Ari's Top 5
Joy, rather than happiness, is the goal of our life, for joy is the emotion which accompanies our fulfilling our natures as human beings. 

—Rollo May
A black and white photo of a butterfly in a patch of flowers.

Joy at Work
(and Working at Joy)

Why butterflies might matter in the business ecosystem

What follows is a stepping stone; the start of my understanding of something that, on the one hand, I’ve lived with my whole life, and at the same time, I haven’t given nearly as much thought to as I could have. Fortunately, I get a lot of joy from learning, and maybe even more of it from putting that learning to work in the world. In the spirit of synergy, helping others helps me at the same time. As progressive educator Maria Montessori once said, “Joy is the evidence of inner growth.” The understanding of which, right now, gives me a lovely little moment of the joy this piece is about. It’s only a matter of minutes before something else intrudes into this joyful space, but while it’s there, it’s most certainly making me smile.
Unlike long-term visions or well-built buildings, joy is fleeting. Like a butterfly alighting on a newly opened blossom, it’s there to be appreciated for a few seconds, maybe a couple of minutes. If we miss it, life goes on apace; the world won’t end, but our energy erodes a bit. If we notice it, we smile, our eyes light up, endorphins are released, we enjoy the joy. As poet Lisel Mueller (who passed away just before the start of the pandemic last year at the age of 96) writes, “What exists, exists so that it can be lost and become precious.” Most moments of joy pass pretty quickly, but the best of them, if we’re paying attention, become precious memories we can carry forward into our personal and/or collective futures. What follows is about mindfully making joy into an active—and actively sought after—element in the story of our daily work.
Rich Sheridan rewrote his story to make joy an important part of his work, and that addition altered his life. I’ve known Rich for at least twenty years now—he and his partner James Goebel and their colleagues at Menlo Innovations just celebrated their 20th anniversary. We’ve had countless conversations over the years. Menlo’s mission is about “Being intentional about restoring JOY… to technology” and “to end human suffering in the world as it relates to technology.” Joy, Inc. came out in 2013, and, it’s all about creating a joyful work culture. The Menlo folks are long-time ZingTrain fans, and the two organizations have many things in common, including commitments to visioning, Servant Leadership, getting away from hierarchy, and Open Book Management. Having reread Joy, Inc. and its sequel, Chief Joy Officer, two or three times now, probably the biggest thing I got from the books is the belief what we can take joy out of the abstract—a pleasant thing that’s mostly about eight-year-olds playing in the park—and intentionally put joy to work at work. As Rich writes, we can focus “on the business value of joy.” All of which is why, when my mind got going on the subject while I was out running the other day, I immediately thought of reaching out to Rich. Later that evening I sent him this email:

 I was thinking about the organizational ecosystem model and imagining that joy could be butterflies—it's well known in healthy natural farms and ecosystems that butterflies show up in abundance, and they're also a sign of health returning to an ecosystem. When an ecosystem is being restored to its natural state, butterflies come back!
Rich’s response? “I LOVE that idea!” My reaction? Joy! His email made me smile. Which, in the wonderfully sustainable cycle that joy can generate, still gives me joy right now. As Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

My partner Paul didn’t write a book about joy, but he did give a speech about it when he and I did the commencement address at Michigan Stadium (you’ll find the whole speech is in the back of Part 4). Here’s a bit of what Paul said:
Class of 2015, mentally pull up your “Must Have” list for success and scan it. Really, take it out and give it a good look. Raise your hand if joy is at the top of that list. It wasn’t on my list when I graduated from this fine institution. Joy is not the typical yardstick of success. … So why would you want joy on your list, and what is it, anyway? Joy is a feeling so profound that it sits at the top of the human experience chart. Just above love and just below peace and enlightenment. To feel joy, you don’t have to wait until you’re old, like us, I believe you can have it now, starting today.
The “feeling of joy” is, indeed, what I get when I see—or even just think about—butterflies. I mean that both literally, and also metaphorically when I imagine butterflies as joy in the ecosystem of Zingerman’s. We fall short, I know, every day. And yet, I also have come to understand that the healthier we are as an organization, the more joy will show up. Science writer Hayley Ames explains, “An abundance of butterflies is often an indication that an ecosystem is thriving.” Same goes in business; the healthier the ecosystem gets, the more easily joy can be experienced. I tested it out informally the other day—I went around and asked about ten people on shift at the end of a busy evening what had given them joy during the shift. I had no idea what they would say. We haven’t—until now—spent a lot of time talking about joy the way Rich and the folks at Menlo do. And, yet, I’ve realized, it’s present anyways. What blew my mind in the best possible way is that they all, quickly, offered up good answers. And they smiled when they shared them.

