Ari's Top 5


Dignity has no price, when someone starts making small concessions,
in the end, life loses all meaning.

—José Saramago

a hand with an eye tattoo holding a pepper above a basket filled with peppers

Dealing with Dignity
in Every Direction

Why treating our products and tools with dignity makes a meaningful difference

When I teach the Welcome to ZCoB orientation for new staff, near the end of the class, I share how we encourage folks to “break the rules” when they need to to get better service to our guests. There are four rules we ask everyone not to break though—in our world, violating them is considered a significant offense that will not go unnoticed. The first two are probably not surprising: “Don’t steal from us,” and “don’t be at work under the influence.” The third is “Never be rude to a customer or coworker.” The fourth, for most people, is unexpected: “Don’t be rude to the food.” In essence, it’s a direct request to everyone, from the day they start working here, to treat the food with which we work with dignity. While an item may not be to their personal taste, we expect folks to treat each product with dignity anyways. This last focus is the subject of this piece. I’ve come to see this subject as one that is essential to our energy, our resilience, and the creation of vocation. 

While I was doing the work to finish last week’s essay—a look at the very personal and powerful ways in which my relationship with food has reconnected me with the natural world and with myself—I began to reflect further about what had made my relationship with food so exceptionally positive. After all, many people work the same job for decades but don’t feel like their lives have been radically enhanced and meaningfully enriched by what they do at work. Why was something that millions of Americans do every day transformative for me, but not for so many others? The answer came clear to me sometime last Tuesday. The difference, or at least an important part of it, is dignity. It’s impossible to do great work in the kind of caring, regenerative way we want, without it. As author Laura Hillenbrand writes, “Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen.” 

Though Paul and I didn’t talk about it when we opened the Deli in March of 1982, we were already working back then to treat all of our products—both the raw materials and the finished goods we cooked with them—with dignity and respect from day one. Had we not, Zingerman’s would not be Zingerman’s. And I would not be who I am. Dignity—not just with people, but also with the products we make and sell, along with the tools and techniques we use to make them—is an essential element of creating the kind of healthy organizational ecosystem to which we are so committed. As Wendell Berry writes, “The idea of vocation attaches to … devotion, skill, pride, pleasure, the good stewardship of means and materials.” Dignity can help us make all of that a daily reality. 

Is it strange to consider what a dignified relationship with a deli sandwich would look like? When I was at school here at U of M, I’d probably have rolled my eyes in response to the question. Something started to shift, though, when we opened the Deli. Today, I would do the opposite. Instead of cynicism, the idea makes me open my eyes wide and smile. If dignity is how you and I show up in the ecosystem, it only makes sense that we would want to honor it in every part of our presence. Without it, both we, and the planet, descend into disrespect. As Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa explains:

When human beings lose their connection to nature, to heaven and earth, then they do not know how to nurture their environment or how to rule their world—which is saying the same thing. Human beings destroy their ecology at the same time that they destroy each other. From that perspective, healing our society goes hand in hand with healing our personal, elemental connection with the phenomenal world.

Early on in our partnership, Paul began to talk to me about the difference between “transactional relationships” (where we do something for someone solely for the purpose of getting something back in return) and “transformational relationships,” in which we do things because we believe that they’re the right thing to do, and in the belief that in the long run all involved will benefit. My relationship with food, as I shared last week, is clearly one of the latter. Any life well lived, I have come to understand over the years, will be based on transformational relationships of the sort Paul was informally teaching me about. Whether we work with food, photography, or flowers, dignity is then, by definition, an essential element of doing great work and finding our way in the world. 

How else would you deal with food other than with dignity? Quite honestly, sadly, most of the country’s exposure to food and cooking is the opposite. It’s about low prices, catchy ad campaigns, or the idea that if you eat “X” you will likely become a better person. You can experience, and taste, the lack of dignity in the industrialized packaged products I grew up with—and which still dominate grocery store shelves. Or in the big budget brand-building work for products that are neither great nor authentic, but can be made to sell well through flashy packaging and the right price points. These are foods that are adulterated, diluted, and diminished, so that real maple syrup becomes “pancake syrup,” really wild wild rice (see below) becomes “wild rice” that’s being farmed, beer becomes “lite,” and gefilte fish is canned for convenience. As Robin Wall Kimmerer writes,

The sanitized suburban life has succeeded in separating us from the plants that sustain us. Their roles are camouflaged under layers of marketing and technology. You can’t hear the rustle of corn leaves in a box of Froot Loops.

