Ari's Top 5

And on my life,
like an imperishable ray,
Sadness lay.

—Anna Akhmatova


Embracing the Quiet Strength of Sadness
in Our Ecosystems

Why a rarely talked about emotion is essential
to our organizational health

One of the many reasons I’ve come to love the organizational ecosystem metaphor that I’ll be presenting later this month at ZingPosium is that it helps me to far more effectively embrace the importance of small things that, even ten years ago, I might have imagined to be irrelevant. Subjects like hope, humility, dignity, beliefs, and compassion, I now understand, are just as critical to our organizational health as finance. Over the last few months, I’ve realized that I need to add another item to this growing list. Sadness, I now see, is not a small feeling to be relegated to children’s books or movies with tear-provoking endings. Though it’s rarely talked about in business school settings, sadness is a critical piece of creating a healthy organizational ecosystem. While sadness is not alone a strategy, it is absolutely an essential element of being able to work caringly, compassionately, and creatively together to implement the strategies we do have. 

As many of you know, I wrote about grief last fall. Grief, too, is a tough thing for most of us to handle—so tough that when it first hits us, we may not be able to function. Hard as it is, most progressive organizations have come to expect it to follow the tragic events in the lives of the people who work there. Sadness, as I see it, is softer, quieter. It’s certainly much easier to ignore, since, like the sunset (more on this later), it often appears only for brief bits of time before it passes, and if we’re not looking, it will be gone without anyone noticing. Sadness is in all of us. Without acknowledging our sadness, it’s hard to truly be ourselves. The impact on our ecosystems is not immediately obvious, but it is important. 

While sadness has been with me my whole life, it entered my mind in the work context last summer, when I had the pleasure of having coffee with writer Susan Cain. I had read Cain’s written work and listened to her talks, but never had the chance to connect in person. Much to my happy surprise, her husband is from Ann Arbor, and they had come to town to visit his family. Longtime friend and nationally-known writer John U. Bacon helped make the meeting happen—he had played hockey with her husband. It was a mellow sunny Sunday morning, and we met out in Roadhouse Park at one of the wooden picnic tables. It was a good, out-of-the-way, place for a couple of introverts to make their first in-person connection. If you don’t already know it, Cain’s book Quiet is a marvelous best-selling manifesto that made clear to the world that being an introvert doesn’t make you strange, anti-social, or ineffective. Her new book, Bittersweet, is already another best seller. If Quiet helped introverts like me come out of the social closet and feel some sense of groundedness in their self-chosen social exile, Bittersweet does much the same for sadness and sorrow. Sadness, she makes clear, isn’t something to hide from. To the contrary, it’s an essential element of our personal and organizational health. Cain says, “If we could honor sadness a little more, maybe we could see it—rather than enforced smiles and righteous outrage—as the bridge we need to connect with each other.”

Important as it is, sadness is rarely acknowledged in the workplace. Even here at Zingerman’s, where we certainly are more open to it than most organizations, it doesn't get much mention. In the mainstream work world, it’s basically been ignored, or at worst, dismissed. Cain says, “Sadness is the last great taboo of the workplace.” It’s there, in the background, but it’s rarely brought up. “I’m feeling a lot of sadness today” is not generally something people would share at a board meeting. And yet, the nature of human existence is that sadness will show up regularly. Denying it hardens us. It makes our spirit more off-putting and pushes us away from the caring connection that is so essential to doing good work and living a good life. 

For many people, Bittersweet will be an invitation to honor the sadness that society may have told us we “shouldn’t feel.” Sadness, for me, has long been my status quo—a regular presence that I’ve never considered trying to live without. While I had to work hard to help bring other emotions to the fore, sadness is like a longtime friend. I’m much like Cain’s colleague Dacher Keltner who says, “Sadness is at the core of who I am.” While reading Cain’s book, I was surprised to realize that this everyday embracing of sadness is, sadly, not a common state of existence. In the book Wintering, British author Katherine May writes,

… We are taught to ignore sadness, to stuff it down into our satchels and pretend it isn’t there. As adults, we often have to learn to hear the clarity of its call. … It is the active acceptance of sadness. It is the practice of allowing ourselves to feel it as a need. It is the courage to stare down the worst parts of our experience and to commit to healing them the best we can. 