Conversely, when things aren’t going well—at work or in the natural world—it gets harder and harder to find those butterflies, both in the literal and the metaphorical sense of the word. I don’t know that any boss arrives at work saying that he or she is going to take away everyone’s joy. Most of the world has become so accustomed to a joyless existence at work that its absence is generally unremarkable, in much the same way that the average city dweller fails to notice how hard it is to find a butterfly. The disappearance of the butterfly in nature is causing a lot of well-documented problems; the absence of joy in the American workplace causes comparable issues in our ecosystems. I’ve certainly seen it happen here when we don’t do our work as well as we should. In both cases, the impact is not immediate and nor will it be obvious to the casual observer. But for those paying close attention over time, the loss of butterflies and of joy will slowly but surely lead to disastrous results. With that understanding in mind, we would be right to remember Lucinda Williams’ great song “Joy”: “You took my joy, I want it back.”

Interestingly, I realized that finding joy might actually go better if I approached it with “obliquity;” if we try too hard to make joy happen, we probably won’t find it. The work is more about surrounding ourselves with people and things like music, art, poetry, great food, and philosophy, around which joy is more likely to appear. Like butterflies landing, we need to be mindful, to pay close attention. Otherwise, the opportunity to appreciate it passes unnoticed. 
All of which brings me to a Bulgarian American poet by the name of Katerina Stoykova-Klemer. Stoykova-Klemer grew up in the town of Bourgas, the Bulgarian "city of poets." Like Rich Sheridan, she’s both a software engineer and a writer. Interestingly, when Stoykova-Klemer came to the U.S., the change in ecosystem impacted her self-expression; she struggled with her writing. “As soon as I stepped on American soil, I stopped. Didn’t write for 11 years.” Fortunately, her software work went well. She and her husband moved around the country, eventually settling in Louisville, which she loves. Back in a healthy ecosystem, her writing returned. In an article in Kentucky Living, she shares that, “It just came over me.” On her way to work one day, she pulled off into the parking lot of the local Kroger where, she says, “I wrote a poem. And I felt such joy.” All of which leads me to a tiny piece of poetry she wrote that sums up the delicate and nuanced sense of awareness that I believe best makes joy into a reality:
Catch the air
around the butterfly.
It's by working hard every day to notice “the air around the butterflies” that the joy most meaningfully brings delight to my days. Both the image, and the imperfect but attentive reality, add loveliness to my life. In the ecosystem metaphor air is purpose; transliterating, the poem might then be pushing us to consider honoring joy as a positive purpose in our daily work. 

As most of you will know, I’ve written a lot about the application of art and beauty into our daily activities. Writing this piece got me pondering the connection between joy and beauty. Beauty, to my view, could be anything from a well-bussed table to a lovely loaf of dark-crusted Country Miche from the Bakehouse, to a great service experience, to a six-year-old about to eat her first Donut Sundae on her birthday. Beauty becomes a prerequisite, but joy happens only when we take notice. Beauty ignored isn’t enough. We need to, as John O’Donohue suggested, train our eyes (and ears and palates) to take it in. When we do, we get better at spotting the butterflies. As Walt Whitman writes "Do anything, but let it produce joy.” 
As I think further on how all this plays out at work, my belief is that when we deliver what would be a 9 or a 10 on our Zingerman’s Experience Indicator (our adaptation of Net Promoter Score) to a guest, we probably brought them joy. Similarly, when we have a product that’s a 9 or 10, that’s a spot for joy as well! The potential for joy is embedded in our Mission Statement and in our commitment to giving great service. It’s in our food and drink. As Paul said in the commencement address, it’s in the spirit of generosity that we try so hard to live every day: 
Generosity leads to joy. It’s simple and it’s guaranteed. Generosity follows the natural law of the harvest—you reap more than you sow. When you give, you get more back. Minimally, you get a joy buzz.
Joy is easily accessed too in the appreciations we end our meetings with, in the delight we take in going the extra mile for each other; it’s in the artwork that you can see on our websites, walls, newsletters, catalogs, and business cards. It’s in the humor that we try to use and the love that we work hard to bring to every interaction we have. We still have to do the work to take notice of it for the joy to become real. But the good news is that we—and other healthy organizations of all sorts—have a lot of opportunity to make that happen. I’ve been thinking of having folks end their shift by sharing a moment of joy that took place while they were working that day. For a minute or two, or even for just a few seconds, a metaphorical butterfly lands in the room.

