Ari's Top 5
“The upside of freedom is that it makes you into a you.”

Peter Koestenbaum
A black and white photo of the book Freedom and Accountability at Work on top of a notepad on which is written "Choosing choice changed my life!" and a coffee cup sits next to it.

Natural Law #23: Our World Works Better When We’re Owning Our Choices

Why choosing choice makes all the difference

Peter Koestenbaum could, on the surface, seem a surprising choice for an apostle of the revolutionary approach to putting freedom in place in the 21st century workplace. Even in the progressive part of the business world, few folks will likely have heard of him, and I doubt that his numerous books have made it to reading lists of most business school courses. Being in a conversation with Peter, which I’ve been fortunate to do many times now, calls up images of Martin Buber, Jean Paul Sartre, and Hannah Arendt, far more than it would Emma Goldman. All that said, his teaching and his writing have had an enormous impact on my thinking over the years. As his fellow German Jewish thinker Gustav Landauer once wrote, “​​All we need to do now is to keep that spirit alive and spread it.”

Born in Germany, Koestenbaum’s Jewish family escaped Nazi rule in 1937, when he was a boy of nine. Unable to enter the U.S. as refugees, they ended up settling in Venezuela. Peter later came to the U.S. as a young man when he enrolled as a student at San Jose State, and he has lived in California for most of his adult life.

Four years after Peter’s family had successfully escaped to freedom and safety in South America, a German-Jewish psychologist named Erich Fromm published a book that went on to become a classic. It was called Escape from Freedom (I reread it a few years ago and highly recommend adding it to your list). I’m not sure when Peter Koestenbaum first read Fromm’s book, but the essence of what’s in it—the understanding that many of us subconsciously flee from our naturally-occurring freedom in order to find short term psychological safety by submitting passively (or passive-aggressively) to direction from dictators, bosses, parents, etc.—is at the core of Peter Koestenbaum’s amazing work. Whether we like it or not, freedom, Peter tells us, is a fact of life. What we do with it is up to us.

Writer Peter Block, who’s also been a big influence on our beliefs here at Zingerman’s, tells the story of the first time he heard Peter Koestenbaum speak back in 1980, when he went to take a class out in California: “In the course of a one-hour lecture … my beliefs were seriously undermined. This professor took the position that my anxiety, isolation, feeling out of control, helplessness … were not my own unresolved psychological inadequacies, but were permanent qualities of the human condition.” They are, Koestenbaum makes clear, the inevitable emotional cost of the freedom that we all—whether we want to accept it not—are born with. As Peter Koestenbaum puts it, “Every act we perform is, in its foundation, a free one.”

The subject of freedom is far bigger than I can fit into this piece. It’s something that others—from Frederick Douglass to Martin Luther King to Mahatma Gandhi and Emma Goldman, and hundreds more—have written about extensively. People throughout history have fought and died for it. There are clearly huge issues to get right in rebalancing the socio-economic ecosystem we’re a part of, and I have much more to learn on the subject. Peter Koestenbaum and Peter Block have—both individually and as a pair—written probably twenty great books, all of which center around this subject; what it means, why we always have it (whether we want to admit it or not), how we can take ownership of our own freedom, and how we can create an organization in which we can help those we work with to do the same. As Peter Block says, this work may blow your mind, or at the least, blow up a lot of old, socially-inherited beliefs that teach us to be at times angry, at other times passive aggressive victims, or passive bystanders as the story of our lives—at work, at home, and in the world at large—unfolds.

Thinking back to the Buddhist saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear,” it’s probably no coincidence that I started reading the books by both Block and Koestenbaum around the time in my life—let’s just say mid-life—that I really needed to learn these lessons more than ever. In the same way that so many free-thinking anarchists got me to drive for caring, constructive, meaningful free choice in my own life, over the years the two Peters have gotten me (and many others who are willing to listen) to look at the importance of freedom in the workplace in a radically different way.

