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Ari's Top 5
Pride makes us artificial, and humility makes us real.

Thomas Merton
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A black and white photo of the Humility pamphlet sitting in grass partially covered with soil and organic matter.

Natural Law #21: We Need Humility to Get to Lasting Greatness

A quiet journey that will help us lead better lives

A well-connected friend asked me the other day to let her know what she should tell politicians of both parties that small-business people would like to have right now. Since I struggle to find the words to share my own thoughts in meaningful ways, I can’t claim to speak for anyone else in business. Her question though, is an interesting one. I’m guessing that most people’s responses would be to suggest policy changes—raise or lower taxes, expand or eliminate the stimulus, reduce regulation, or invest in more environmentally friendly technology, etc. My mind went in a different direction. My instinctive response was to skip right past all that policy stuff and quietly write back: “Humility.” It seemed silly at first, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. If humility were the order of the day in Washington—or anywhere else—we might be reading very different stories in the news every evening. As Wendell Berry writes so beautifully, “The world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet and learn to be at home.” It might sound like a small request, but in a world dominated by folks who tend to think first about having their way with the competition, trying to win top rating, or power up to higher rankings, humility is a whole lot harder to make happen than it might seem.

Although the thought about humbleness happened to come to my mind in response to my friend’s question, I believe that humility is hugely important for each of us to work on, right here, right now, in our own organizations. We can lament the lack of humbleness in the halls of Congress all we want, but the truth is we never need to wait for new legislation in Washington to work at gaining humility here at home. The pursuit of humbleness, I came to understand in the process of working on what became the pamphlet, “Humility: A Humble, Anarchistic, Inquiry,” isn’t something that requires a political directive nor a permit from the Planning Commission. Humbleness is a self-directed, self-reflective, inside-out activity. At the end—and the beginning—of the day, it’s up to each of us as individuals to make it happen.

Humility, I’m reminded almost daily, is the opposite of most of what makes it into the news. As I wrote in “Humility”:

Humility, by definition, won’t win big headlines.
It waits quietly in the wings.
If we listen closely, humility has a lot to teach us.

Can something that sits by so quietly while others bluster really matter that much? Absolutely! In fact, I’m going to suggest here, the critical importance of humility makes it a Natural Law. Like gravity, we don’t have to like it, but if we want to get to meaningful organizational greatness, we do need to live it. To arrive at the sort of spiritually and financially sound success most of us aspire to, our work must begin in, and from, the ground at our feet that Wendell Berry wrote about. As I wrote in the pamphlet:

I’ve come to believe that one will never build a healthy, sustainable organization if ego takes priority over ecosystem. That’s not to say you can’t make money or get famous without humility. A half an hour of historical review will show you that’s not the case. But in the same way that steroids can pump up muscles for a short time and leave behind a broken body in the long run, the same is true for organizations. Ego can look like it’s working in the short term, but in the long run it’s not sustainable. As [my friend and artisan chocolate maker] Shawn Askinosie says, “We must do everything we can in all humility to prepare and take care of our workplace culture as if it is a treasure.”

So, with that in mind, let me frame this here for the first time in print. I’m still working to come up with the right wording, but you’ll get the idea. In the moment, I’ll just offer up here that Natural Law #21 is:

All healthy, sustainable, organizations are grounded in humbleness.

While I know that some will suggest otherwise, having spent years reading, listening, and looking (as well as tasting), it just seems be the truth of the natural world: to create the kind of energized and empowered organizational lives that pretty much everyone who’s reading this will likely want to lead, humility is an easily overlooked prerequisite.

While it won’t show up in strategic plans or stimulus packages, humility is very much what we need to create the kind of regenerative, responsible, long-lasting companies we’re after. Whether it’s in Congress, the corner grocery, or your kid’s day care center, humility is where it’s at. It’s not a quick fix, but humility has the power to heal, and to help restore personal and organizational health. While the news seems to get louder and ever more frenetic, humility is waiting for us to let it contribute to the conversation. What at first, to the casual observer, could sound like nothing at all, just might turn out to be a wonderful whispering source of strength and wisdom. In the inflammatory state of current national discourse, humility is a soft but still effective voice leading us away from ego, and in the direction of much needed doses of dignity, diversity, compassion, kindness, inclusion, reflection, and respect.