Joy, to be clear, is not just flowers and fun. Working hard to help make a healthy ecosystem, and then pausing to pay attention to the joy that is created, is a real-life way to work towards a better world. Hanif Abdurraqib writes, “Joy, in this way, can be a weapon—that which carries us forward when we have been beaten back for days, or months, or years.” Finding joy does not preclude us from finding fault. In fact, the two can, and do every day, coexist. As Gareth Higgins writes, conveniently for my metaphor-loving mind, “appreciating the butterflies does not make us naïve.” Joy, I’ve realized, comes, really, only when we also allow ourselves to experience grief and loss. The highs come only when we also allow in the lows. As Khalil Gibran writes, “Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater than sorrow,’ and others say, ‘Nay, sorrow is the greater.’ But I say unto you, they are inseparable.” To wit, Charlie Parr, whose new record I referenced down below, started writing songs many years ago as a way to process his father’s passing. His music, I know, has given me and many others great joy and I would imagine it has for him too—his new album is the 20th Parr has put out.

How do happiness and joy relate to each other? They’re not, Rich Sheridan makes clear, the same thing: “Joy is deeper, more meaningful, and purposeful.” In my food-focused mind, happiness is more like supermarket strawberries—they look nice, I think of them fondly more often than not (even though we know that there are many issues with industrially farmed berries). Joy is more like Michigan strawberries that are out at the market right now. We only have them for brief moments; the shelf life is short; but they’re so much better and they make my eyes light up. Joy in edible action!

Amelia and Emily Nagoski, in their fine book, Burnout, talk about joy as an antidote to apathy and depression. One of their big learnings is that “... joy comes from connection. We can’t really do it alone.” Which is why the workplace is such a wonderful environment in which to encourage it. We are all, always, in this work together. And the more we help each other to grow and develop into our true selves, the better things will go and the more joy we’re likely to generate. John O'Donohue said, "We have a sacred responsibility to encourage and illuminate all that is inherently good and special in each other." The opportunity to do that is, for me, one of the most joyful things I ever engage in.

(Part of what drew me to so much anarchist work, I realize now, was that unlike so many other approaches to revolution and change, it wasn’t about a retreat to ascetic poverty. Joy comes up over and over again. Emma Goldman wrote, “... the Lack of Joy and Purpose in Work which turns life into a vale of misery and tears. Anarchism aims to strip labor of its deadening, dulling aspect, of its gloom and compulsion. It aims to make work an instrument of joy.”)