Dignity is what we can, and need to, do to rebuild what industrialization has eroded. We will not do great work without it. That realization was affirmed last week by spending time with my friend Natalie Chanin’s beautiful new book, Embroidery: Threads and Stories. Natalie and I first met at the Southern Foodways Alliance symposium about fifteen years or so ago. Her business, Alabama Chanin, and in more recent years, The School of Making, are both beyond marvelous. Born in the small north Alabama town of Florence (also home to the Mussel Shoals music studio), the same town she again lives in, Natalie studied textile design at North Carolina State and was later inspired by the ethos of the creative spirits at Black Mountain College in Asheville. After working in New York and being part of the high-powered fashion world (that’s a long story, very short) she returned home to Florence. Her dedication to craft, to community, and to continuous improvement are inspiring. 

In the context of congruence, Embroidery is a beautiful, informative, and insightful testament to Natalie’s wonderful work. In the same way we do deep dives here at Zingerman’s into which peppercorns we pick, the sort of sugar we bake with, or the curing time on a country ham, Natalie has a dignity-based, intimate, connection with the tools of her trade, the spirit of her work, and the products she and her crew craft. The way she writes about sewing is very much the same as what I said last week about my relationship with food. Natalie shares:

It’s about finding inspiration, following a path, and, sometimes, about the joy of design. There are ideas about color and how to design a stencil pattern, some basic instructions for sewing stitches, and techniques for embroidery. There are conversations about cotton, and manufacturing, and, perhaps, there is inspiration—although, in my opinion, inspiration is always in the eye of the beholder. There are fabrics and maps for how fabrics are developed. There are people to meet, narratives to paint, and stories to embroider.

Natalie’s ten-page essay on needles in the middle of Chapter 4 is part of what got me thinking about this idea of dealing with everything with which we work with dignity. For those of you who sew, some of what she wrote will, I’m sure, be at least a bit familiar, but I knew next to nothing. By the time I was done reading, I had started looking at needles with the same sense of deference and fascination that I hold for the study of and appreciation for artisan spaghetti or the sourcing of wild cumin seeds. In many of her conversations, Natalie talks about the idea of “the living arts”—in her case sewing, in ours, cooking. Her comments remind me of Wendell Berry’s reference to his friend Andy Catlett’s dedication to “the art of loading brush.” Attending to the living arts with the same deference and dignity we might pay to paintings by famous artists, she suggests, makes our lives richer and our communities healthier. Natalie writes:

I can see the straight line that connects the craft of my professional community of farmers, spinners, knitters, dyers, sewers, designers, and the wearers. This notion of interconnectedness forms the basis of my work. In belonging to a community of makers, I have had the opportunity to learn and practice my craft as well as to become a better citizen.

What Natalie and her team do with needle and thread, we try hard to do here with food and cooking. To honor the tools, techniques, raw materials, and finished craft products with dignity every day. We give dignity to the food, and the food returns the favor. Where industrialization has led to division, dignity is a way to start to stitch our worlds back together. Jason Kirkey writes:

The problem lies not in the industrial process itself but in the industrial process’ complete divorce from ecological constraints and the laws of nature—not to mention, in many cases, the basic rights of other humans. That the industrial process has been able to function in this way is testament that the culture which produced it is suffering from a pathological dissociation from wild nature.

In order to test this idea, I decided to take a look at how all this would fit the six elements of the revolution of dignity that I’ve been writing about since the Russian invasion of Ukraine this past winter. I’ve left the wording for each of the six headings as it was in the original essay, and then adapted the descriptions to fit with food. You can, I believe, likely do something similar for the tools and products of your trade—email me and let me know what you come up with. 

Honor the essential humanity of everyone we work with.