If we exclude sadness from our emotional conversations, we leave out a part of ourselves. Our creativity is reduced, our ability to feel like we belong is diminished, and our capacity for compassion and empathy is lessened. In the process, the richness of our presence and the quality of our work drops. We can’t, I’ve come to see, be fully human if we don’t honor it. Instead of seeing sadness as a problem, a flaw, or something to be shoved under the emotional rug, we need to acknowledge it openly as part of our humanity. Without it, our connections—with ourselves and others—suffer significantly. While the work world might dismiss people who share sadness as “gloomy,” I will suggest that it actually enlivens us. If we work at it, we can gently make sadness a welcome part of our daily conversations, places in which CEOs can calmly say, “I'm feeling sad today,” without being considered strange. 

This shift to letting sadness be a part of our daily work lives is not likely to be a quick one. Most of us have long-standing beliefs about sadness. Helen Russell, author of How to Be Sad: Everything I've Learned About Getting Happier by Being Sad, writes, “In the U.S. and in the UK, where I'm from, we are quite avoidant to sadness, and we do find [sadness] really uncomfortable.” This discomfort is advanced even further by the constant push of consumer culture and social media. As Russell writes, “... Many of us have been sold a very narrow definition of happiness that means never being sad. But this isn’t happiness—it’s barely even a life. If we want to live well, we have to make friends with sadness, too. Starting now.” When we successfully make sadness a routine part of our workdays, our cultural soils will be “softer,” more gently yielding, more prone to acts of empathy and compassion, and more open to receiving them when they come. 

In Bittersweet, Cain quotes Dr. Dacher Keltner, who says, “Caring is right at the heart of human existence. Sadness is about caring. And the mother of sadness is compassion.” So many leaders, it seems, have been taught to push sadness away, but Cain’s new book helped me see that we would do well to actively welcome it into our daily lives, our conversations, and our connections. If we do our organizational work well, perhaps we can create a setting akin to what Maria Popova advocates: a “nonjudgmental place of permission for sadness where all healing begins.” The cost is nil and the upside is enormous. As Karla McLaren, who’s written extensively on emotion, says,

Sadness has a kind of alchemical magic to it, because if you can listen to it and honestly let go, you’ll find that you can relax and breathe again. Sadness is about letting go—and letting go means that you’ll be freer than you were before (when you were holding on tightly to something that was honestly not working). When you can listen to your sadness and work with it empathically, you’ll experience relaxation, spaciousness, and a sense of rejuvenation.

While we work together with colleagues today, each of us has a story of sadness that started long before we entered the workforce. Honoring that past, even if it’s only for ourselves, can help us to unlock our creative potential and come together more effectively to collaborate in deeper and longer-lasting ways. As Cain says, sadness “has the power to create the ‘union of the souls’ that we so desperately lack.” I, for one, have work to do to push past my discomfort and find gentle ways to put my sadness into the open. 

Reading Cain’s story in Bittersweet got me wondering how sadness had come to be such an integral part of my existence. Sadness is what I remember most growing up. I learned from reading Bittersweet that sadness can pretty clearly be passed through generations. Now I see that my background is suffused in sadness. My grandparents escaped from Eastern Europe, in an era when Jews—like oppressed minorities in so many countries—were always in danger of being attacked, arrested, or worse. After arriving in the U.S., their stories would have included the death of WWI, the loss of the Depression, the tragedy of WWII, and the terrible feeling of watching helplessly from afar as any relatives who had remained in Europe would have been murdered in the Holocaust. As a child, my parents divorced when I was three, the last time I saw my father I was seven, and my grandfather died of ALS when I was twelve. President Kennedy was assassinated just after I turned seven, followed soon after by the killing of Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, and 54 years ago last week, Senator Robert Kennedy. It’s not like I felt devoid of joy or fun; we had that too, but all these years later, the sad stories are what I apparently still remember most. And yet, even I rarely acknowledge their importance or the everyday presence of sadness in my spirit. 