Focusing more on joy will not, I know, eliminate all our problems; pain and poverty will still exist in the world; we will continue to make many mistakes. There is no perfect way to be in the world, and no way to be perfect. But both joy and butterflies can bring a bit of loveliness and liveliness to our days. Working on this piece has reminded me to look for joy—to work to weave it in our daily work, and to encourage the kind of ecosystem health in which it’s much more likely to appear. It’s up to me, I see now more than ever, to embrace that joy as Rich, Paul, Emma Goldman, and so many others have suggested. Like so much of life, it’s an inside out activity. As Holocaust survivor and positive psychologist Edith Eva Eger says, “Today, I have a joy that is within me that I cherish so much, because I don’t have to wait for anything to come from the outside.” Like butterflies in a field, potential moments of joy are easy to miss, but when we catch them they enhance our energy and improve lives in the process. As Rich Sheridan assures us, “Those closest to you start to notice a difference in who you’ve become.” Over time, he adds, “You’ll start to see joy, feel joy, and almost touch joy within your entire team.” As he ends Joy, Inc., “More than anything, I wish you that joy.”
P.S. On Tuesday, June 29, at 11:30 EDT, I’m going to do a ZingTrain chat about the Statement of Beliefs I wrote about last week, and answer questions about why, how, and what we did to get it to this point! It's free, and it’s likely to offer some moments of joy in the process too! 
Sign up for the free webinar: The Why, What, How, and Who of Writing a Statement of Beliefs
Two stacked ricotta donuts, each with powdered sugar on top, and a third cut in half, to show the ricotta inside, sitting atop the stack.

Ricotta Donuts from the Bakehouse

Sunday morning joy at the Bakehouse

I started out this week to write about one of the wonderful soups we serve at the Bakeshop, but when I went in on Sunday morning and looked around, my eyes landed on one of the joy-generators we make. Ricotta Donuts. Seriously. Delicious. Delightful. A handful of joy that can quickly brighten my day and maybe yours as well. When you get that bite with sweetened vanilla-scented ricotta, you find joy with a capital J! If you like, you can gild the ricotta donut lily by simply adding a spoonful of the jam or honey of your choosing inside. I keep thinking of the American Spoon Rhubarb Marmalade I wrote up a few months ago. An orange marmalade might be marvelous. Or the American Spoon Early Glow Strawberry that they’re probably cooking in those copper kettles up in Petoskey right now. 

The Italian name for these donuts would be Castagnole di ricotta. They’re most typical at Carnivale in the winter, but in the spirit of making life more joyful all year long, I like that we offer them every Sunday. In Italy they’re particularly popular in the region of Emilia-Romana, one of the best eating parts of a country that we all know, knows how to eat really well. Italian food writer Ada Boni was a big proponent of the ricotta donuts. Emiko, writing on Food 52, says, “In 1929, the year the original The Talisman Italian Cookbook (or Il Talismano della Felicità in Italian) was published, it was considered the book for the ‘modern woman,’ the book to give to all brides for their wedding.” Boni’s Italian Regional Cooking, which came out in her later years, in 1969, was one of the first cookbooks I ever bought. Her approach to food and cooking nicely sums up what we work hard, if ever imperfectly, to do here at Zingerman’s. “There can be no true happiness if such an essential part of our daily lives as eating is neglected. Cooking is the most gay of arts and the most pleasant of sciences.” And these delicious ricotta donuts from the Bakehouse make all that come true.
Pick up a joy-generator on Sunday at the Bakehouse
Two slabs of uncut bacon meat stacked on top of each other.

Allan Benton’s Bacon from Eastern Tennessee

Super smoky, dry-cured bacon from an award-winning artisan

When I think about joy, Allan Benton is one of the first people who comes to mind. Most folks who’ve met him will likely say much the same. While I know enough about human beings to know that Allan, like the rest of us, certainly has his hard days, he is about as joyful a person as I’ve met. With all that in mind, I gave him a call this weekend. As it always does, it gave me joy to hear him talk. Allan and I don’t just share an appreciation for great bacon; we also think similarly about business. He loves what he does, he’s as dedicated to the craft as ever, and he cares deeply about the people he works with and the community of which he’s a part. When we chatted the other day, he said, “Ari, I’m 74 and I have no interest in retiring! I love what I do!”
The flavor of Allan Benton’s bacon is as big as his heart and as bountiful as his joy seems to be. If you like your bacon really big in flavor, super smoky and superb, Benton’s is for you. Benton’s smokehouse is in the fairly out-of-the-way town of Madisonville, Tennessee—all the way to the east, between Knoxville and the North Carolina border. While Benton’s has become a much talked about and highly praised place in the national press over the last ten years or so, like Allan himself, it’s about as down to earth and down home as you're gonna get. “I was born so far back in the hills of Virginia that you had to look straight up to see the sun. We were desperately poor even by Appalachian standards,” he went on smiling, “but I didn’t know that. Neither side of my family owned an automobile. Neither owned a tractor. They took a gooseneck hoe, and they farmed the land like that. They actually raised almost everything they ate.” (For the full Allan Benton story, read more at Southern Foodways.)

