Ari's Top 5

Part of the job of a great storyteller is to examine the stories that underlie the story you’re assigned, maybe to make them visible, and sometimes to break us free of them. 
—Rebecca Solnit


A Vision of a World Run in Great Part by Women with Vision

Every day; and for one day of ZingTrain’s online learning session, August 20 


Take a look at the photo above. One woman—Emma Goldman—speaking to a very large audience, nearly all of which are hat-wearing men. You can’t tell from the photo, but it’s in New York City. The year was 1911 and Emma turned 41 on June 27 of that year. She’d visited Ann Arbor back in February. (See Secret 43.5 in Part 4 for more on that visit. It included a bout with rowdy students who tried to keep her from speaking.) Her book Anarchism and Other Essays, one of the first anarchist books to get my attention back when I was in school at the University of Michigan, had been published the previous year. The country—then, as now—was in rough shape. It was the start of one of the most violent decades in American history. 

Anarchism and Other Essays includes Emma’s piece, “The Tragedy of Woman’s Emancipation.” The article had come out on its own five years earlier in pamphlet form, and the essay was the foundation for her talk on the day that photo was taken. The issues Emma was addressing were hardly new. It’s clear to even a casual investigator of human history that women have been regularly held back, physically and emotionally harassed, pushed aside, left out, and legally restricted from moving forward with their lives in any number of ways for millennia. And as Emma’s contemporary, Michigan anarchist Voltairine de Cleyre once wrote, “There is no society for the prevention of cruelty to women.” Which means that the subject for Emma’s speech was not an issue for that day only, but rather an issue for all time. In her essay, Emma wrote, “The right to vote, or equal civil rights, may be good demands, but true emancipation begins neither at the polls nor in courts. It begins in a woman’s soul.” 

While much has changed over the years, a whole lot of the struggle around women’s rights and roles is not that much different now from when Emma Goldman stood on the back of that wagon to speak. Writer Garance Franke-Ruta said in an essay in The Atlantic back in 2013 that, “more than 100 years ago [Emma Goldman] identified the tensions in the transformation of women's roles that still tug at us today.” It’s frustrating. And true. 

If you like to learn and want to contribute to the continuing cause of women’s self-driven emancipation, you might want to check out this program. On August 20, ZingTrain—a business that has been beautifully and effectively led by two of the women partners in the ZCoB—will be putting on an all-day, online training session that will carry some of the ideas and arguments that Emma Goldman and so many other insightful women were putting forward over 100 years ago, and bring them into focus in the year 2020. The day’s learning is entitled, “Women with Vision: A Celebration of Leadership.” 

To share some data that demonstrates the depth of the historical imbalance, here are a few statistics. The stats are simultaneously shocking, sad—and yet not really at all surprising. 

Since the U.S. Congress convened on March 4, 1789:

  • There have been 12,348 Congressfolk: 12,003 men, 325 women 
  • The country has had 2,014 senators: 1957 men, 57 women
  • There have been 45 presidents: 45 men, 0 women
  • The country has had 114 Supreme Court justices: 110 men, 4 women
  • There are over 5,000 public statues in the U.S. Only about 400 of them are women. (And for what it’s worth, I don’t think any of those 400 are connected to the Confederacy.)
  • Nearly 100% of the voters in American elections between 1776 and 1921 were white men. Back in the days after the revolution, at most 10-20 percent of the population actually voted. Blacks, as you know, were excluded. Originally so too were Jews, Catholics, and any man who didn’t own property. Women were out as well. The one exception to this was in New Jersey, where the original state constitution didn’t specifically say that women couldn’t vote. That led to a good bit of controversy until the issue was finally settled once and not-for-all when, the Constitutional Rights Foundation reports, “the state legislature passed a new election law to clear up the confusion . . . The law declared that since it was ‘highly necessary to the safety, quiet, good order, and dignity of the state,’ no persons were to be allowed to vote except free white men who either owned property worth 50 pounds or were taxpayers.”
  • Native Americans of all genders were not allowed to vote at all until 1924, and in some states that right was not won until 1962. 

The year Emma Goldman spoke in New York, there were still no women in Congress. The first was Representative Jeannette Rankin, elected in 1916 from Montana. 