The list above is just my own litany. My point in sharing it is mostly just to encourage you to honor your own. It’s important to recognize that every single person we work with will have one of theirs as well—they may not yet have talked about it, but there’s no human alive who doesn’t have a series of sadnesses in their history. I have a lot of sadness in my spirit, but it doesn’t dominate. Honoring it openly can enhance the quality of my connections and help free my energy to be more creative and more compassionate. As Brené Brown reminds us so often, vulnerability leads to vitality.

A few weeks ago, my friend Adrian Miller, author of the award-winning book, Black Smoke, shared with me how emotional his visit to the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama was. It left him, from what I took from the conversation, deeply saddened, touched, and moved in a way that I’m not sure he expected. Making conscious connections to things and places that trigger our sadness, done thoughtfully and caringly, can be hard, but hugely helpful in the long run. While it runs completely counter to what most companies would welcome, I see now from reading Cain’s book, that we can gently encourage people to access their own sadness, and then open the door to better sharing and more meaningful spiritual connection. Both the individual and the organization would benefit. 

If denying sadness leads to disconnection and an absence of compassion, then it seems worth considering that our companies, and maybe the country, could do with embracing it more freely. Of his own nation of Nigeria, the late author Chinua Achebe once said, “There is great sadness. This is a country that has ceased to work.” I’ve begun to imagine what might happen if we were to shift away from “moments of silence” to “moments of sadness”—an invitation to let our sadness come to the surface and only then, from that gentler, more compassionate, and a more connected place start to move forward. Emotions expert Karla McLaren says:

When your sadness is flowing and welcome in your life, then everything seems to go more easily. Having a healthy relationship with sadness means you recognize when it’s time to let things go, and you have practices to help you do so. Relaxing and taking care of yourself comes easily when you can access your sadness—and you’ll feel revitalized because of it.

One manifestation of all this for me is that nearly all the music I’ve loved the most is sad. As you’ll see in her book, Cain loves the music of Leonard Cohen. I’ve long been drawn to Nick Drake, but the point is the same. And it’s more important than I ever understood. As the Harvard Gazette headlined an article about Cain’s book, “That feeling you get when listening to sad music? It’s humanity.” While music works for me and Susan Cain, everyone will have their own ways of tapping into the sadness. And to be clear, listening to sad music doesn’t bring me down at all—to the contrary, after I’ve listened I feel safer, more grounded, and ready to face the world. (If you want a list of some of my favorite sad songs, send me an email. I will smile and send it back straight away.)

Sadness, I’ve learned from reading Bittersweet, is both in us, and all around us—to be taught, honored, and acknowledged. If we want to understand ourselves, a place to begin is by studying our sadness. As you probably know by now, I’m a Russian history major. When folks have asked me why, I’ve shared the rather unglamorous truth: When I got to my junior year, I had to declare a major. Russian history seemed reasonable, since I thought it was really interesting and it didn’t rule out any of the advanced degrees that, in theory, I was supposed to eventually go back to school to get. Reading Cain’s book, I started to wonder if maybe I didn’t immerse myself in Russian culture because, to a point, I felt emotionally comfortable in its inherent, deep sense of sadness. 

Russkaya Toska translates roughly to something like “ennui” or "melancholy," but of a type particular to Russia. (Vladimir Nabokov gave a touching and detailed definition of it.) It's a feeling that’s actively and overtly embodied now again by the new wave of free-thinking exiles who have fled their homeland in the last three months. Anna Vilenskaya, a 24-year-old artist who escaped to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, says, “It’s a special Russian feeling. You feel a bit empty and lonely, and you look out the window and there’s a lot of snow.” Sadness, in this sense, is extreme. It helped me feel more, I suppose, “normal.” 