To craft their bacon, the folks at Benton’s rub fresh pork bellies with brown sugar and salt and then leave it to cure for (a very long time in the pork world) four- to four-and-a-half-weeks. The bacon gets about 48 hours in the smoker, almost always over hickory—it’s a serious smoke. Benton’s is not something that will sit casually on the edge of your eating. Its flavor is an intense confluence of smoke, salt, and sweet all at once. This is bacon to use when you want the bacon to take charge of the dish. I use it a lot with full-flavored fish, with Anson Mills’ grits, and good eggs. It’s terrific for BLTs, and it’d be great if you want to add bacon back to the vegetarian Red Rice (read on!). What makes it so great? “The secret is that there is no secret,” Allan answered smiling, with his ever-graceful hill country accent in full swing. “This is just the way bacon was made years ago.” 
Pick up Benton’s Bacon from the Deli
Let us ship bacon to you!
P.S. For more on Benton’s and bacon, see Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon.
Green menu, plate, name tags, matchbook, and bowtie memorabilia from Bill Knapp's restaurant.

An Old Sign, a Love Story, and a Bit of Business History

A sign of joy on the wall at the Roadhouse

As you may know, I’ve long loved writer Rebecca Solnit’s poetically put question: “Where does a story begin? The fiction is that they do, and end, rather than that the stuff of a story is just a cup of water scooped from the sea and poured back into it.” The question pushes me to take pause, to think bigger, go deeper, and widen my view. Although we formally opened Zingerman’s Delicatessen on March 15, 1982, Solnit’s query makes me wonder where to start the story. Often, I begin it by telling how Paul and I met when I was a new dishwasher, and he was general manager at Maude’s. Other times I start with my arrival in Ann Arbor to attend U of M. Alternatively, it could go back fifteen years before that when Paul and I were each growing up (he in Detroit, me in Chicago), eating corned beef and potato latkes, which would go on to become staples of what we are doing at the Deli. Or maybe before that when our respective grandparents moved to the U.S. from Russia? 

Each of our businesses has similarly diverse origin stories. The Roadhouse’s story technically begins in September 2003—the arrival of autumn will mark our 18th anniversary! But maybe the story starts sooner? Rebecca Solnit’s question keeps pushing me to think through the connections and to wander through the past with curiosity, and to wonder, joyfully, at what I find. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "Our best history is still poetry." Here’s a bit of what I wrote in the preface to Part 4:
... on the west side of town, we opened Zingerman’s Roadhouse in 2003. The building, up until a few years earlier, had been a Bill Knapp’s. If you’re not from this part of the Midwest, the name probably means nothing. But Bill Knapp strung some interesting, mid-20th-century business beads of his own, opening his first restaurant in Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1948. His vision was to open all his establishments right off the exits of the then newly emerging Interstate Highway system. Bill Knapp’s belief was that the nascent highway would soon reign supreme and that travelers would want dependable dining spots that were easy to access from the Interstate. Although his idea was a bit “out there” at the time he began, it worked—Knapp went on to open a chain of 60 or so spots, spread across Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio. In his own way, he was a community institution, blending belief, hope and vision, risk taking, generosity, and a whole lot of hard work. …[In 2003] we took over the empty space, renovated the entire building, and opened up as Zingerman’s Roadhouse, serving an even higher quality of regional American comfort food. … You can see a couple of the old Bill Knapp’s dinner plates on display in the foyer, gifts from caring customers. I’d like to think that his customer- and quality-focused spirit lingers on at the Roadhouse.
Gareth Higgins, in his new book, How Not to Be Afraid, provided me a near perfect intellectual bookend to Rebecca Solnit’s question. “You never know,” he writes, “when a story is over, especially if you’re in it.” It’s certainly true here. Bill Knapp’s closed in 2002, but my hope that his “customer- and quality-focused spirit” would linger on played out positively a few months ago when I got this email from a long-time customer of ours named Ron Cooper: 
Ari, we have met a few times while dining at the Roadhouse. We spoke some time ago about my wife Mary and I having met while waiting tables at Bill Knapp’s, where the Roadhouse is now, at Jackson and Stadium in 1980. I also shared that we have a piece of Bill Knapp’s memorabilia in our home. It’s an original Bill Knapp’s sign, 48” x 48” and 7.5” deep. Mary and I are downsizing and moving to Texas, and we were wondering if you would like it to hang somewhere in the Roadhouse. We would happily give it to you to display in the restaurant in honor of the building’s roots.
It wasn’t hard to sell me on hanging the sign. My love for history and for positive pieces of the past encouraged me to get it hung ASAP. Author Michael Crichton writes, “If you don't know history, then you don't know anything. You are a leaf that doesn't know it is part of a tree.” And 18 years after we opened, the Roadhouse is, I suppose, a strong graft onto a trunk that was originally planted by Mr. Knapp decades before we opened. In the context of what I wrote above, the sign seemed an appropriate topic for today because most everything about it right now is joyful. Ron and Mary Cooper, as he explained, met for the first time when the two were servers at the same Bill Knapp’s building that we now know as the Roadhouse. It happened, Ron told me, while they were rolling silverware (anyone who’s waited tables will know the term—it’s putting a set of silverware inside a napkin and rolling it up whatever that restaurant believes is the “right way”).