20th-century theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote, “To the end of history, social orders will probably destroy themselves in an effort to prove they are indestructible.” Humbleness, by definition, could help us steer clear of that tragic fate. If we have humility, we accept that we are all imperfect, all fallible, all interdependent. When you no longer need to be “the best,” “the biggest,” “the GOAT,” or “the first to the finish line,” the odds of successfully getting to the other side of all this Covid craziness and socio-economic imbalance—without losing our minds, our lives, or our livelihoods—increase significantly. As Wendell Berry writes: “It is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it.”

I would suggest that when we approach the world from a place of humility, it makes it much more likely that we will:

  • Own our own part in creating the problems with which we’re confronted

  • Acknowledge our shortfalls and ask for help

  • Understand that none of us alone will ever have all the answers

  • Be much more open to outside perspectives and creative insights

  • Treat everyone with whom we interact with dignity

I’ve come to believe humility holds the key to creating better businesses, communities, and in the context of my friend’s question, countries. It’s a very different way of processing our problems and thinking about possibilities, one that has the quiet power to help us help each other move forward caringly and productively. Ecologist Charles Eisenstein suggests the changes that need to happen on all parts of the planet:

Must be more than a philosophical concept if anything is going to change. It must be a way of seeing, a way of being, a strategic principle and most of all a felt reality. Philosophical arguments alone will not establish it any more than appeals to prudence and reason will solve the ecological crisis. When we restore the internal ecosystem, the fullness of our capacity to feel and to love, only then will there be hope of restoring the outer.

Natural Law #19 reminds me that “Everything—and every one of us—is imperfect.” We are all fallible, and we all, I will humbly submit, fall short. In alignment with what Wendell Berry writes, David Brooks suggests that, “We are all stumblers, and the beauty and meaning of life are in the stumbling—in recognizing the stumbling and trying to become more graceful as the years go by.” Humility, he says, “offers self-understanding.” When we fail to ground regularly in an effective state of humbleness, our lives, and our organizations will slowly but surely suffer. The pursuit of that humility, Brooks believes (and I agree), helps us hold ourselves, and our organizations, together. Without the self-awareness in which humbleness begins, Brooks writes: “A humiliating gap opens up between your actual self and your desired self.” When we accept our imperfection and embrace the help of others, Brooks says, “The stumbler is made whole by this struggle.”

In the organizational ecosystem model I’ve come to see humility as humus. Here’s a small snippet of what I wrote in the pamphlet:

The linguistic origin of the word “humble” comes from the Latin “humilis,” meaning “grounded” or “from the earth.” It’s connected to the word “humus,” which refers to the organic component of soil. In Hebrew, the name of the first man in the Old Testament, Adam, comes from “adama,” or “earth.” Which leads me to wonder if living humbly is a prerequisite for bringing our full humanness to the fore? Perhaps humbleness happens when we’re at our most human? And when we’re at our most human, we’re effectively in a grounded state of humbleness?

If you doubt the importance of humility, we might then look, metaphorically, to soil science instead. Soil in the ecosystem model equates to organizational culture. Humility is the humus, the topsoil, the richest and most positive part of that culture, the part in which good things are most likely to grow. Without humus, we can still plant, but long-term yields will likely only decline over time.

We are, unfortunately, losing humus at an alarming rate. Eric Verso of Stanford says, “The estimate is that we are now losing about 1-percent of our topsoil every year to erosion … The United States is losing soil at a rate 10 times faster than the soil replenishment rate.” This pattern, sadly, continues to play out both on the planet and, metaphorically, in the places we go to work. Which is again, both literally and metaphorically, why I believe that restoring both humility, and humus, are so important. Dr. Ted Albrecht, an agronomist and professor of soils at the University of Missouri, studied the connection between human health and soil quality, said early in the 20th century that, “[R]ebuilding and conserving our soils is the surest guarantee of the future health and strength of the nation.”