I’ve written a lot about the personal piece of this subject in Secret #34 in Part 3. It’s all about how, even though I was an owner of a “successful business,” I still needed to learn to stop acting like what late 19th century English anarchist Edward Carpenter once called “a slave under continual compulsion from others,” and instead own my choices. Making real what Peter Koestenbaum writes about was not a quick process. It took me a good three years (coincidentally about as long as I believe it takes to change an organizational culture) to meaningfully own my decisions; to accept the reality that although there were always consequences and I was never free of outside influence, I was actually free to decide. Whether it involved big business issues or small stuff like responding to an invitation to a social gathering, I didn’t, it became clear to me over time, “have” to do anything. In the process I learned to embrace the reality that everything I did was a decision. That no one was making me do anything. That I was choosing to be kind to customers, to handle difficult situations, to go in early, stay late, worry, or work hard. That when I wanted to, I could respectfully say “no” rather than go along grudgingly, quietly complaining all the while. A lot of it manifested in my language—I stopped saying things like “I have to” or “I should”—both of which are essentially ways of saying that I have “no choice,” and switched to something more active like “I’m going to” or “I’m not.” I learned over time that even deciding not to decide was itself a decision.

This is what I wrote in Secret #34:

This internal freedom may seem elusive, but I think it’s essential. To wit, I’ve chosen to stay up late a lot while working on this essay. Although I was tired and could happily have gone to bed before it was “done,” I made my own call to keep typing. I owned the choice; I owned the consequences. The achievement, the excitement, and the exhaustion that went with it were all mine. I work hard to apply that same mindset (about choice, not necessarily about staying up late) to everything I do. Believe me, it wasn’t always that way. I used to feel like I was being forced to do, well, whatever it was I was doing. Those days are over. Today, whatever it is I do, I do because I decided to do it. Knowing that I made all those decisions has made my spirit lighter, lifted my energy higher, and made my life more fun. Choosing choice has changed my life.

Let me repeat that last line for emphasis—choosing choice changed my life. As I’ve worked on adding to the list of Natural Laws of Business (and life) this year, I had the belated glimpse of the obvious that this was not just about me. Nearly everyone I knew, I started to see, was struggling with the same stuff. To Peter’s Koestenbaum’s point, freedom underlies everything we do, and everything we are; when we do it every day we start to lead and live in the world as the free human beings we all want to be. Choosing choice, I began to understand, will change our organizations, and eventually our communities. All of which leads me to Natural Law #23:

Our World Works Better When We’re Owning Our Choices.

It is understanding and accepting that the freedom that so many people appropriately push for on a social level ultimately has to start on the inside. That when we choose choice in that way, we can shift organizational cultures away from passivity and a victim mindset, into one of positive, active leadership (see Secret #28 in Part 2 for more on this.) As anarchist author Howard Ehrlich explains, “To be free, people must liberate themselves.” And that when we do, both at work and anywhere else we go, things are much more likely to go better.

A few years before Peter Block first heard Peter Koestenbaum speak, James Boggs, Grace Lee Boggs, Freddy Payne, and Lyman Payne, put out a highly recommended book called Conversations in Maine: Exploring Our Nation’s Future, in which the authors write:

No radicals are going to get power in this country until we have converted a whole lot of people to recognize they are their own jailers; that they take the prison of their own selves with them wherever they go; that they are not going to be free until they have decided what they are going to do with their freedom.

That was certainly true for me. While we all say we want freedom, owning that we have it can be scary, since, as Peter Koestenbaum says, “… with freedom comes accountability, and with accountability comes guilt, and with guilt comes anxiety. Since our freedom leads to anxiety, it is easier to repress it than to bear it proudly.” With this in mind, the work world (and the world at large) is loaded with folks who still insist (as I used to do) that they have no choice: “My boss told me I have to do it,” “I have to pay taxes,” I have to go home now,” “My spouse won’t let me,” “I can’t do that!” You’ve probably heard, and maybe said, all of them many times. I know I have. And though those statements are common, they aren’t accurate. We don’t, I’ve learned, have to do anything. There are, of course, consequences for every decision we make, but the decisions to do what we do—whether we admit or not—remain our own. Yes, people like me with more resources at hand likely have less dire immediate consequences than those who have less. But still, the decisions are ours to make. The point is not to criticize. It’s just to acknowledge the power of the Natural Law—when we own our choices, we do better work, our energy is better, problems are overcome more effectively, and teams work better together. When we choose choice, we become accountable, to ourselves, and to others—excuses evaporate when we’ve mindfully opted to own our decisions. Conversely, if we act as if we have no choice, when we don’t own our own decisions, we struggle, our energy flags, our performance sags, and we suffer spiritually. I have done it both ways; the latter leads mostly to worry, the former is, well, freeing! Choosing choice, as I said, changed my life.