The sign is now hanging in what we call “the fireplace room,” to the right of the host stand when you walk in—the one with all the salt and pepper shakers in it. (We moved the amazing photo of Mr. Nueske about 15 feet west—15 feet closer to Wisconsin, I guess one might say.) A plaque will go up shortly so that Ron and Mary Cooper can tell their story, as well as that of the sign. The sign copy closes with, “They were blessed to meet in this building and are happy to share a piece of the building’s history with the Zingerman’s family.”

The anarchistic Indian poet, philosopher, writer, Rabindranath Tagore once said, “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” Pretty much everything about this story makes me smile and fits into what Rabindranath Tagore wrote: Ron and Mary Cooper met while working in service roles; we continue at Zingerman’s to get joy from giving great service; I feel like we have served Ron and Mary well by putting a piece of their history and ours up on the wall; we’ve honored the legacy of a great Michigan restaurateur. And hopefully that service adds up to make for a small bit of meaningful joy for many. If folks had never heard of Bill Knapp’s they’ll learn now, and if they like a bit of romance, they’ll feel good hearing Ron and Mary’s story. If they did know Bill Knapp’s (and quite a few folks around here remember it fondly), they will surely smile at the sign!
Make a Reservation at the Roadhouse
A serving of rice held together with tomato sauce, and fresh green parsley on top.

Vegetarian Carolina Red Rice

A vegetarian version of this Lowcountry Classic with African roots

Fantastic to eat, and relatively easy to make, this rice dish is from the Lowcountry of South Carolina and Georgia. Red Rice most likely has its roots in the Jollof rice dishes of West Africa. It’s usually made with sausage or bacon, but someone I was talking to got me thinking about making a vegetarian version. In fact, “the recipe” below is vegan. And very good. I’m not from the Lowcountry and I don’t have roots in Gullah culture, but I do love this dish. If you go to its home region, you will find, I’m sure, hundreds of different versions. 
If one makes this dish with off-the-shelf supermarket rice, out-of-season tomatoes, and industrially made bacon, it’s going to be relatively unremarkable. I went for the opposite—the really amazing Carolina Gold Rice we get from Anson Mills and the wonderfully flavorful tinned Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes that we have at the Cream Top Shop and the Roadhouse. (The tomatoes are terrific. Kim Green from the Roadhouse wrote to me the other day to say, “Just wanted to tell you that I made some sauce with the Bianco tomatoes and holy moly was it deeeelicious! Simple sauce with just a few ingredients to let the tomatoes sing. … I did have a hard time not just eating the whole can of tomatoes by themselves though!”) The end result was simple, and superb. 

