listed in the first paragraph a reality. Having taught it and used it for years now, it’s easy to see how tangible the results are. Like the organizational recipes I’ve written about the last few weeks, it leads the people doing the work towards good answers, but it lets them make the decisions in the moment that are right for the moment. From the minute people start working it’s teaching them to take responsibility. It makes artists of them as well. As Robert Henri, who taught painting at the Modern School in Manhattan, said, “Art when really understood is the province of every human being.” In hindsight, I can see now that Maggie’s design of the Training Compact was an exceptional act of organizational art. Anton Chekhov, the Russian writer, once said, “Art doesn’t have to solve problems, it only has to formulate them correctly.” Which is exactly what Maggie’s design did. And as writer George Saunders says, “That’s what an artist does: take responsibility.”

The Training Compact will not fix every problem in the Zingerman’s ecosystem, nor will it cure all of society’s long-standing ills. But it can make a meaningful difference. As Harry Kelly, one of the founders of the Modern School that was set up in New York in 1910, a year after Ferrer was killed, said,

“We make no claim to saving the world. … If we have not reached the promised land, we have at least stumbled into one of its by-paths, and that is something.”

Get the Bottom Line Training® Trainer's Toolkit

P.S. To test this model of the Training Compact and its congruence with our other work, I pulled out the handy pocket card of our Statement of Beliefs and ran through the list of 34 beliefs to see how we’d done. Of the 34 on the card, by my quick count 28 were clearly and directly supported by the Training Compact!

P.P.S. For more on our approach to training, check out “Creating Training Plans that Work.”

Tin of Ortiz tuna with blue and red illustration of people and a sailboat on a yellow background

Bonito (Albacore) Tuna from the Ortiz Family in the Basque Country

So good, we’ll sell over 50,000 tins this month alone!

That stat is no joke! The Ortiz Bonito tuna has long been the biggest seller in the Mail Order and Deli annual Summer Sales. Customers in-the-know buy up multiple cases at a time to stock their pantry for the rest of the year, and from the day this enews goes out, there will be about ten days left to buy a bunch at the special pricing!

The Ortiz family have been packing tuna, anchovies, and other small fish from the Cantabrian Sea on the north coast of the Spanish Basque Country for over a century now. Their conservas, or tinned fish, is recognized across the world as some of THE finest. They’ve been doing this work in the village of Ondarroa since 1920, at which time, barely over a decade since his death, Francisco Ferrer would still have been a well-known—and still controversial—figure in Spain.

What makes the Ortiz tuna so outstanding? Quality, speed, care, and commitment to doing all the details right. They guarantee fishermen top dollar in advance in order to make sure they secure the best of the best that’s available. When the fishing boats arrive at the dock, they’re unloaded and the fresh fish are at the Ortiz facilities within an hour. If you visit Spain, you’ll find that tuna in tins has long been amongst the jewels of the country’s culinary crown. (It’s not hard to imagine Francisco Ferrer eating tuna of this quality level as a tapa in the cafes of Barcelona.) Go into almost any moderately good Spanish supermarket and you’ll see an entire aisle of tinned tuna, sardines, and anchovies (along with canned seafood specialties like cuttlefish, squid, and octopus). What Spaniards call Bonito is the mellowest and most highly prized in Spain. We know it here as “Albacore.”

The Ortiz Bonito is delicate, white, and delicious. It’s terrific for salads, for appetizer platters, or for eating on its own right out of the jar dressed with some top-notch olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt. It’s particularly good right now with all the new potatoes and beans coming onto the market to make a Salade Niçoise. Great in rice dishes or in pasta. A marvelous pan-Mediterranean tuna melt! Also amazing on a Sandwich Tunisien. There’s a wide range of recipes on the Ortiz website. Pick up a tin, a case or ten while the Summer Sale is still going!

Pick up Ortiz Tuna from the Deli
Ship Ortiz Tuna anywhere in America
Three photos stitched together to form one, where each third is taken up by part of a bowl of soup from the Bakehouse.