Scientist Suzanne Simard says, “The humus is the foundation of the forest … It’s an absolutely fundamental part of the being of the forest.” Rinkesh Kukreja, the founder of Conserve Energy Future, says that humus is “the backbone of crop production as it has a major role in their growth.” Kukreja wrote “13 Extraordinary Benefits of Humus To Improve Soil Fertility.” They’re relevant for farming, but they make just as much sense in the metaphorical model of the organizational ecosystem as well. Humus, Kukreja writes, holds more water in the soil (humility helps our cultures conserve generosity); humus helps the soil hold together and reduces erosion (humility aids in maintaining cultural cohesion); it moderates the soil (humility helps hold drama down and reduce the swings to emotional extremes). It also, Kukreja says, increases fertility (humility makes it more likely that new ideas and new people will take hold). Organic farming expert Paul Sachs shows that humus holds remarkable amounts of energy in the soil (humility increases the energy in our organizational cultures.) These quiet benefits of humus, both on the planet, and in the metaphorical organizational model, are huge. As Kukreja writes, “Humus has the ability to change the property of any given soil.”

Coming back to the business world, Patrick Lencioni suggests, “Humility is the single greatest and most indispensable attribute of being a team player.” And, he says, “Where there is humility, there is more success, and lasting success.” You will find similar statements from folks like Jim Collins, Peter Block, and others. Leadership coach Marilyn Gist writes that,

Excellent leaders are able to energize others through the extraordinary power of leader humility. … Because leaders need to be strong and decisive, some people think of humility as meekness or weakness. But just as the earth is round and not flat, leader humility is a powerful asset and not a weakness. Each of us has and needs dignity. And when leaders step all over it, they lose our enthusiasm, engagement, and energy. We might continue to do what we have to, but we’re not going to go all out for a leader who lacks the humility to recognize our basic worth.

I’ll save the many cultural and systemic how-to’s of making humbleness happen in our organizations for another conversation. Thinking quickly, here at Zingerman’s, humbleness is embedded in our Statement of Beliefs: “We believe humility is an essential ingredient for effective leadership and contributes to personal growth and success.” It’s in Servant Leadership, Lean, Bottom-Line Change, Open Book Management, etc. But even in places that encourage and support humility, it’s not easy to do. We all, me included, will always slip. I like a compliment as much as anyone; my ego is always at work. I try to manage my mind, but I have a long way to go. If I do my work moderately well, I can live by Indian spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy’s poetic statement: “My ego talks, My humility acts.”

Can Congress work to make the practice of humility a high national priority? I don’t know, but I do know that we can work hard to make it happen here. I also know that it’s a slow process. Just as topsoil cannot be restored simply by passing legislation, making humility a big part of our personal practice and our organizational culture will not be a quick fix. It is, though, a good beginning, and it does work, both in organizations and on the farm. (Soul Fire Farm in upstate New York increased its topsoil by 600-percent, from 6 to 18 inches, over a ten year period, using regenerative practices.) When we decide to believe that humbleness is of the utmost import, a whole lot of other behaviors will shift as well. Because as Peter Block suggests: “Inverting our thinking does not change the world, but it creates a condition where the shift in the world becomes possible. The shift starts with the inversion in our thinking.”

It turns out that this idea of recommending humility to political leaders is not new. Vaclav Havel was a wonderful writer who actually ended up in politics, serving as the president of Czechoslovakia and then the Czech Republic for fourteen years. Havel passed away a decade ago this December, but back in the spring of 1995, shortly after he completed his time in office, he gave a speech at Harvard in which he too recommended that the political world commit to an active pursuit of humbleness. As Havel said, “After all, politics is a matter of servicing the community, which means that it is morality in practice, And how better to serve the community and practice morality than by seeking in the midst of the global (and globally threatened) civilization their own global political responsibility: that is, their responsibility for the very survival of the human race?” We have the chance to lead the way, Havel said, by digging deep and returning to our naturally humble human state, a place from which humanity can return to its “own spiritual roots and become an example to the rest of the world in the search for a new humility.”