Coming at it from a business perspective, from a current study of the American work-world:

  • 29% of senior management are women
  • 33 Fortune 500 company CEOs are women
  • 31% of senior roles are held by women in the U.S.
  • 12.5% of American women are employed as CFOs in Fortune 500 companies
  • Women CEOs are statistically much more likely to be fired than CEOs who are men

I know enough about the filter of the belief cycle to say that one can quickly read those stats and arrive at very different conclusions. Some common themes I've heard over the years are that women aren't interested in leadership roles, or that women aren't capable of success in those roles. I believe the opposite. The way I read those numbers, clearly, we have been leaving women out of the collective leadership equation, both through the unconscious cultural norms we’re taught and through systemic problems that regularly channel women to off-ramps rather than support their drive for leadership development. 

Oh yeah, one more stat to consider: Of the countries doing the best in fighting coronavirus, all are being run by women.

If the healthiest ecosystems in nature are the most diverse, then it’s safe to say that exclusion of this sort precludes attaining holistic, sustainable, and well-rounded excellence. Which means that maybe the skills and wisdom of women that we have collectively, if often unknowingly, left out for so long could really help to set us as a country, a company, and the world to be better, more collaborative, more caring, and creative places to be. 

Women finally formally won the right to vote in August 18, 1920, nearly a decade after Emma Goldman gave the speech, nine months after she’d been expelled from the country, a year after the violence of the Red Summer of 1919, and less than a year after the Spanish flu pandemic finally receded from the world scene. The ZingTrain session celebrates the 100 year anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment. Sign up soon. Don’t be left out. 

Celebrate the 19th Amendment with ZingTrain
P.S. If you want a bit of musical accompaniment while you sign up for the seminar, here’s a piece from 1911. And another!
Cervelle de Canut cheese from Zingerman's Creamery

Cervelles de Canut at the Creamery

Classic herbed cream cheese of Lyon


I love little-known local specialties. Many of the most popular foods we work with at Zingerman’s began that way. Balsamic vinegar was barely seen outside of its hometown of Modena up until the 1980s. Hot Chicken was known pretty much only in Nashville up until about 15 years ago. There are thousands of these “neighborhood secrets” around the world waiting to be “discovered.” Thanks to the Creamery’s Jules Mons, who grew up in the French city of Lyon, we now have access to one of those tasty surprises—something that could become as big around Ann Arbor as balsamic vinegar. It’s called Cervelles de Canut.

The literal translation is “silk worker’s brains.” Don’t worry. No silk workers died in the making of it, and the only brains involved are those of the person who first came up with it a few hundred years ago in Lyon. In its home region, Cervelles de Canut is an everyday affair, eaten almost as widely as pimento cheese would be in the American South. Cervelles de Canut is made from the Creamery’s fresh goat cheese, seasoned with olive oil, chopped chives, shallots, black and green peppercorns, and fresh herbs. 

The background? Well, one story I read says that the local Lyonnaise rich folks in the 19th century loved to eat lamb brains—it was the haute cuisine of the era. Since the workers at the silk factories couldn’t afford any culinary luxury, they crafted their own version by mixing leftover cheese with inexpensive and easily available ingredients—stuff like shallots, chives, and garlic or whatever they had on hand. The name “Cervelles” came because on the plate the cheese looked a bit like the lamb brains; Canut is French for "silk worker." 

Lyon, at the time, had been the center of the French silk industry for centuries. In 1870, five years after the end of the Civil War, nearly three quarters of Lyon’s business activity was tied to silk. Interestingly, silk workers seem to have a long history with anarchism. In Lyons in 1831, there was a big (25,000 people) silk-workers strike, one that made headlines all over Europe. Following the thread further . . . Paterson, New Jersey, in the later years of the 19th century, became the silk capital of the U.S. and came to be known as the “Lyon of America.” (It was also the hometown of poets William Carlos Williams and Allan Ginsberg, and it was referenced in Bob Dylan’s song about Ruben Carter, “Hurricane.”) New Jersey, it was said, was divided into those who wore silk and those who worked the looms to make it, and there were far more of the latter than the former. In Paterson too, anarchism and silk weaving seemed to attract each other. In June of 1902, Italian-born anarchist Luigi Galleani led a silk workers strike. Eleven years later, in 1913, an even bigger strike took place. And in 1919, a third-year of strikes took place—it was one of the early pieces of what became the violent Red Summer of 1919.  