I wrote a lot about this in Secret #34 in Part 3:

It’s not an overnight achievement, but the more we work at it, the better we’ll get. Emma Goldman put down the following thoughts about women gaining freedom in the early part of the 20th century, but I think they apply to each of us as individuals, regardless of gender or the era in which we exist: “True emancipation begins neither at the polls nor in courts. It begins in a woman’s soul. History tells us that every oppressed class gained true liberation from its masters through its own efforts. It is necessary that woman learn that lesson, that she realize that her freedom will reach as far as her power to achieve her freedom reaches. It is, therefore, far more important for her to begin with her inner regeneration.” Anarchist George Benello said “Freedom, to be understood, must be lived.” Or, as Mohammed Bamyeh, a modern day anarchist professor from Pittsburgh, put it: “Freedom is the exercise of freedom.”

This last bit from Dr. Bamyeh was an eye opener for me. Freedom and free choice are not just human rights to be written about, they’re a way of showing up in the world—and at work—every day. As Neil Roberts, professor of Africana Studies at Williams College, writes, “Freedom is not a place; it is a state of being.” How and whether we exercise that freedom at work is an action. First and foremost, it’s in our relationship with ourselves—freedom, I’ve come to understand, is an inside out activity. Secondly, it’s a relationship with those around us—with Natural Law #23 in mind, we would do well to make sure to give those we work with the chance to make conscious choices as well.

What does all this look like in action in the workplace? Here are four ways that I believe we can choose to make free choice an important contributor to the quality of our organizational lives:

  1. Choose choice for ourselves. Peter Koestenbaum writes, “Responsibility is the fact that each of us is free; accountability is the individual act of accepting and choosing this fact.” If we as individuals choose choice, we let go of language like “I have to” or “I can’t”; no more blaming bosses or parents, governments or ghosts, customers or kids. Yes, we have been influenced by others. Yes, there are consequences. And yes, we are still free to choose to own our choices. Peter Koestenbaum says:

    The fulcrum of leadership begins with your unshakeable conviction—and feeling—that you are in charge of your life, that you are responsible for your actions, that you are accountable for the consequences of your deeds, intended or not. It shows in how you look others in the eye, how you stand up to stress, and how you are gentle when you reproach someone. You smile when others despair. You are relaxed when others panic. You always do something, plan something. … You do not wait for chance, and you do not hold off for fate to take over.

  2. We teach the power of free choice to our staff. Few folks we hire will have this sense of personal freedom when they start work. Like me, they likely carry old beliefs taken in from family and society about how their options are only to follow orders, or maybe drag their feet, or in an extreme, rebel against. Getting involved and thinking like a leader is not something most will have experienced in earlier places of employment. That passive mindset, I believe, is a bad place for them to be, and over time it will hurt the organization of which they’re a part as well. To help our new colleagues learn to own their choices, we teach classes for staff on self-management, share the power of language (“I’m going to” vs. “I have to”), and give them tools to take action and do self-exploration. It’s not a quick fix but it certainly does help! As people more effectively own their choices, their energy improves, the quality of their collaboration gets better, their presence becomes more positive. And as Peter Koestenbaum says, they gradually learn “how it feels to be free.”

  3. Stop seeking “freedom from” and embrace “freedom to.” “Freedom from” is resistance, rebellion, and reaction. It’s in the news every day, usually in some form of “They can’t make me do that.” Both by going to therapy and in studying anarchism I came to understand that mindset does not make for meaningful freedom; when we live for “freedom from,” we’re locked in reaction to others. “Freedom from” is essentially based on negative beliefs, which means that nothing great is likely to come from it in the long term. It leaves our energy flat at best, angry at worst. As Franz Fanon wrote, people in this mental state exist in “a zone of nonbeing, an extraordinarily sterile and arid region.” By contrast, “freedom to” leads us away from feeling like victims and encourages us to act, to take accountability, to initiate. As anarchist poet Hakim Bey suggests, “Don’t just survive while waiting for someone’s revolution to clear your head.” I’m with Emma Goldman who wrote, “Real freedom, true liberty is positive: it is freedom to something; it is the liberty to be, to do; in short, the liberty of actual and active opportunity.”