The other day I was at my friend Melvin Parson’s annual harvest festival at the We the People Opportunity Farm he started six years ago. Melvin, for me, is a model of humbleness. He gets a lot of attention for his work, but I’ve heard him say many times, “I’m just another guy trying to make a difference.” Near the end of the afternoon, Melvin got around to sharing a story from earlier this year about his two-year-old grandson, who one spring day started running around the new beds of soil. The adults, understandably anxious that the youngster would turn his new white sneakers black in a matter of minutes, decided to simply take off his shoes. His grandson happily started running in the soil in his bare feet. Melvin’s son, his grandson’s father, did the same. And then Melvin, too, followed suit. In the end, there were three generations of loving men, modeling what it means to connect to the soil, in a humble and joyful way. If we can make meaningful, everyday humbleness like that into the way we all live, the way we relate to ourselves, to each other, and to the world, then good things, I’m quietly confident, will come from it. Rather than working so hard to have our way, and knocking down those who don’t agree, it would help us to get grounded in ourselves and in the soil in which we stand, and then, vulnerable in our “bare spiritual feet,” walk forward into the future together.

This work, as I’ve said, is much harder to do every day than it is for me to just write about it here. One thing that became super clear to me as I pursued my studies on the subject, is that to stay meaningfully humble is a multi-layered, complex piece of work that continues on for our whole life. As we do that work, we all impact, and are impacted by, each other. None of us can do it alone. Maybe we could consider authoring a Declaration of Interdependence that references Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Humbleness? We are all, whether we like it or not, ultimately in this together. The good news is we don’t need permission to begin, nor do we have to wait for Congress to come to agreement on a proposal. We can just take a few deep, slow breaths, embrace our small but important role in the world around us, and get going. Here’s to good, and humble, things to come.

If you’d like to order multiple copies of “Humility” for your team we have bulk discounts at 21%. Email us at zingpress@zingermans.com.
Email for a bulk discount

P.S. If you want to learn more about how we, always imperfectly, go about our efforts to make for a better business, if you’re ready for some connection, October marks the official return of ZingTrain’s in-person seminars! October 7 and 8 we will hold the first in-person seminar at ZingTrain since the start of the pandemic. The last in-person sessions we held were in the first week of March of 2020! The ZingTrain team is jazzed about opening their training doors again (safely) to a few of their most popular 2-day seminars this fall/winter in Ann Arbor, Michigan. To celebrate their return, they’re offering 35% off The Art of Giving Great Service, Creating a Vision of Greatness and Leading With Zing! (Over $400!) Use discount code FALL2021 at checkout to save.

P.P.S. It won’t be in person, but Maggie Bayless and I will soon start a 5-session Master Class series on Part 1 of the Guide to Good Leading series. It will include reading, writing, and inclusive conversation. We started this last year as a way to work past the barriers of Covid and I will say now it’s one of the good things to have come from the pandemic. I’m excited to engage with this next cohort! Get on the VIP list—VIPs get access to registration a day before the rest of the world (Oct 10) and get $250 off the price of their seat for 48 hours.

Loaf of partially sliced dinkelbrot bread, with the slices laying next to it.

Dinkelbrot from the Bakehouse

German-style spelt bread makes for some marvelous eating

Forty-something years into the American food revolution, most folks you know will probably be somewhat familiar with the format of French or Italian country breads. I love them all—the Country Miche, the True North, the Paesano, or Rustic Italian make regular appearances at our house. Head east in Europe, and you’ll find an equally excellent, but very different, bread culture. In Germany, bread might be even more important than it is in France. CNN says that “there are now more than 3,200 officially recognized types of bread in the country. And German bread was recently added by UNESCO to its Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2015.” Germans eat over 100 pounds of bread per person per year (about double what we consume in this country), and there are twice as many bakeries as pharmacies. The tradition of the independent neighborhood bakery is probably more alive in Germany than anywhere in Europe, other than maybe Portugal and Sicily.