George Saunders writes that “Every human being is worthy of attention.” In processing all this, I’ve come to see that the same can be accurately said about every element of our food and cooking. The industrial model has suffused us with statistics, generalizations, and market trends. This work is about backing up to get to a food world in which the uniqueness of every item can be honored with dignity and integrity. To know that grain at the Bakehouse is being freshly milled and know the farm it comes from. That we know how and where the wheat for the Mancini maccheroni we use at the Roadhouse was grown, and on which day the pasta was extruded through the appropriately old-school bronze dies. That we know the farm from which our tomatoes have been coming and the seed variety from which they are grown. To work to create more humane conditions for the animals that are part of our food. As Chögyam Trungpa makes clear, “There is some principle of magic in everything, some living quality. Something living, something real, is taking place in everything.”

When we experience our products, our raw materials, etc. as simply a way to make money or a way to get something done, we demean their uniqueness. Our work for four decades here has been to go in the opposite direction. Instead of erasing differences and paving over uniqueness, the work has been to promote diversity and study the past. To honor the food for what it once was before Industrial Age ideology insisted on consistency and efficiency at the expense of flavor.

Every craftsperson whose work and thinking I’ve studied pays deep attention to what they’re working with. Natalie Chanin goes into loving detail about the nuances of cloth, quilting, stitching, and needles. I’m inspired as well by the work of British Columbia luthier Reuben Forsland, who shares, “Each of the woods that I've had experience with brings its own challenges, adventure, beauty, and inspiration.” Forsland talks about learning the history of the wood, through which he is better able to make the exceptional custom guitars for which he is famous.

Be authentic in all our interactions.

The more we honor the raw materials we work with, whatever those might be, the easier it is to bring beauty to the world and to benefit all involved. Dignity, in this sense, leads me in the direction of food in its purest and most positive way. To honor the essential identity of what we cook, serve, and sell, sticking with our long-standing definition of quality at Zingerman’s: “Full flavored and traditional foods.” After all, as Edna Lewis (who is featured in Patrick-Earl Barnes’ beautiful “Blacks in Culinary” art piece at the Roadhouse) lamented about the impact of industrialization on modern-day food, “There's nothing they haven't tampered with."

A dedication to dealing with dignity pushes us to steer clear of trends, glitz, and glamor, and instead ground ourselves in craft, thoughtful creativity, and history. In The Gefilte Manifesto, Liz Alpern, Jeffrey Yoskowitz, and Jackie Lilinshtein write about their work with the gefilte fish I featured in last week’s Top 5
Gefilte is not just about your bubbe. It is not about kitsch or a food revolution. Gefilte is about reclaiming our time-honored foods and caring how they taste and how they’re sourced. It is about serving a dish with pride, not simply out of deference to hollow convention. It is about taking food traditions seriously and reclaiming the glory of Ashkenazi food—what it has been and what it can be.

Here at Zingerman’s, we have long been committed to crafting food in which the quality of the exceptional, unique ingredients we’ve sought out can really shine. Where apple dishes taste intensely like apples. Where we can make honey cake (see below) that speaks beautifully and happily of dark buckwheat honey and the loveliness of the freshly-milled rye flour. Where we’re not trying to find middle-of-the-road options to keep prices down, but rather, to push the envelope in the best possible ways to make our flavors more intense. My good friend and supplier of artisan Italian ingredients for over thirty years now, Rolando Beramendi, wrote an entire book based on this principle. It’s called Autentico, or “authentic,” in Italian. In it, Rolando recommends:

Trying to get as close as possible to your food’s natural form and making sure you purchase, eat, and share the best products—no matter where in the world they are from—all of which are made with heart, tradition, and most of all, authenticity, is the best way to close the gap of that separation and forge the way ahead. 

Good cooking is ultimately about being ourselves and letting the ingredients be themselves in the process. I agree wholeheartedly with Alice Waters when she suggests, “Let things taste of what they are. … When you have the best and tastiest ingredients, you can cook very simply and the food will be extraordinary because it tastes like what it is.” When you sample the cooking Ji Hye is doing at Miss Kim, just as one ZCoB example, you can experience exactly what Alice is talking about.

Make sure everyone has a meaningful say.

I’m not saying that the loaves of bread, the cheese, or the fried chicken are talking to me, but I do think that if we do our work well, we want to tune into what they are "telling us." Every great cook listens to what the ingredients are telling them as they cook; writers tune into the words, craft carpenters or luthiers like Reuben Forsland to the wood they’re working with. David Abram writes,

In the Pacific Northwest I met a man who had schooled himself in the speech of needled evergreens; on a breezy day you could drive him, blindfolded, to any patch of coastal forest and place him, still blind, beneath a particular tree—after a few moments he would tell you, by listening, just what species of pine or spruce or fir stood above him. … His ears were attuned, he said, to the different dialects of the trees. 