  4. Create systems and structures that support freedom and active participation. This is how we help people take the power of choice and active leadership they had all along—but were never allowed to use in other jobs. There are dozens of ways we make this happen here. I wrote about a lot of them in the piece about putting power (aka, metaphorical “carbon”) back into the cultural soil. Open Book management, open meetings, Lean, Bottom-Line Change, staff partners, staff ownership … all these and more give people ways to practice participating in meaningful ways. The work we do around Stewardship—adapted from Peter Block, who was in turn influenced so significantly by Peter Koestenbaum—is a huge piece of putting this practice of free choice into place. The more we practice making mindful, caring choices and putting accountability into action, the better we feel, and the better things are likely to go.

All in all, imperfectly, free choice is the foundation of what is possible in the world. To be clear, we have a long way to go to get better at it here, and I certainly have my work to do as well. Still, it’s increasingly clear to me with each passing year that embracing Natural Law #23 and owning our choices, will always help our organizations move forward in positive ways. In the belief that, as Gareth Higgins shares, “The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better,” I’m convinced that we can freely choose choice, accept accountability, and demonstrate every day that there are more equitable, more inspiring, and ultimately more effective ways to work.

When we own our choices, help support others around us in doing the same, focus on “freedom to” rather than fighting with “freedom from,” and design organizations in which people really can participate and influence in meaningful ways, then good things will surely come. If we want our communities to become more engaged, positive, and inclusive, this sure seems like a good place to begin. As early 20th-century German anarchist Gustav Landauer wrote, “ … a goal can only be reached if it is already reflected in its means.” When we opt to own our own freedom, and then build it into the way our organizations work, it increases the odds of it happening in the community around us as well.

Is it crazy to think this could work in the modern world? Maybe. Or maybe not. I know enough about the self-fulfilling belief cycle to understand that what we believe about people participating in running the work of which they’re a part will go a long way towards making whatever it is we believe a reality. Peter Block says,

When you defend idealism, you defend imagination. You defend possibility. You defend the world of ideas. The argument against idealism is the wish to be “practical”—the wish for an evidence-based world, the wish for proof. Idealism affirms the place of mystery, not knowing, and caring about things that are [immeasurable]. So, I always see the argument against idealism as the argument against democracy, the argument against love, the argument against justice and equity, and all the things that our culture has abandoned in the name of privatization and economic well-being.

Ludo Gaberon worked at Zingerman’s many years ago and has since gone on to do great work with software. He has told me many times how much that early work experience, not long after he’d moved here from France, has influenced his beliefs. Here’s a bit of what he wrote when we put together Part 4:

There lie two crucial notions, freedom and trust: Freedom to the employees to make the organization’s values theirs and to act, portray, and promote those values in their own way. Achieving in the process genuineness, which is the pillar for sustainable business. And trust to the employers to let their staff carry the flag and to believe in their brand ambassadors, reassured that goodwill is in action.

To read more about the subject, check out Secrets #24, #34, #43.5 and “Going into Business with Emma Goldman.”

For more on the “Power of Beliefs in Business,” join me and Maggie from ZingTrain in August when we teach the 5 sessions of our special Master Class. Spaces are limited, sign up is open until midnight EDT on Saturday, July 24th.

Sign up for ZingTrain’s Master Class
Syrupy red cherries  getting dropped from a golden spoon onto a slice of cheesecake. The rest of the cheesecake sits on a stand in the background, as does the jar of cherries.

Cheesecake from the Bakehouse

A Zingerman’s classic in the making

The new July-August issue of Zingerman’s News (currently issue #285) includes a piece I wrote about Zingerman’s classics—you will likely know many of them: the Reuben at the Deli, Magic Brownies, Sour Cream Coffee Cake, the Creamery’s Cream Cheese, Fried Chicken at the Roadhouse, Espresso Blend #1, and more. For the fall issue, I’ve been working on a follow-up article that will come out in September. It’s a look at Zingerman’s “classics in the making.” One of them is most certainly going to be this cheesecake. It is so, so, so good. We have been quietly making it for nearly twenty years now. For whatever reasons I can’t really explain, it’s never been a product that we’ve done a lot to promote. But having just retasted it again last week because it’s the Bakehouse’s “Cake of the Month,” I’m reminded anew of just how amazing it is! Creamy from the Creamery cream cheese, the poetic perfume of the vanilla, the fantastic Bakehouse graham cracker crust. So luscious! There are, I know, a number of very famous cheesecake makers in this country, but I believe the Bakehouse’s is one of the best!