Here at the Bakehouse, we’ve been slowly working to spread the good word about traditional German breads. We added the very fine dense loaves of Vollkornbrot rye many years ago. It remains a favorite with anyone who’s fond of this central European baking. We also began making the hand-rolled, lye-cooked, lard-scented German pretzels a while back. And then, about ten years ago, we added another traditional German loaf. It’s called Dinkelbrot, which means, quite simply, spelt bread. We learned the bread thanks to Elisabeth Kreutzkamm-Aumueller and head baker Tino Gierig at the Dresdner Backhaus. The Kreutzkamm family have been baking in Dresden for nearly 200 years—the bakery was started in 1825, a decade before the house and barn at Zingerman’s Cornman Farms were built!

While most of the breads we know from the French tradition are primarily made of wheat, German baking relies much more on other grains. The colder, darker, damper climate in most of what is now Germany is more conducive to rye, barley and spelt. The lower gluten content in those grains leads to longer fermentation times, and a tradition of more sour breads. The Dinkelbrot is made with spelt and rye. While it’s a little-known specialty here in Southeastern Michigan, Dinkelbrot was actually the national “Bread of the Year” in Germany back in 2018.

Here at the Bakehouse, we make it still to the specifications we learned from Elisabeth and her team in Dresden. Organic spelt that’s milled fresh on site and leavened with a rye starter that’s also made from grain milled on site. We add a bit of mashed potatoes for moistness, honey for sweetness, spices (coriander, anise, and caraway) for liveliness, and dress the whole loaves in a coat of toasted sunflower seeds. The Dinkelbrot is a delicious loaf. With a big full flavor, firm but still chewy texture, and a subtle touch of sweetness in the finish, it would be terrific underneath some of the Smoked Brisling Sprats I wrote up last week. I love it toasted with Creamery Cream Cheese then sprinkled with some of the amazingly aromatic wild cumin we get through Épices de Cru in Canada. Beautiful simply spread with good butter.

Want to make Dinkelbrot at home? The write-up is on pages 199 and 200 in Zingerman’s Bakehouse.

Baked daily by 5pm at the Bakehouse
Want to ship some Dinkelbrot to a bread lover you know?
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A bottle of light golden apple cider vinegar

Traditionally Made, Two-Year-Old Apple Cider Vinegar from Quebec

A humble ingredient in the Roadhouse pulled pork barbecue & super for your salads at home

This cider vinegar might well be one of the humblest ingredients we have on hand. It gets very little attention and it’s almost never written about in articles, but its quality contributes quietly to the full flavor and delightfulness of any number of better known Zingerman’s dishes.

It’s probably been twenty years now since I tracked down this terrific vinegar. As I was doing the research for the little pamphlet that became Zingerman’s Guide to Good Vinegar, I kept reading about how apple cider vinegar was at the core of colonial cooking. It was in every old American cookbook. And yet, when I looked around the modern day marketplace—filling up as it was with artisan offerings from Europe—I couldn’t find traditionally made cider vinegars. This was in the days before the internet, so tracking down obscure items took more than two minutes. Many months later, I got the name of Pierre Gingras, a vinegar maker in Montérégie, about 45 minutes southwest of Montréal.

The Gingras family have been doing pretty much everything a vinegar fan would want for decades. Apples are grown organically, then hand-picked specifically to be pressed for vinegar. Most commercial cider vinegar is made by pressing the “dregs” left behind after a first pressing is done for fresh cider. No windfalls are used. (If you hadn’t realized it, the name windfall originally had nothing to do with finance—it’s about fruit that falls from the tree in heavy winds. Windfalls are easy to gather but have been bruised and begin to oxidize immediately thereafter). The vinegars are made using old school natural conversion (known as the Orleans method, after the French city on the Loire River), then matured for over twenty-four months in French oak barrels. The vinegar is unpasteurized and unfiltered. Most importantly, it tastes terrifically like apples!