This takes a gentle spirit, and a good “ear.” Rolando writes,

In the event that a reader should wish to modify, add, or make any other kind of maneuvers in the kitchen, so long as these choices are made with respect to each and every one of the ingredients in the recipe and those which are being added or deleted, and with respect to the original dish and the actual diners, then let them take place. 

Buying better quality ingredients, as both Rolando and I and the respective organizations of which we are a part have been doing for decades, he writes, “Is the best and easiest way to support the real deal, and ask the fakes to go their own merry way.” 

Begin every interaction with positive beliefs.

For me, this has been the belief that in nearly every case we can, if we work at it, figure out ways to improve all of our offerings over time. That we can find ways to turn the seemingly simplest ingredient into an inspiration. That we can introduce dignity in ever more meaningful ways into every interaction we have (with food and otherwise). To believe that people can taste the difference, and that, when their finances allow, they will gladly pay what it really costs to get it. In Part 4 I wrote:

Anyone who’s interested can tell the difference between bad, good, indifferent, and excellent. Many people I’ve met say they can’t. But guess what happens when you have that belief? You got it! If you believe you won’t be able to taste the difference, the odds are high you won’t. If you change those beliefs, and open your mind to appreciate the differences between delicious artisanal fare and mediocre industrial offerings, I’m confident you will. In fact, I’d say it’s almost impossible not to. Given the choice between marvelously good and run-of-the-mill mundane, anyone who’s attentive will be able to tell the difference in a heartbeat.

Make a commitment to helping everyone get to greatness.

Laura Hillenbrand says, “Without dignity, identity is erased.” In practice this also means steering clear of subpar ingredients, or preparing them in suboptimal ways, instead finding ways to cook that feature the food’s natural character.

For much of the mass market food world, on the other hand, “success” is earned at the expense of the food. Edna Lewis shares:

When all we care about is cheapness, we don't ask how long things will last or how well they are made—and in truth, we don't particularly care. Because when a product is cheap, it becomes disposable. 

When cheapness becomes the priority, it's also hard for people to tell if what they are buying has been made with integrity. Part of the issue behind cheapness is that we have no sense of craftsmanship. We don't know how many hours or materials went into producing our smartphone or our space heater, or even our chest of drawers. And once you can't imagine how things are made, you are free to have an utter fantasy that everything can and should be cheap.

We have worked hard to resist the pull of the market to go in that direction. Instead, we have committed to improving the quality of what we work with, even when that means it will cost more. To change the Townie Brownies, Dobos Torta, etc. to the bean-to-bar dark chocolate from the folks at French Broad. To find a tastier pecan grown by a 5th generation family farm. To source a better, more sustainable turkey for the sandwiches at the Deli. History is honored, harmony is encouraged, and everything is made more flavorful in the process.

Actively work to create some sense of meaningful equity.

Equity, I’ve come to understand, will always be a complex equation to work out. In this case, for me, dealing with our ingredients with dignity calls for us to be mindful of our impact on the places and people from which we buy, and also with whom we work. It also means trying to get those with more limited means access to the kind of food we make and sell. It’s not easy, but, over time, we can move closer to our preferred future, to create a setting in which, as Robin Wall Kimmerer writes, “No leaf sits directly over the next, so that each can gather light without shading the others.”

We want to take care not to over-extract or overharvest. To think about harvests decades and centuries down the road. To make sure that as best we can we are giving back to support that development for both the planet and the people doing the work. Natalie Chanin made the commitment years ago to working with organic cotton from Texas. At the Bakehouse, nearly ten years ago we shifted to organic flour—it lets us bake better bread while at the same time making one small step in the direction of ecosystem sustainability. The Ojibwe tradition around really wild wild rice (see below) is all about this kind of equity. Robin Wall Kimmerer writes:

Early colonists on Turtle Island were stunned by the plenitude they found here, attributing the richness to the bounty of nature. Settlers in the Great Lakes wrote in their journals about the extraordinary abundance of wild rice harvested by Native peoples; in just a few days, they could fill their canoes with enough rice to last all year. But the settlers were puzzled by the fact that, as one of them wrote, “the savages stopped gathering long before all the rice was harvested.” … The settlers took this as certain evidence of laziness and lack of industry on the part of the heathens. They did not understand how indigenous land-care practices might contribute to the wealth they encountered.