Coming back to the more culinarily uplifting story of Cervelles de Canut, it’s versatile to use and a pleasure to eat. I wrote up the new season’s new potatoes last week. Boil a pound or so, break them open, drizzle with salt and pepper, and then top them off with some of this great cheese spread. (It could count as the most delicious “stuffed baked potato” you’ll ever have!) The Cervelles de Canut is also lovely in an omelet. Daniel Bouloud suggests thinning it with a bit of yogurt and using it for a salad dressing—awesome idea. Jules makes his richer still by blending in a bit of heavy cream. It’s really good drizzled with a bit of walnut oil, or even olive oil. You can put Cervelles de Canut on a pizza. Or a bagel. Or a Zinglish muffin! Beautiful on a burger (by the way, put your burgers on toasted Zinglish Muffins and you’ll be a happy human). And, of course, in its simple and scrumptious form, with a Bakehouse baguette

Order for local delivery or stop in to the Cream Top Shop!
Breakfast Tacos at Zingerman's Roadhouse

Terrific Breakfast Tacos at the Roadhouse

New Thursday morning Blue Plate special


A really fine reason to come across town on Thursday mornings, these breakfast tacos have taken over as the Thursday morning Blue Plate special at the Roadhouse. Longtime head chef Bob Bennett has been altering the fillings every week to fit what’s best on the market. This week, the taco will be a warm flour tortilla, topped with soft scrambled eggs and dressed with a double (over and under) layer of a chile purée Bob put together using organic Lady Choi chiles from Tamchop Farm. It’s topped off with a bit of fresh Salsa Ranchero made with chopped tomato, onion, and cilantro. 

To be clear upfront, Mexican foodways have not been my area of expertise. I have only been to visit Mexico three or four times. When I need to learn more, I reach out for reference to longtime friends like Rick Bayless, Susana Trilling, Pati Jinich, and Marisel Presilla. I also read their books along with those of Patricia Quintana, Diana Kennedy, and others. Of late, I’ve been reading Jeffrey Pilcher’s fascinating tome, Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food. Like so many famous foods, the story of tacos is far more complicated than I’d ever imagined. And, like so much of history, it’s not what I would have thought. 

Pilcher’s book is teaching me what I now realize ought to have been clear to me all along; that there is not a singular “traditional” Mexican cuisine. And that nearly all of the same sorts of tensions, blendings, and biases have been playing out ever since Europeans first invaded what is now Mexico at the end of the 15th century that have played out here in what’s now the United States. There are both negative and positive beliefs about indigenous foods like corn, a wide range of indigenous foodways, the introduction of European biases towards wheat and against indigenous cultures, spices introduced from Asia, the influence of secret Jewish conversos who came from Spain. Class biases, regional preference, local ingredients, and high-end imports. Add in the influence of early 20th-century immigration arrivals of folks from Lebanon—some say that soft tacos as we know them were influenced by the introduction of shawarma from the Middle East. My ignorance and bias towards traditional food always had me believing that tacos must have been a widely eaten food in Mexico for millennia. But, as with what I learned about Nachos last month, it turns out that they’re mostly a more recent introduction.

So, where did tacos come from? In an interview with “Smithsonian,” Pilcher posits:

The origins of the taco are really unknown. My theory is that it dates from the 18th century and the silver mines in Mexico, because in those mines the word “taco” referred to the little charges they would use to excavate the ore. These were pieces of paper that they would wrap around gunpowder and insert into the holes they carved in the rock face. When you think about it, a chicken taquito with a good hot sauce is really a lot like a stick of dynamite. The first references [to the taco] in any sort of archive or dictionary come from the end of the 19th century. And one of the first types of tacos described is called tacos de minero—miner’s tacos. So the taco is not necessarily this age-old cultural expression; it’s not a food that goes back to time immemorial.