I’m not suggesting we make Russian toska into one of our organizational values, but it's a helpful context to see the contrast between American society’s aversion to sadness and, half a world away, a society in which sadness is an essential element of everyday existence. Somewhere in the middle, I’m imagining a healthy and happy medium—a business culture where we can safely and constructively share stories of sadness when appropriate in meetings, and where sadness might calmly come up when we have difficult conversations. On a personal level, I will work to take more effective note of it in my morning journaling to soften my own spirit before I enter my workday. I’m inclined now to introduce interview questions about it to make sadness part of the conversation for new staff members right from the start of their connection with our organization. I still experience the sadness that comes when I think about Frank retiring from the Bakehouse last year, my friend losing her job, or my corgi Jelly Bean passing away seven years ago last month. 

As Cain defines it, “Bittersweetness is a tendency to states of longing, poignancy, and sorrow; an acute awareness of passing time; and a curiously piercing joy at the beauty of the world. The bittersweet is also about the recognition that light and dark, birth and death—bitter and sweet—are forever paired.” Which got me thinking that in the ecosystem metaphor, sadness might be the sunset. Not so much about the sun itself, but rather the fact that it is regularly “lost to us.” The ending of a day, the small-scale loss that goes with it, the need to believe that the ensuing darkness that follows it will be relatively brief and that it’s a period we need to pass through to get to higher hope. Our personal experience of sorrow in this sense will likely be shorter than the many hours of nighttime we experience, but the point seems similar—sadness comes, and we may feel dark, but if stay grounded and use it as a chance to reflect and to share, we can come out the other side feeling refreshed and reenergized. Sunset, like sadness, comes regularly. It always passes. It can be beautiful and a bit difficult at the same time. 

Cain says that our work is “to perceive that light can emerge from darkness, death gives way to rebirth, the soul descends to this riven world for the sake of learning how to ascend.” The sunset metaphor seems to fit Cain’s image of “bittersweet” well. It marks an ending, it normalizes the loss that goes with the winding down of every day. Sadness, like the sunset, is fleeting. It is important, inevitable, and a daily reminder that although it may feel like it, our world isn’t ending. I’m reminded here, too, that after the sadness, after the sunset, is when we’re most likely to see the moon, which in the ecosystem metaphor is equated to the soul. Gently honoring sadness can help lead us to our life’s work. Jonathan Safran Foer’s book (and film) Everything is Illuminated is a sad and soul-satisfying piece about a Ukrainian-American Jew who goes back to learn about his family’s roots. He writes, “You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.” 

With all this in mind, I’m consciously committing to openly owning my sadness, and making it a more routine topic of conversation if I’m so moved. In this context, I’m imagining sadness to be something that, like the sunset, adds a bit of beauty, a touch of bitterness, and some soft sweetness to our days. If we make sadness an accepted part of our culture and make it acceptable to express sadness, we will all come out ahead. We can draw meaningfully closer to each other, enhance our emotional intelligence, improve the mental health and the work effectiveness of everyone in our ecosystems, and truly bring our whole selves to work. 

With that in mind, I’ll leave you with this from musician Indigo Sparke, whose sad and beautifully bittersweet music has been one of my listening highlights of the last few years:

We all have multitudes of worlds within us. There’s joy and rage and sadness and creativity and quietness and it all exists.
Read more about embracing the importance of emotions

For more on emotional and self-management see Secret #31, “Managing Ourselves.”

For much more on leadership and the creation of healthy organizational ecosystems, join us at ZingTrain’s ZingPosium on June 24.

Terrific Coffee from the Island of East Timor

The Roaster’s Pick at the Coffee Company for June

Unbeknownst to most Americans, some of the best coffee beans in the world are being grown nearly 10,000 miles west of Ann Arbor in the southern hemisphere—halfway between Indonesia and Australia, on the tiny island of East Timor. To get from here to there, it’s at least a day and a half of travel time. Alternatively, you could come by our Coffee Company this month and sip some of the coffee right here in Ann Arbor.