Doing our work with dignity, I believe, is a positive place from which to start to make our work and our worlds better places to be. When we do it well, it brings a wonderful revelatory new reality. As friend and chef Dan Barber says of the first time he tasted great polenta: “It was an awakening!” 

A few weeks ago we had ZingTrain clients here from out of town. They’re kind, generous, quite successful food folks, who I both admire and appreciate. They toured the whole ZCoB while they were here. One evening, at the Roadhouse, I started telling them about the farm-to-table Tellicherry pepper from India we use in everything from the pepper grinders on the tables all the way through to the fried chicken. I shared the story of how we get it; that it took a good year’s work to make it happen. I talked about the small farms on which it is grown; the way us paying higher prices for it helps their quality of life; about Sudheer in Kerala who goes farm to farm to gather it; and last but not least, about our friends Ethné and Phillipe de Vienne at Épices de Cru, our spice merchants in Montreal, who make it all possible.

As we talked, I told them how most restaurants still use rather mundane, inexpensive black pepper, but how, here at Zingerman’s, we believe that honoring these seemingly insignificant parts of what we do ultimately makes an enormous difference. Our clients, to be clear, have done a ton of great things in their careers, but they simply hadn’t considered putting so much energy into something that seems, to most in our industry, almost irrelevant. To make the point that this isn’t just marketing hype—but rather a meaningful difference that anyone can discern—I had them smell the ground pepper and then taste a whole peppercorn. They loved it and bought some to take home.

The reverence with which we hold these simple peppercorns made an impression. They told me two weeks later that they got home and replaced all their pepper with what they had bought. Treating typically peripheral parts of the food world with such deep dignity, I have come to understand, is one of the big things that sets us apart, and helps us stay emotionally healthy. It creates a bond, an energy, a sense of meaningful connection and purpose that cannot be replaced by any amount of capital.

All relationships have ups and downs, and I’m sure that’s true for my dealings with food as well. But without all of what I’ve written about dignity here, the ways I described my life changing through my deep connection with food in last week’s essay would never have happened. Zingerman’s would have still started up and we might have done well for a while, but it would never have lasted. I would have had a reasonably good job, but it’s very unlikely I’d ever have found my vocation. As Sam Keen warns:

We have to stop pretending that we can make a living at something that is trivial or destructive and still have a sense of legitimate self-worth. A society in which vocation and job are separated for most people gradually creates an economy that is often devoid of spirit, one that frequently fills our pocketbooks at the cost of emptying our souls.

For us to really be ourselves, to treat each other with dignity, to make a revolution of dignity a daily reality in our organizations, we need to make dignity the basis of every relationship we have. When we do, the world around us will come alive in a wonderful way. There is more color, more complexity, more connection, more creativity. It brings purpose and meaning, gratitude, and generosity of spirit. As Natalie Chanin says, “In a world of fast fashion, mass production, and machines, I wanted to work slowly and thoughtfully; I wanted to contribute to my community.” Dignity—in every direction—is one of the best ways I know to make that happen. 

More on the revolution of dignity

P.S. An invitation again to join me and Katie Frank at the Zingerman’s Experience seminar next month where we can explore this together. 

P.P.S. Part 4, The Power of Beliefs in Business is finally back from the printer!

a close up of wild rice grains

A Salute to
Really Wild Wild Rice

Dignity and deliciousness
in a bit of local culinary loveliness

If you’ve never tried really wild wild rice–I mean the real thing, not the commercial replica—you’re in for a revelatory eating experience! 

Really wild wild rice is one of the best examples I can come up with of the difference between treating what we work with with dignity, or relating to it merely as a means to a financial end. Everything about really wild wild rice speaks to dignity. The oral traditions of Native American tribes make clear that for many millennia wild rice was the single most important food of the people of the Upper Midwest and central Canada. In the Ojibwe language, the name is manoomin, meaning “good berry,” but early English and French explorers related it instead to the grains they’d grown up with; the French, for example, called it folle avoine, or “crazy oats.” The English settled on “wild rice.” Many years ago, in an effort to treat the authentic article with the dignity it deserved, I began to call it “really wild wild rice” when I realized that what was once solely a wild grass in nature is today endangered by cultivation and, more recently, climate change. Two hundred years ago, all wild rice was wild; today something like ninety-plus percent of what is being sold on the market as “wild rice” is actually cultivated. 