Carolina Gold is a low-yield, high-flavor rice varietal that arrived in the U.S. in the late seventeenth century, so it’s the right rice to use for both authenticity and excellence of eating. It was so highly prized that back in the 18th and 19th centuries it was regularly shipped to the royal courts in Europe. Organically grown, field-ripened, custom-milled to retain all of the germ and most of the bran, it’s exceptionally flavorful stuff. The rice itself and the knowledge of how to grow it came from Africa and it was grown in South Carolina thanks to the skill of enslaved Africans. As Robin D.G. Kelley and Earl Lewis write, “Africans showed [European colonists] how to irrigate the plants in the field, pound the rice kernels with a wooden mortar and pestle, and winnow the chaff with a ‘fanner’ basket. … Soon slave merchants were advertising workers from the so-called Rice Coast of West Africa.” After Emancipation, without free labor to work the fields it fell out of favor with more modern farmers, and by 1920 it was completely out of production. Fortunately, seeds were found in a seed bank and folks like Glenn Roberts at Anson Mills grew determined to get it going again. It’s our regular “house” rice at the Roadhouse—we cook a lot of it every week! 

To prepare the dish, sauté some chopped onion, celery, and red bell pepper in olive oil. I used a bit of chopped fennel too. Sprinkle on a little sea salt. At the same time, start heating up two cans of the Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes. I used one can of crushed tomatoes and one of whole tomatoes to get both good absorption and texture in the finished dish. Add a bit more salt and a good bit of freshly ground black pepper. Cook the chopped vegetables in the oil until they’re soft, then add about half a pound of the Carolina Gold Rice. Cook the rice in the oil, along with vegetables, for a couple of minutes. Don’t brown it, but you do want to get the rice to take in a bit of the oil. Then add the hot tomatoes. Stir well. Taste for salt and pepper. Cover and keep simmering, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick, for about 15 minutes, until the rice is tender. I like mine more on the al dente side, but it’s your dinner, so do as you like. If you want, you can add a bit of water during the cooking, though it makes the tomato flavor slightly less intense in the process. As in all Lowcountry cooking, the rice should really be in distinctive, individual grains when you’re done, rather than the creamily bound-together form you’d get from Italian risotto. When the rice is done, it’s ready to serve. You can spoon it up as is as a main course, or a side dish. I like to drizzle a bit of good olive oil over top, and you can also add some chopped fresh parsley. You can use other herbs too, to your taste. It’s nice if you want to put some caramelized onions on top—if you’re looking for a bit of “meatiness” in a vegetarian dish, it’s a good way to go! The bright, sweetness of the Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes and the excellence of the Carolina Gold make this a very special dish! 
Pick up Carolina Gold Rice from the Roadhouse
& Source Bianco DiNapoli Tomatoes from the Creamery
You won’t see the rice or the tomatoes on the Mail Order site, but we’re happy to ship it to you—just email us at
P.S. If you want to go back to the bacon, start by frying some chopped bacon first—the Benton’s would be great, as would Nueske’s, Broadbent’s, and all the other artisan offerings at the Deli—until it’s done to your liking. Take half of it out, and then add the vegetables. When the rice is nearly done cooking, fry the other part of the bacon until crisp, then pour it along with any fat in the pan, on top of the servings of rice.

Other Things on My Mind


Charlie Parr has been making marvelous music for decades. I’m not sure what to call it—maybe bluegrass, the blues, and a bit of Midwestern grit. His songs are often deep looks at the darker side of everyday life, but his banjo and steel guitar brighten my days. He’s played The Ark a fair few times and I hope he will again in the coming year. 
He has a new album coming out next month with the wonderful title: The Last of the Better Days Ahead. As he says, “The album represents one full rotation of the boat in which we are adrift—looking ahead for a last look at the better days to come, then being turned around to see the leading edge of the past as it fades into the foggy dreamscape of our real and imagined histories.”

Cammy Enaharo is a folk musician who lives in Rochester, New York. I love her work! 


Re-reading John O’Donohue’s Beauty. It might be bringing me even more insight and joy this time around. 

I also revisited Rebecca Walker and Lily Diamond’s beautifully done journal/guide book, What’s Your Story.

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