Coffee, native to Ethiopia, arrived in East Timor in the early 19th century as part of the long, brutal, and painful period of colonialism on the island. Independence from Portugal was gained in 1975, but that relatively brief window of freedom was quickly followed by the invasion of Indonesia. An international movement began to push back against the invasion (speaking of sad, quirky music, check out Robert Wyatt’s 1985 song, “East Timor”). Independence was finally achieved in 2002. Sustainable coffee-growing is one of the ways that the island nation is making its economy work—coffee now accounts for nearly 80 percent of its non-oil exports. Thanks to a handful of quality-conscious growers, the beans are making for some beautiful brewing. The crew at the Coffee Company says:

We were most surprised by this coffee’s unique mouthfeel. There is a rich, creamy quality to each sip that we find delicious. Smooth and creamy with nice notes of cocoa and brown sugar.

It has little hints of buckwheat honey, or maybe even sorghum, with a creamy, almost custardy mouthfeel. The Coffee Company has it loaded into a grinder to have it ready to brew as an espresso—it’s really tasty and nutty, like a toasted sesame candy. I think it is terrific brewed in the Chemex—super clear and toasty, like great viola music in a cup. 

Swing by the Coffee Company, Deli, or Roadhouse all month to try this terrific taste of the island. If you want to have a bag of beans shipped your way, email us at

Buy a bag of beans

Sharon Hollow Rounds from the Creamery

A unique artisan cheese from Ann Arbor

One of the things I feel best about in the collective culinary contribution to Ann Arbor by the Zingerman’s Community over the last 40 years is our successful work to restore local cheesemaking to the area. In Europe, nearly every region, village, or valley is likely to have its own cheese tradition. It’s something locals grow up with, cook with, serve regularly, bond with, and over time, begin to weave into their identity. For over 20 years now, Zingerman’s Creamery has been crafting our local cheese—first the handmade Cream Cheese (no preservatives, no vegetable gums), then an array of fresh goat cheeses, followed later by this fresh cow’s milk cheese spiced with garlic and chives. 

Sharon Hollow is a lovely nature preserve just north of the town of Manchester, and south of Chelsea, about 20 minutes southwest of Ann Arbor. This region has been an integral part of the land of the Ojibwe people for centuries—the word Michigan is an Anglicized version of the Anishinaabe michigami, meaning “large lake.” French colonists came to the area—and began pushing the Ojibwe out—in the 17th century. In 1762, the end of the Seven Years War resulted in the British taking charge militarily. What’s now Sharon Hollow was “established” in 1834, the same year the farmhouse at what is now Cornman Farms was constructed, when a sawmill was built by B.F. Burnett and Amassa Gillet. Michigan became a state three years later, the same year the barn raising at Cornman Farms took place.

In the mix of all we do, the Sharon Hollow cheese remains surprisingly little known, but I would suggest it’s one of the tastiest, most accessible, and easiest to use of all the cheeses we make. The Sharon Hollow has a gentle, delicious fresh flavor, of the sort that you can eat morning, noon, or night, with bread and crackers, with fruit, or with almost anything, really. You can spread it on sandwiches or just eat it as it is. Made from freshly delivered cow's milk, a little rennet is added to set the curd, then the curd is hand ladled into small round forms, gently drained, and spiced with fresh chopped garlic and chives. Bring one to brunch, serve it to your kids for snacks, or top it off with a spoonful of great honey and chopped toasted red walnuts. Make an omelet with some of the Sharon Hollow cheese and some of the great local spring spinach that’s in abundance at the Farmer’s Markets right now. Or do just about anything with Sharon Hollow and fresh asparagus. Eat, enjoy, and appreciate one of the area’s loveliest local cheeses!

You can get the Sharon Hollow at the Cream Top Shop or on the cheese boards and burgers at the Roadhouse.

Snag a Sharon Hollow

Excellent Crawfish Étouffée at the Roadhouse

A taste of Cajun cooking on Ann Arbor’s Westside

One of the tastiest new items to appear on the Roadhouse menu this month is a Crawfish Étouffée that head chef Bob Bennett put together. While gumbo and jambalaya get more attention around here, étouffée is an equally important member of the Cajun and Creole culinary tradition of stew-like dishes.  