Cheesecake has been made in one form or another for thousands of years. In its most basic construct, it’s a baked “cheese custard.” Ancient Greeks made flat cheesecakes as long ago as 2000 BC by mixing fresh cheese with honey and flour, then baking them on stone griddles. There’s some evidence that they were served at the early Olympic games (in the same region that the Goutis olive oil is now made—read more below!). Later, in medieval Europe, cheesecakes were made with a pastry crust. Its American advancement happened in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. American cream cheese was invented in 1872 (three years after Gandhi and Emma Goldman were born) in the town of Chester, New York by one William Lawrence. By the end of the 19th century, cheesecake had gained great popularity in the States. It became particularly popular in the Jewish immigrant community, so it’s not unlikely that Emma Goldman—well known for her cheese blintzes—might well have baked or at least eaten some during her years living on the Lower East Side in New York City.

One hundred twenty years after Mr. Lawrence made his mark on the dairy world, we started making similar, artisan cream cheese at the Creamery. Which then became the base of the Bakehouse’s incredible cheesecake. It’s remarkably tasty cold right out of the fridge, but I like it better still if I allow it (like all good cheese) to come to room temperature first. The Bakehouse cheesecake is a great match for the new season’s blueberries or cherries that are on the market, or you can serve it topped with some of your favorite jam (like that American Spoon Apricot that I referenced last week) or one of the many artisan honeys we have on hand. It’s also impressively good with freshly ground black pepper or even a little olive oil (the delicious but relatively light Goutis olive oil from Greece would be great). In the spirit of finding joy, I will say that even a single bite of this choice cheesecake does that for me! Marvelous, maybe even magical. If you’re looking for another way to celebrate, July 30 is National Cheesecake Day. Pick up a couple of pieces, or even a couple of cakes (while they’re on special during July) and make a toast to good—and tasty—things to come!

You can get this incredible cheesecake at the Bakehouse, Deli, Roadhouse, and online at Mail Order.

Pick up a classic cheesecake at the Bakehouse
A greenish-gray bottle of Goutis Estate olive oil.

Great New Greek Olive Oil at the Deli

A rare olive varietal and some really fine flavor

One of the most delectable, exceptional new olive oils to arrive at the Deli in a long while. The “Bitter Gray” is truly something special. Having just tasted a bit more of it on toast to prepare myself to do this piece, I’m smiling right now as I write. The flavor is awesome, attention-getting. Lots and lots of lovely high notes. Spicy, but more in a white pepper kind of way (as opposed to the more grounded gruffer black pepper of the Tuscan oils that I love so much, or the flowerier, more rounded fruit of some oils from other parts of the Mediterranean). It’s got a wondrous finish and it lingers lovingly on the tongue for a long time. There’s a bit of bitterness, but only in the most positive way. I think the folks at Goutis say it well: “This oil demands trained palates to relish the strong bitter taste of it, but one that rewards the daring in a unique way.”

While the oil in this format is new to the world, the trees were planted by the Goutis family in the land around Olympia over a century ago. (Olympia is, as you might expect from the name, the place where the Olympic games were started in 776 BC. Olive oil was one of the most valued prizes given to winners of the competitions.) The region of Ilia, in which Olympia is found, is on the western end of the Peloponnesian Peninsula, and although I haven’t been, it’s a highly recommended spot in which to do hiking and river traveling. The Goutis lands are near the village of Kallithea, which translates into “beautiful view.” There is a wealth of beaches nearby, as well as the magnificently dense, dark oak forest in Foloi (named for Folos, Hercules’ friend, who happened to be a centaur), which is a completely different ecosystem than one would likely imagine when thinking of Greece. The family spent nearly a decade preparing the oil to be sold, working with consultants from around Europe to get their processes for picking and pressing as close to mastery as they could.