Three Terrific Soups at the Bakeshop

Come by the Bakehouse for a cup or a bowl of Moroccan Harira, Gabor’s Butter Bean and Ham, or Cold Cucumber

Soups were some of the first dishes I made when I began cooking professionally at Maude’s (back where I met Maggie) around the time Paul Avrich’s book on Ferrer came out in 1980. To this day, I place a particularly high value on a cook’s ability to make great soup. Like good sweeping (a subject for another day), the skills of soup making are more often than not, greatly underappreciated. Even in the summer, soup is still one of those wonderful staples of everyday eating that brings so many of us comfort.

Around the time that Maggie and I were first teaching the Training Compact in 1996, the Bakehouse did the construction work to convert the space next to the bread oven into what became a formal shop. What was once a folding table set up a few feet away from the oven, has turned, over the last 25 years, into one of the most popular retail spots in town. The Bakehouse is incredibly well known for bread and pastries. Locals buy them here in abundance and we ship loads of each around the country through Mail Order. The bread and pastry are what bring people into the Bakeshop out on Plaza Drive. But a lot of what keeps many of our regulars coming back are the soups, salads, and sandwiches that the Bakehouse’s “Savory Kitchen” crew put together so diligently every day. Soups have a way of sticking with us; they help us feel grounded. As Abraham Maslow, known for his work in psychology, said: “A first-rate soup is more creative than a second-rate painting.”

There are two hot soups at the Bakeshop Monday through Friday—at least one is always vegetarian. There are also chilled soups in the cold case for carryout. Here are three that have been at the top of my list for a while now:

  • Gabor’s Butter Bean and Ham—A great Central European offering. Pork stock, bacon, paprika, onions, carrots, and more. If you want to make a version of Pasta e Fagioli, the soup makes a super tasty sauce.

  • Moroccan Harira—A great vegan taste of North Africa. Chickpeas, lentils, carrots, onions, tomatoes, and celery, along with a wealth of spices—turmeric, cumin, cilantro, black pepper, harissa, and a bit of lemon. Hearty and delicious.

  • Cold Cucumber Soup—Amy Emberling, managing partner at the Bakehouse, says, “This chilled soup is both refreshing and rich at the same time” I agree. It’s a great way to eat lunch or dinner, or for that matter breakfast too. Cucumbers, sherry vinegar, olive oil, dill, sour cream, scallions, salt, and pepper. Refreshing and tasty, it’s become one of Tammie’s favorites over the last few months.

P.S. Like to make soup at home? Grab a copy of the great Bakehouse cookbooklet Cup or Bowl.

Savor some soup today
Clear plastic container of lemon curd gelato sitting on a Zingerman's gift box

Lemon Curd Gelato at the Creamery

A much loved Creamery classic comes back by popular demand

Over the last few months, I’ve had so many folks asking me when this great gelato flavor would return, that I figured it’d be most effective to simply share the good news that it’s back in the Cream Top Shop here in this enews! It’s one of the tastiest ways I can think of to put a cup of something cool, creamy, and compellingly delicious in your hand!

Lemon Curd likely has its roots in the early 19th century, and then hit its heyday around the end of the 19th and beginnings of the 20th century back when the Escuela Moderna was first getting started in Spain. From a culinary standpoint, lemon curd is made with a lot of fresh lemon juice, some sugar, egg yolk, and sweet butter. It’s a little denser than a custard, not quite as intense as a paste, creamier and smoother than a jam. At the Bakehouse, we’ve long been making our own lemon curd. We use it liberally in any number of cakes. On its own, the lemon curd is spoonable and spreadable (Amy from the Bakehouse says she likes to sneak a spoonful to spread on toast). Since we make it here fresh, ours has no stabilizers or preservatives. In one of those cross-ZCoB collaborations that I love, a few years ago we started sending some of the lemon curd from the Bakehouse down the block to the Creamery. There, the crew carefully crafted the curd into an ingenious and genuinely lovely, lemony, gelato.