Really wild wild rice was in this part of the world very much what corn was in the American Southwest—culturally significant, much revered, economically essential, and also oft eaten. The annual, late August, wild rice harvest, said 19th-century historian Eva Lips, was “the decisive event of the year, of the total economic life and with it, life itself.” Ojibwe writer Jim Northrup explained, “Wild rice … is the annual gift from the Creator.” To this day, Northrup writes, “It appears at every celebration or sorrowful gathering.” When we eat it, we’re honoring tradition and paying proper homage to the history of the Native peoples of the region who have eaten manoomin for millennia. And we know that it is harvested in a way that’s appropriate and regenerative for the ecosystem and that pays an equitable price to those who do the hard work to gather it. 

To cook it, you can simply boil it in salted water like pasta until it’s tender—it takes only about fifteen to twenty minutes max. By contrast, cultivated “paddy rice” usually takes about an hour, if not longer. This is no joke—the cultivated stuff takes forever to cook and it doesn’t taste very good when it’s done, either. I still laugh out loud every time I see Jim Northrup’s “recipe” for paddy rice: “First, find a baseball-sized rock. Add that to the water/paddy rice mixture that is boiling. Cook until the rock is soft; that means your rice is almost done.”

Mo Frechette, co-managing partner at Zingerman’s Mail Order for about thirty years now, says, “The flavor is absolutely stunning. It’s mild but extremely complex, with woody, green and grassy flavors mixed in with nutty, yeasty, earthy notes. Never overpowering, it’s the kind of flavor kids love too.” If you like pasta, rice, or other grains, I really encourage you—in the interest of both dignity and deliciousness—to make this really wild wild rice part of your regular cooking routine. Great as a side dish, or as a main course. Partners super well with bacon and also with autumn mushrooms. Great for breakfast too topped with butter and sprinkled with maple sugar or syrup. Super fine with fish, chicken, pork, or really just about anything!

Ship some rice to a relative in Reno
Pick some up to please your own palate
a close up view of a slice of Bumble Honey Cake

Buckwheat Honey Cake from the Bakehouse

Fresh milling makes for another
amazing improvement

In our never-ending work to make more flavorful and more traditional food, this year we began using freshly milled rye flour our Buckwheat Honey Cake. What has long been really good, is now so terrific that I’m craving it all day! It’s got a big round wonderful flavor, an exceptionally moist texture, and a lovely long finish. Wow!

Eating honey is a traditional Jewish way to ring in a sweet New Year, and honey cake is one of my favorite ways to elevate my honey eating. This year is the best batch I can remember us making. We only see the Buckwheat Honey Cake but once a year here, so now’s the time to take advantage of the Bakehouse’s good work. It’s only out for the holidays, so order soon! 

Honey Cake at the Bakehouse is made from a long list of luscious ingredients, including a healthy helping of dark and delicious buckwheat honey. The honey has a big, bold, dark, mysteriously fruity flavor. Add in the freshly milled rye flour, sugar, freshly cracked eggs, golden raisins, toasted almonds, fresh orange and lemon zest, ground cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and some freshly brewed black tea and you’ll send the New Year off to a good start.

Amy Emberling, co-managing partner at the Bakehouse says: “I think it's an overlooked winner—complex layering of flavors, an interesting and subtle version of gingerbread. I love the ingredient list.” Great after dinner, or to start the day have a slice for breakfast. Its big, well-rounded, softly spicy flavor would be fantastic with a cup of that great Tree Town Blend we’re brewing this month. The honey cake is terrific with Creamery gelato as well. Or you can toast it and serve it with a little Creamery Cream Cheese in the morning. It’s a wonderful way to ring in the New Year! I’m nibbling it now with my coffee as I write! 

The Buckwheat Honey Cake is available through October 5 at the Bakeshop and the Deli. And if you have friends or relatives to whom you want to send sweet New Year’s wishes, the crew at Mail Order are standing by to ship some for you soon!