The new-on-the-market oil won an array of awards in each of the last few years in London, Berlin, Tokyo, and New York just to name a few. It’s got a host of certifications that speak to the organic methods used to make it and verify that all of the olives used are grown on site (many less costly olive oils are merely bottled in the place that’s listed on the label, while the olives themselves are grown all over the Mediterranean). The oil is made with a local varietal by the name of Nemoutiana Horiatiki—as with all produce there are hundreds of varieties, typical of particular regions. Each varietal has its own flavor and character, and its distinctiveness is a big part of what makes the Goutis oil so good. The “Bitter Gray” bottle is beautiful as well—opaque (to protect the olive oil from the damage of light) gray-green ceramic—so keep it in mind if you need a good gift.

The Goutis “Bitter Gray” oil is great on toast (I’d go for one of the more delicate breads from the Bakehouse to highlight the intricacies of the oil’s flavor, so maybe Paesano or Rustic Italian). Terrific too on some of that fine feta we have from Lesbos at the Cream Top Shop or from Mt. Vikos at the Deli. It’s unexpectedly excellent on fresh fruit—try the oil drizzled over sliced ripe peaches when they come on the market soon along with a bit of black pepper or chopped green jalapeno. Really fine on fresh fish or seafood. Super good on a simple salad of local lettuces with little more than a bit of fleur de sel, fresh ground black pepper and a squeeze of lemon. Great on sautéed summer squash or spinach. It would be wonderful with the watermelon and feta salad that my late friend Daphne Zepos taught me to make so many years ago (see page 465 in Part 3.)

I’ll wrap this up with an excerpt of this Ode to Olive Oil from the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda:

It’s not only wine that sings
Olive oil sings too,
It lives in us with its ripe light
And among the good things of the earth
I set apart
Olive oil,
Your ever-flowing peace, your green essence,
Your heaped-up treasure
Which descends
In streams from the olive tree.

Get Groutis Bitter Gray from the Deli

P.S. If you want something good to listen to while you’re enjoying a bit of that great Goutis olive oil from Greece, check out the work of the band Xylouris White. Giorgios Xylouris is the nephew of the great Greek musician Nikos Xylouris who was one of the many folks (along with Daphne’s father) who led the opposition to the Greek junta back in the early 1970s. Nikos wrote the piece “The Dead of the Square” based on Neruda’s “Los muertos de la plaza.”

You won’t see the Goutis oil on the mail order site, but we’d be really happy to ship you some. Email us at

A glass of bubbly, cloudy makgeolli sitting on a table outside, with the drink's can from maker Makku sitting next to it.

Makgeolli from Miss Kim

Korea’s oldest alcoholic drink comes to Ann Arbor

Not only does every region in the world have its own unique cooking, nearly all have their special style of beverage as well. We know many—regional wines in France, pale ales in parts of England, mezcals in Mexico, lightly fermented ciders in northern Spain and New England, and the list goes on. If you’re looking to expand on your list of great drinks to dive into, come by Miss Kim to try out these traditional Makgeolli that Ji Hye is now offering. Here’s a bit of what Ji Hye has to say on this tasty subject:

One of my favorite tidbits I find while looking into culinary history is about how much my Korean ancestors enjoyed good food and drink. Like a comment from this sort of travel book Koryo Dogyung 고려도경 (“Pictures and Maps of Korea”) written by a Song Chinese dignitary visiting the Koryo Kingdom in 1123 A.D. that noted, “Korean people generally like to drink!” So, to celebrate them, I want to take a deep dive into major Korean drinks every week for July. To kick that off, we have to start with Makgeolli.

The name first—“mak” means “roughly” and “geolli” means “filtered.” It has a series of other names it can go by, like takjoo 탁주 for being cloudy (instead of clear), baekjoo 백주 for being white in color, nongjoo 농주 for being enjoyed by the workers during farming, hyangjoo 향주 for being enjoyed by the regular folks in the countryside. So, we know that this is a roughly filtered, white, and cloudy brew that has been enjoyed by everyday people, especially in the farming countryside. The origin of makgeolli probably coincides with the farming of rice; traditionally makgeolli is made with just three ingredients: rice, water, and nuruk—the fermentation starter. Nuruk is a sort of a cooked grain cake that is left to ferment and grow microorganisms and yeast. It breaks down the sugars in rice and turns them into alcohol. Generally, it is easy enough to make at home and the whole process takes as short as 10 days. Hence it was and still is widely consumed by everyday folks.