Tacos showed up in print for the first time in 1862, but were relatively insignificant for the next few decades. “Tacos entered the national cuisine,” Pilcher says, in the late 19th century and were seen “as a potential danger to both health and morality.” In the capital, they were perceived by the dominant Mexican-European culture as “part of an indigenous invasion of Mexico City.” In the early years of the 20th century, during the time of the Mexican Revolution of 1910, the taco was part of a push back towards what was perceived as indigenous. In those years, tacos became very popular in the city—so much so that the central government began to regulate and tax them. Many migrants from the provinces moved to the city and taco stands became a way for city dwellers to experience the diverse differences of the food of Mexico’s varied regional cooking styles. Even in more recent times, tacos were not necessarily what I’d have imagined. Rick Bayless shared with me that when he first started going to Mexico in the 1980s to spend months and years studying the culture and the cuisine, he was surprised that tacos were almost exclusively something you ate after a long night of drinking. He discovered that when he would suggest to Mexican friends that they “go for tacos,” they assumed he meant they’d be going to the bar for a long drinking bout and only then head to the taco stands around midnight. 

At the time that tacos were becoming popular, Mexican society was very much in a state of unrest, dealing with the same sort of social dissatisfaction that was fueling the strikes in Paterson. In 1911, the year that Emma Goldman spoke in New York, her anarchist colleague Ricardo Flores Magon and his compatriots led a successful rebellion in the towns of Mexicali and Tijuana. Magon was very much inspired by Peter Kropotkin, Elisée Reclus, and Emma Goldman. Kropotkin’s book, Conquest of Bread, served as a model for him of what he wanted to create. The free space lasted only six months before the towns were recaptured by the Mexican government. In 1917, Magon was arrested in the U.S. under the same Espionage Act used to deport Emma Goldman for publishing an anti-war editorial in his newspaper Regeneracion. He was convicted and imprisoned. He died in Leavenworth prison at the age of 48 in 1922. In the Mexican town of Matamoros, there’s a restaurant called Tacos de la Flores Magon. It seems fitting— Eric Wichner, who runs food tours in Puerto Vallarta, cites the Mexican saying: “A taco is not denied to anyone.”

Tacos in the U.S.? Pilcher says they probably came with the children of those migrants who arrived in the U.S. around that era and tacos spread into Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California. Pilcher writes that in Los Angeles, where Flores Magon made his home, “Mexican food was … associated with anarchism and union organizing.” Flour tortillas are not, as I would have thought, an American shortcut, but actually have a long history in Mexico that dates back centuries to the European attraction to wheat and the need for Catholics to make communion wafers. Flour tortillas were also much quicker to make than grinding corn masa. 

How good are our breakfast tacos? I almost never eat breakfast—only when there’s something that I want to try and that I can’t get later in the day. I’ve gone by the Roadhouse and had the tacos twice in the last two weeks since I can only get them on Thursdays from 8-11am. As Pilcher says, “The thing about tacos is you always want another one.” Which is why you’ll likely see me at the Roadhouse again this week too!

Get to the Roadhouse on Thursday morning for Breakfast Tacos!
Zingerman's Deli Reuben Tour announcement

Reuben Sandwiches—and a terrific tour—from the Deli

A controversial history, but a clear 21st-century success

Ted Ownby, former director of Southern Studies at Ole Miss says, “Origin stories are always disputed.” The roots of the Reuben sandwich are pretty clearly in that category. There’s a wonderful write up in Saveur by Elaine Weis, who’s adamant that her grandfather, Bernard Schimmel, invented it in Omaha, Nebraska, to feed a poker player named Reuben Kulakofsky. The alternate version is that it came from Reuben’s Deli in New York City. Being a Midwestern kid, I’ll lean toward the former. The fact that the sandwich is so clearly unkosher—cheese and Russian dressing with meat would have been literal heresy in my family—tells me it would have made more sense to have happened in Nebraska than on 58th Street in Manhattan. But hey, I wasn’t there and I have no way to know what really happened. 

One thing I do know is we didn’t invent the Reuben at Zingerman’s. By the time we opened the Deli in 1982, the sandwich was already what intellectual property lawyers call in “the public domain.” All we did was try to make one that tasted terrific. I also know that the Reuben has been on Deli’s menu since we opened in 1982 (copies of the menu are now in the archive at the Bentley Historical Library for history students doing primary research 100 years from now). The Reuben—aka, “the #2”—here has always been made with corned beef, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and sauerkraut grilled on rye. Who knows how many thousands we’ve sold over our 38 years? Or how many Reuben kits we’ve Mail Ordered to folks around the country! 