History books say that Crawfish Étouffée was created in the 1920s in the Louisiana town of Breaux Bridge in St. Martin’s Parish, about a two-hour drive west of New Orleans, and a bit to the east of Lafayette (check out Lucinda Williams’ painfully lovely song of the same name). Chances are that something of the sort was being made by Cajun cooks long before that, but the Herbert Hotel is historically acknowledged as the first to make it. A hundred years later, the dish is a staple of Cajun cooking. 

Cajun people come originally from what is now Eastern Canada and Maine. Acadia was the European name given to the region, and the colonists who lived there were known in French as les Cadjins or les Cadiens. Many fled the region after the Seven Years War—French settlers were given 18 months to leave the territory. The deportation of the Acadians from these areas, beginning in 1755, has become known as the Great Upheaval, or in French, Le Grand Dérangement. Colonists, who had taken the land they farmed from native Mi’Kmaq peoples, were in turn forced off their farms. Eighty percent of the 14,000 settlers were deported, and roughly a third of them died during their move. In one of the not-uncommon manifestations of bias in the way history is framed, the taking of the land from the Mi’Kmaq was considered perfectly fine, but the deportation of the Acadians came to be framed as a “crime against humanity.” Seeking a safe place to practice Catholicism, many Acadians fled to what was still French territory in what is now Louisiana. Two-hundred-fifty years later, most of the world now knows Cajun culture for its cooking and music. Gumbo, jambalaya, étouffée, and other dishes are staples of the region. 

If you don’t know crawfish well, they’re small freshwater crustaceans that look a lot like little lobsters. They’re variously known by a lovely poetic list of names: craydids, crawdaddies, crawdads, mountain lobsters, rock lobsters (the name of the old B-52s hit), yabbies, mudbugs, or baybugs. The Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival is held each spring in the first week of May. Book now if you want to head down that way next year—it’ll be May 5-7. It’s a whole weekend of Cajun music, dancing, and cooking with crawfish. It includes a competitive crawfish étouffée cookoff. Right now, the Roadhouse is having its own mini-crawfish celebration by serving up this excellent étouffée! As one frequent diner told me the other evening, “I eat a lot of étouffée, and I can never find it up here! This is a really good one!!” He cleaned his bowl and told me again on the way out just how darned good it was. I agree. I was compelled to bring some home for dinner on Sunday!

Étouffée, in French, means “smothered”—in this case, it’s Louisiana crawfish tails, smothered in a “tomato gravy” (flour-thickened tomato sauce, seasoned with sautéed celery, peppers, and onions with a splash of Tabasco), and served with a scoop of that amazing organic, heirloom Carolina Gold rice that’s such an important culinary story on its own (featured last year on Peabody Award-winning High on the Hog hosted by Stephen Satterfield—if you’re in the Roadhouse, you can see a poster of Stephen). The étouffée has a terrific complexity, balance, and a long, pleasingly spicy heat in the finish. I always add extra Tabasco at the table because I like it particularly hot. A delicious bowl of culinary history, one that brings historical sadness together with a good bit of full-flavored, joyful eating!

Make a reservation for the Roadhouse

Chitra Agrawal’s
Amazing Tomato Achaar

A symphonic set of Indian flavors
made and bottled in Brooklyn

Harissa, lutenitsa, tomato chutney, Sriracha, salsa, ketchup ... the versatility and vitality of pepper- and tomato-based condiments like these seems to be universal. In the same way that most every culinary culture has some form of bread that they rely on for daily eating, so too has nearly every culture, in the last few hundred years, come up with some form of pepper and/or tomato accouterment to add to an array of dishes. Tomato Achaar is one (of many) entrées into this conversation. This one has its roots on the Indian subcontinent, but is carefully cooked and bottled in Brooklyn. 

While it’s easy to forget, 500 years ago, tomatoes and peppers were anything but widely known in the world. Europe, Asia, Africa, and what is now Australia had never seen them until what has come to be known as the Columbian Exchange. It took a few hundred years for people who had been unfamiliar with them to get over their anxiety, but then, in what I think is a fascinating example of how fast something can impact cultures, they seem to have spread all over the world in a couple of centuries. 