During the 20th century, the tradition of making makgeolli was almost lost, as the Japanese occupation-government made it illegal for people to produce makgeolli at home and taxed alcohol production heavily. During the 1960s, following the Korean War, the use of rice was banned for alcohol production as Korea was recovering from the war and a shortage of rice. It is only after the late 1990s and 2000s that the traditional recipes and methods of making makgeolli were revived, and by the 2010s, makgeolli started gaining popularity once again.

Our favorite makgeolli is made by a Korean American company Makku. It is just about 6% alcohol, as makgeolli should be, and it has a wonderfully light effervescence, creamy body, and just a hint of sweetness. It does very well with most food that pairs with beer. Think Korean fried chicken, or even pizza. I do hope you’ll come in and try some with your next dinner.

Of late, makgeolli is getting attention that is long overdue here in the States. It’s been written up in the Wall Street Journal, Food 52, and has appeared on CNN. Come by Miss Kim and enjoy a glass of what one set of New York writers called, “Korea’s oldest alcoholic drink and—in our opinion—the most delicious.”

Make a toast to history at Miss Kim
Blue dish with salad of cucumber, radish, avocado and garnished with parsley

Terrific Salad of Cucumber, Radish and Avocado

Bringing early summer flavors together in the salad bowl

This is another easy and excellent taste of summer that Tammie and I have been trying out different versions of. It’s refreshing, good for you, and a delicious pairing with almost anything else you’re having for dinner. Yotam Ottolenghi says, “A well-made salad must have a certain uniformity; it should make perfect sense for those ingredients to share a bowl.” This is a great example of Yotam’s thought in action; no one component dominates, and each plays its part in creating a sum total of a salad that’s greater than any of the individual elements would be on its own.

To start the salad making, cut a fresh local cucumber into cubes. Depending on your relationship with bitter flavors, and the quality of your cucumber, you can decide to leave the peel on or take it off (I generally leave it on). Put the pieces into a large salad bowl, then sprinkle on a bit of good sea salt. Cut fresh radishes in halves or quarters. (Don’t throw away the greens—you can sauté them in a matter of minutes and they’re great for a side dish, soup, or sauce.) Chop a generous handful of fresh herbs. As you may know, Tammie has been bringing home bunches of beautiful herbs from Tamchop Farm so we’ve had plenty—fresh basil, chervil, parsley, mint, lovage (which has been truly delicious) … any or all will work wonderfully well. Dress with a small bit of sherry vinegar, a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil and let it stand for a bit. The salt and the natural liquid in the vegetables will come out in about fifteen minutes. Taste the salad and adjust seasonings as you like. When you’re ready to eat, take a ripe avocado out of its peel and cut into cubes about the same size as the cucumber. Add to the salad and mix gently.

Serve it on a bed of fresh lettuces. You can eat it as is, or I’ve been putting tinned tuna like the fine stuff from Fishwife I wrote about a few weeks ago on top. Toasted chopped almonds are a great addition as well. And/or a nice slab of feta, sprinkled with more chopped fresh herbs. The salad would work really well as a side dish for a summer meal, alongside a piece of fresh fish or a grilled steak. It would be marvelous for a morning meal as well, served like a fresh “salsa” next to scrambled eggs and a toasted Zinglish muffin from the Bakehouse.

Other Things on My Mind


In the spirit of honoring the complexity that I wrote about last week, consider reading this article by Kim Severson about a white woman farmer in Georgia who is struggling to figure out what to do about the reality that her family owned seven slaves before the Civil War.


“Anarchist Africa​:​:​When Visions Fall from Sky” by IR::Sankara Future Dub Resurgence. Great dub music from Sankara Dub Resurgence, a collective of anarchists in East Africa!

Flo Perlin makes beautiful music that brings her Byelo-Russian and Iraqi heritages to life. All her albums are terrific. This new release is a beautiful song about Baghdad.

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