Over the years, some of the ingredients here have stayed the same. Same source for the corned beef. Same Switzerland Swiss Emmental cheese. Same Russian dressing we’ve been making since we opened. Some things, though, have been upgraded significantly. We started baking our own rye in 1992 when we opened the Bakehouse—more rye flour, real rye starter, longer rise times, way more flavor! And we switched the sauerkraut to the lovely, naturally fermented, kraut we now get from Dave Klingenberger and the crew at The Brinery

In a 2020 twist on Reuben history, this summer the Deli kicked off what might just be the country’s first-ever Reuben Tour. There are tour t-shirts and stickers, and it comes with a whole lot of good eating. The first three stops on the summer tour have been big, sold out, hits. There are five more stops on the schedule. And I have a feeling that more might be coming as we enter into autumn. You may not be able to go to a football game, but you will be able to line up—six feet apart—to score a Zingerman’s Reuben in towns across Michigan. (Just be sure to pre-order!)

Co-Managing partner and chef Rodger Bowser came up with the idea:

I wanted to take the Deli to the good people of Michigan, given guests were not necessarily traveling, or we could not fit them all here at the Deli. There is demand out there, so what is getting in the way? This helps get the food to the people. We set up partnerships with breweries or the like in cities around Michigan, market the hell out of it, and take preorders for Deli sandwiches for a certain date. Kalamazoo’s  sandwiches sold out in three days and it sounds like they all want to do it again!

Sign up soon so you don’t miss out. Or if you’re here in town, just drive over to have your own personal Reuben tour any day of the week. If this thing really gets going, maybe we’ll take the tour all the way to Omaha!

Pre-Order for Upcoming Stops on the Reuben Tour!

Rugelach from the Bakehouse

A Jewish American classic that’s perfect for the summer season


This time of year, I think of rugelach. While so many desserts and confections simply don’t hold up well outside of air-conditioned environments, rugelach work really well for picnics, camping, or carrying around your backpack even when the summer heat is as high as it's been the last few weeks here in Michigan. 

In the very early days of the Deli, back when we first started making Reubens, we used to buy them from Mollie Ingber. Mollie was the daughter of Abe Ingber, an auto-parts salesman who was one of the earliest Jewish folks to come to Ann Arbor. When we started the Bakehouse in 1992, we began baking our own, and we’ve been at it ever since. They’re one of those small, delicious traditional Jewish baked goods I could nibble on regularly! The backstory? Longtime friend, and accomplished cookbook author Joan Nathan writes, 

Rugelach could originally have come from many places, mostly in Central and Eastern Europe, where a yeast-risen circle of dough was rolled out, cut like a pizza, smeared with jam, and then rolled up, revealing little corners of jam and chocolate-flecked dough. Once the cookies arrived on this side of the ocean, however, cream cheese and (sometimes) baking powder replaced sour cream and yeast, and rugelach became the treat we all love today.

Joan, I should add, has become a big fan of the Bakehouse’s rugelach. 

The name? It could be from the Yiddish “rog,” meaning “corner.” Or the Polish “rog,” which also means “horn.” Others say it means “royal” in Yiddish. They seem to be in the same crescent-shaped tradition of baked goods that’s given us classics like croissants and kipferl cookies! Either way, they’re really good. Cream cheese pastry rolled around a filling of walnuts and currants. Or with raspberry jam (my favorite for years) or apricot jam. A few years ago, we extended our reach to make them with dark chocolate! They’ve become such a significant part of non-religious, Jewish-American food lore that even Philip Roth wrote about them in his novel American Pastoral.
Order Rugelach online for curbside pickup!

P.S. If you want to make the Bakehouse rugelach at your house, check out the writeup and recipe in Zingerman’s Bakehouse.

P.P.S. If you like a good story, listen to our friend, world-class baker, writer, and storyteller, Dorie Greenspan on NPR.  

P.P.P.S. Ship some rugelach to your friends in Florida.

Other things on my mind:

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