Ship some honey cake to Uncle Harry in New Hampshire to help break the Yom Kippur fast?
two containers of caramel dip on a white plate with apple slices, one open with a spoon pulling caramel sauce up out of it

New Caramel Sauce from the Candy Manufactory

Terrific topping for gelato, cake, toast

Here’s an easy and delicious new taste treat from the crew at the Candy Manufactory. The caramel we’ve been making for years as an ingredient in other confectionery work is now available to take home in 8-ounce cups. If you’re like me and making caramel is not part of your regular cooking routine, then grab some! Since the Candy crew has done all the work for us, the Caramel Sauce is excellent and easy to use. 

The Candy Manufactory Caramel, like so much of what we craft around the ZCoB, is made special by the quality of the raw materials that go into it. We long ago made the commitment to cook and bake with Muscovado sugar from the island of Mauritius. Muscovado is essentially old-school brown sugar. Here in 2022, it’s much more work to produce but the flavor is far bigger, more complex, and delicious. Muscovado retains the sugar cane’s natural molasses, and adds great depth and complexity to this sauce, the Zzang! Bar, our Toasted Pecan Pie, the Butterscotch Pudding and Donuts at the Roadhouse, and many more. (We sell the Muscovado sugar at the Bakeshop and Deli as well for your home cooking and baking.) Caramel was likely first made in the Arab world—where sugar was well-established—over a thousand years ago by slowly cooking sugar with water. Milk would have come along much later, most likely in the middle of the 19th century. 

This new Caramel Sauce is super tasty on gelato, with cakes, or tortes. Add it to coffee for a caramel latte. Drizzle a bit on French toast or pancakes. Steve Mangigian, managing partner at the Coffee Company, has been dipping slices of autumn apple into it!

Care for some caramel?
a salad of cauliflower and harissa with basil leaves

Salad of Cauliflower
and Harissa

A terrific taste of Tunisia to make at home

Local heirloom tomato season is coming to an end for 2022, but cauliflower is still going strong! This simple salad is a wonderful way to feature it in these first weeks of the fall season. 

To make the salad, simply steam or poach fresh cauliflower until it’s al dente—soft enough to be fork-tender, but not completely falling apart. Cool and break into bite-sized florets. Lightly salt the cauliflower (or if you poached it, salt the cooking water). Squeeze on a small bit of fresh lemon juice. Then add some yogurt to dress it—I’ve been increasingly enamored of the Jersey cow milk yogurt we have at the Creamery from Bellwether Farms in California. It’s become a staple at our house in recent months. Add a bit of mayonnaise and then a healthy amount of harissa, using more or less depending on your taste.

The harissa here—and throughout the ZCoB—comes from the Mahjoub family in Tunisia. It’s the kind of food that I have fallen in love with, a food that invited me into the history and culture of Tunisia, and into a new twenty-year-plus friendship with Majid Mahjoub. Everything about the way it’s made, and the way it tastes is about dignity. It starts with chiles and tomatoes, all grown organically on the Mahjoub family farm near the Tunisian town of Tebourba. All are sun-dried (which enhances flavor and nutrition), and then blended with the family’s organic extra virgin olive oil and spices into a smooth, savory, spicy, and to my taste totally addictive pepper spread. All of it is made with a deep connection to Tunisian history and culinary culture.

Add some toasted chopped almonds or lightly toasted pine nuts, and mix well. Serve it on leaves of local arugula or lettuce. Garnish with a little bit of freshly ground cumin or ground caraway seed—the Wild Uzbekistan Black Cumin and the Wild Canadian Caraway Seed we have on hand from our friends at Épices de Cru are both incredibly good. Great with the Moroccan Challah.

Help yourself to some harissa

Other Things on My Mind

Early insider notice—Gareth Higgins will be coming to town to do a talk on Tuesday evening, November 1 at the Roadhouse. Mark your calendar now! Gareth’s work—which is all about dignity—has had a huge impact on me!


Jake Blount has a great new album out, entitled The New Faith. It’s a blend of Blount’s signature banjo work woven into a set of songs that appeal to Afrofuturism. As the folks at Smithsonian Folkways write: “Each song Blount plays … highlights important elements about the stories we tell ourselves of our shared history and our endlessly complicated present moment.”


Serhiy Plokhy, The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine.

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