The Lemon Curd gelato is great just as is, but if you want to take it up a notch, you can try topping it with any or all of these:

  • Bits of chopped crystallized ginger

  • A spoonful of good preserves. I tried it with American Spoon Early Glow Strawberry and it was awesome

  • Chocolate syrup

  • Freshly ground black pepper or warming spices like ground cardamom

  • Crushed mandelbread or Ginger Jump Ups from the Bakehouse, layered with the gelato and spoonfuls of whipped cream to make a spring parfait

  • A small bit of one of the Bakehouse’s scones crumbled atop. It’s a terrific contrast of textures and the flavors are a very fine match

  • If you live with a lemon lover (or you are one), served up with a slice of the Lemon Poppyseed coffee cake

Here’s to a sunny and positive summer to come!

Pick up Lemon Curd Gelato from the Cream Top Shop
Three avocado halves sitting on a plate, the pit hole filled with olive oil, cheese grated all over them.

A Trio of Easy and Excellent Appetizers to Make in Under Two Minutes

A quick way to brighten up your summer eating without spending much time in the kitchen

As you probably know, I’m always up for ways to make marvelous, world-class meals in a matter of minutes. All of these can be appetizers, but you can easily add a salad, or some toast, and turn them into part of a full meal. These are timeless and terrific!

Avocado with extra virgin olive oil and Parmigiano Reggiano—Slice a ripe avocado in half, and scoop it gently out of the skin. Put the avocado with the “pit side” facing up onto a nice plate. Sprinkle with fleur de sel and some freshly ground black pepper, then drizzle on a good bit of great olive oil. The Goutis oil from Greece that I wrote about last week would be wonderful. Grate on some Parmigiano Reggiano. That’s it! Enjoy!

Dates stuffed with ’Nduja—Two products that you probably know by now I’m really high on. Gently pull the dates in half, take out the pit, and stuff with a spoonful of that spicy spreadable Calabrian-style pork “sausage” from Tony Fiasche and friends at Tempesta Foods in Chicago. Let the ’Nduja come to room temperature so it’s easier to work with and you get the full flavor. If you want, you can warm the stuffed dates in the oven a bit too. Either way, these are a great bit of sweet, savory, and spicy in all in one tasty bite.

Tuna atop Tunisian harissa—Since I just wrote about the terrific tuna we get from the Ortiz family, here’s an easy way to enjoy it. Put a couple spoonfuls of the Mahjoub family’s incredibly tasty Tunisian harissa on a nice plate. Open your tin of Ortiz tuna (or sardines or mackerel) and put it on top of the harissa. Sprinkle on a bit of fleur de sel, freshly ground black pepper, or some Marash red pepper flakes and a little bit of extra virgin olive oil (I love the Mahjoub’s organic oil made only from olives grown on their family farm!). You’ll have a lovely deep red base topped with lightly colored tuna and a nice bit of bright golden green olive oil. Eat with toasted bread and enjoy!

Other Things on My Mind


Charm of Finches is the band name of Mabel and Ivy Windred-Wornes, two sisters from Australia who are making some lovely folkish music that’s been brightening my days for the last few weeks.

Shifting from Australia to Africa, Dub Reality has created a series of amazing albums that are taking me a bit closer to some of my dub-listening days back around the time we opened the Deli. Even more importantly, the lyric writing is wonderfully powerful—all about beliefs, vision, equality, and history. I love it and every time I listen, I learn a bit more. As they say on the album, “Sometimes it’s necessary to question the paradigms that have been implanted in our minds, so we ask you to be pensive as opposed to defensive.”

Here are two terrific albums:

Anarchist Africa: ​When Visions Fall From Sky

IR 58: Rising Up For The Dub World Within


Elizabeth Hinton is a professor of law, history and African-American studies at Yale, and also a ZCoB alum (she worked at the Roadhouse). Her new book America on Fire: The Untold History of Police Violence and Black Rebellion Since the 1960s is deeply researched and very definitely eye opening; a great example of how when we alter our beliefs we see very different stories unfolding around us.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this enews and you know someone else who might like it, please pass it along. Have questions about Zingerman’s? Write us at
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