The region of Montérégie was settled ages ago by Iroquois people. Europeans arrived in the 17th century and brought apples with them. Thanks to the naturally favorable growing conditions, the region soon came to specialize in apple growing. Charles Gingras arrived from France in 1669 and began farming a few years later. His great grandson Wilfred began the family’s focus on apples and went on to plant about 2500 trees. Pierre took over around the time we were opening the Deli in the early 80s and began a fresh apple juice business and followed that with vinegar making. The quality of the vinegar and Pierre’s passion for traditional processes gained greater and greater attention. Eventually tens of thousands of visitors a year were coming to tour the fields and the facilities. In 2017, Vinaigrerie Gingras was bought by the Levasseur family, long time apple growing owners of Au Coeur de la Pomme in the nearby town of Frelighsburg. (Sir Nicolas-René Levasseur, born in Dunkerque, France, settled in Quebec in the middle of the 18th century.)

Gingras packs the vinegar into glass bottles so you can see the natural mother of the vinegar floating inside. It’s a wispy bit of a white cloud that you may—or may not—see in each bottle depending on how the vinegar comes out of the barrels. If you do see some of the mother, know that it’s totally edible and actually packs extra enzymes, minerals, and vitamins. For your own use at home, you’ll find the Gingras vinegar for sale on the shelves at the Deli. We use the vast majority of what we buy in the kitchen at the Roadhouse. It’s one of the not-so-secret secret ingredients in any number of dishes, most prominently, the pulled pork barbecue. If I were to work on a list of Natural Laws of cooking, one of the first I’d put down would be that the better the quality of the raw materials you use, the better the flavor of the finished dish is likely to be. Which is why I was so determined to get this vinegar into the Eastern North Carolina vinegar barbecue at the Roadhouse. It costs over ten times as much as the mass market commercial cider vinegars that nearly everyone else uses. But it tastes so much better!

Grab some Gingras apple cider vinegar from the Deli
You won’t see the Gingras apple cider vinegar on the zingermans.com Mail Order website but we’re happy to ship you some. Just email us at service@zingermans.com.
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Two poached eggs sitting on biscuits with hollandaise sauce and chives on top. A side of potatoes is also on the plate.

Benedict on a Biscuit

Start your day at the Roadhouse

If you’re thinking of going out for breakfast to eat something you probably never cook at home, you might want to swing by the Roadhouse and order Eggs Benedict. The Roadhouse kitchen crew’s rendition of this classic American recipe is splendid. A buttermilk biscuit cut in half, thin slices of Nancy Newsom’s twenty-month-old (at this time of year) hickory-smoked country ham from Kentucky, a couple of freshly poached eggs, and a homemade Hollandaise sauce. Rich and delicious would be a severe understatement. The breakfast potatoes on the side are terrific too!

In case you’re curious (I was) about where Eggs Benedict came from, the quick answer is, no one seems to really know. There are a series of conflicting origin stories, most all of which go back to New York City sometime between the middle of the 19th century and the middle of the 20th. Legend has it that a hungover Wall Street broker named Lemuel Benedict brought the dish into the world, so his story (as told to The New Yorker in 1942) was that he was hungover and needed help!

While the homemade Roadhouse Hollandaise often wins the headlines, I will say here that the Newsom’s ham alone is amazing. Nancy Newsom is one of the only woman ham curers in the country, and her family has been in Kentucky almost as long as the Gingras family has been in Quebec. She’s one of the last curers who still works only with the traditional seasonal hog slaughter in winter, and ages her hams only with ambient natural temperatures. Her small, artisan, third generation ham curing business is down in Kentucky’s southwest, in the tiny town of Princeton. Nancy came up to speak at Camp Bacon many years ago, whence I started thinking of her as the Lucinda Williams of country ham; a powerful, poetic, strong woman who’s a leader in her field, making a product that, once one experiences it, you’ll have a hard time getting it out of your mind. Same goes for this dish. Right now, as I said, the ham is coming up on two years old!