Brooklyn Delhi began with the work of chef and cookbook author Chitra Agrawal. Since 2009 in Brooklyn, Chitra has specialized in serving, teaching, and writing about Indian home cooking. Born here in the U.S. to Indian immigrant parents, she has returned regularly to India. As it says on Brooklyn Delhi’s website:

Chitra travels to India each year to visit family and gain inspiration for her recipes. Much of what her suitcase is filled with going back home is (you guessed it!) achaar in oh so many varieties—green mango, gooseberry, red chili, carrot, etc. After getting her fiancé Ben Garthus hooked on the stuff (and running out of achaar before her next trip), they realized that the only achaars available for sale in the U.S. were salt-heavy, cooked with unhealthy oils & preservatives and lacked that homemade flavor.

Happily, for the rest of us, they decided to make their own. Locally-grown tomatoes, a mix of Indian spices like fenugreek, tamarind, red chile powder, unrefined cane sugar, and sesame oil. Be sure to take note of the amazing aroma when you open the jar! I tasted it first at the Good Food Mercantile show many years ago, and it caught my attention immediately. The name Brooklyn Dehli made me smile, and, more importantly, the flavor and aroma wowed me. Agrawal’s Tomato Achaar is complex, well-balanced, and has a lovely long finish. 

Agrawal’s work isn’t just about cooking. As with all of us, there’s a complex personal story, a story that includes struggle, success, a lifelong effort to make peace with oneself, and to find one’s own unique way in the world. Her blog is entitled, The ABCDs of Cooking. As she explains:

The extra “D” on the end of ABC is no mistake–ABCD stands for American Born Confused Desi, a term sometimes used to describe a desi or South Asian (Indian in my case) born and brought up in the U.S. (NJ, CA and now Brooklyn, NY). Growing up, I struggled with the infamous ABCD label, but now I quite like it :)

All these years later, Agrawal has a tv show, writes for all sorts of well-known food journals, and has recorded any number of podcasts (here’s one good one). She has a nice cookbook out too: Vibrant India: Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn. Traditionally, Tomato Achaar might be eaten with curries, rice dishes, lentil dal, and yogurt, but you can top it on most anything. It would be great on the Sharon Hollow from the Creamery or spooned over the Creamery’s handmade Cream Cheese for an appetizer the way you’d serve cream cheese with pepper jelly. It’s super tasty on Sesame Semolina toast with goat cream cheese. Excellent with scrambled eggs or added to tuna salad. Put it on a burger, or even a hot dog! Great on grilled cheese, or use it as a pasta sauce, or as the sauce on a pizza. If you’re like me, once you try it, you’ll find yourself putting it on pretty much everything!

You can find the Tomato Achaar at the Deli, and also online at Mail Order.

Relish the versatility

Other Things on My Mind


Fern Maddie, who hails from central Vermont, has a lovely new album out which is, no surprise, suffused with an elegant and almost irresistible sadness. In Maddie’s case, the music is based on banjo and fiddle along with her voice. Aside from the fact that I love the music, I like that she gives the African continent credit that it doesn’t get often enough in the western world for the banjo. The album includes a terrific version of the old English folk song, “Hares on the Mountain,” which dates back to at least the 18th century. The tune for it was first put in published sheet music in 1902 in London, the same year the Deli’s building was being built here by the Disderide family. Maddie learned it from the incredible Shirley Collins. Collins’ album with Davey Graham, Folk Roots, New Roots, is one of my favorites of all time. I also love Radie Peat and Daragh Lynch’s version of the song. 

For more on the positive power of sad music, here’s Susan Cain’s talk about the subject.


Karla McLaren has a free emotion tracking chart on her website that might be helpful with sadness and the expression of other emotions in our ecosystems.  

If you want to read more on the power of sadness and music in the context of healing, there was a teaching piece in the Times this weekend about the mariachi musicians gathering to play in Uvalde, Texas. So sad.

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