Once you have the Eggs Benedict for breakfast, the odds are high that you’ll be back for more. And, by the way, if you just want to take home a few slices of the ham, the Deli has it in stock at the cured meat counter.

It’s some seriously good eating!

Check out the Roadhouse breakfast menu
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Plate of fall risotto

Making Fall Risotto at Home

A wonderful way to enjoy the autumn harvest

When I got home from work the other evening, Tammie had a terrific fall risotto well under way. Her work reminded me just how delectable risotto is, and how easy it is to make it into a regular item in your—or our—weekly cooking routines. Risotto is a wonderful way to feature your favorite produce, meat, cheese, even seafood—and right now, it’s a stellar way to highlight fall vegetables. The varied flavors, textures, and color make for the late September inversion of pasta primavera in the spring—this, we might think of as risotto autunno.

If you don’t know the regimen of making risotto, there’s a whole chapter in Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating. In a quick summary, you’ll want to heat some stock on the side—vegetable or chicken stock both work well for this, as you prefer. Bring the broth to a boil and then let simmer. Make sure it’s properly salted.

Cube up an array of vegetables from the farmer’s market. Local carrots, celery, peppers, squash, mushrooms—all will work well. Sauté in olive oil until tender in a moderately-sized cooking pot. You’ll want to take into account how long each item will take to cook, and add them to the pot in that order. Carrots or celery first, then peppers and zucchini, mushrooms last, etc. Salt lightly with sea salt as the vegetables are cooking and keep going until they’re tender. Add Italian rice—other rices, I’m afraid, really won’t work. I’m a big fan of the Carnaroli variety we have at the Deli, and the better-known Arborio is wonderful as well. Stir and cook the rice in the oil with the vegetables for 3-5 minutes until the rice is lightly toasted (but not browned) and has had a chance to absorb a little of the oil. If you like, add a glassful of white wine or, alternatively, skip straight to adding the simmering broth. When you add the liquid, both it and the pot should be hot enough that the liquid will sizzle some. Stir until it’s absorbed, then slowly start adding more simmering broth to the rice, a ladleful or two at a time, stirring throughout. When the broth has been absorbed, add another ladleful, and keep this up until the rice is al dente. Add a touch more broth, some grated Parmigiano Reggiano, and a bit of butter, stir well, cook for a minute, and then let rest for another few minutes. If you like nuts (I do) you can add some toasted walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts as well. Finish it off with a flurry of chopped fresh herbs atop each bowl.

This is a very quick summary of risotto cooking, but hopefully you get the idea. Serve with Parmigiano Reggiano grated on top along with a generous grinding of black pepper. I like a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil or a pat of room temperature butter on top of each bowl too just to add a bit more richness and flavor to the dish. While the process may sound challenging, it actually isn’t at all; once you start making risotto regularly, you’ll find it’s quite easy and also easily adapted to pretty much any ingredient! A marvelous, and very comforting, meal in under half an hour!

Other Things on My Mind

Listening:

If you liked the acoustic instrumental album that I referenced last week by Senegalese artist Tidiane Thiam, check out the second CD in Adrianne Lenker’s release from earlier this year, Songs. Beautiful music.

Australian musician Adam Geoffrey Cole also records under the name Trappist Afterland. It’s hard to describe his music, but “dark folk” is probably the best term I can come up with. Cole plays bouzouki, guitar, mandolin, dulcimer, hurdy gurdy, bodhran, bells, and a Renaissance-era string instrument I’d never heard before I found his music five or six years ago, called the Cittern. I’ve been enjoying his new release, Fallowing. (The practice of fallowing leaves a field to rest for a year or more, a long-standing, and humble, tradition to help restore soil health.)

If you’re intrigued by the work on the Statement of Beliefs, here’s a podcast I did with Marty Wolff.

Reading:

Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons. More on Ostrom and her work soon—it demonstrates in great scientific detail just how much collaboration counts.

Micki Maynard’s book on the ZCoB will be out in late February. If you want to get ahead of the game, you can preorder it here.

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 info@zingermans.com.
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