Ari's Top 5
If you send out goodness from yourself, or if you share that which is happy or good within you, it will all come back to you multiplied ten thousand times.

—John O’Donohue
A black and white photograph of two corgi dogs walking in a natural area next to a river.

The Powerful Impact of Positive Energy

What if energy output was a main measure of our organizational health?

Over all these years, I’ve been fortunate to connect—either directly, or indirectly through their books and teachings—with so many terrifically creative thinkers. People who have impacted my worldviews in meaningful ways, and given me insights that led to significant shifts in beliefs. Each has taught me new tools and approaches that have helped enormously in my efforts to be a better coworker, community member, leader, and life partner. There’s Ron Lippitt, from whom we learned visioning (through the teaching of Stas’ Kazmierski), and Peter Block, who got us thinking about Stewardship. Emma Goldman’s insights about anarchism, as you know, have been huge, as were Robert Greenleaf’s work on Servant Leadership and Maggie Bayless’ teachings about progressive training techniques. Prominent on that list as well would be Anese Cavanaugh, whose insights about energy management have, like what I learned from the others, changed my life and our organization for the better.

Here’s a bit of what I wrote about Anese in Part 2:

It was at [an] Inc. magazine conference, this one in the fall of 2009, that I heard Anese share her strongly held views about energy and the essential role it plays in the workplace… Once I heard Anese talk about energy I couldn’t believe I hadn’t paid attention to it years earlier. Literally, what I learned from her has changed the way I—and our entire organization—work every day.

So, what do I mean by energy? While I’m interested in global warming and alternative fuel sources… what I’m talking about here—what I learned from Anese—is that I need to pay very close attention to the energy that I bring with me to any interaction I have. To become mindful as well of the energy level that every person in our organization brings with them every day to their work; the impact that that energy—high, low, upbeat, angry, flat, furious, or fantastic—has on their co-workers, customers, and everyone else they come into contact with; the energy that one can sense—for better or for worse—within a minute and a half of walking into a business. Good energy, I realized after meeting Anese, is a hallmark of good leadership. You can feel its presence almost immediately in any well-run organization.

Mindful energy management is about helping all of us, as Anese says, to constantly check our “intentions, energy, and presence.” To remember, as she points out, to begin each day and each interaction we have at work by reminding ourselves “I am the culture.” On a personal level, paying attention to energy pushed me to improve the effectiveness of my presence. It helped me learn to recover more quickly when I slipped, and to develop tools that I could use (and share) on a daily basis—things like “3 and Out,” “Stop, Breath, Appreciate,” and calling friends on the phone—to aid me in staying centered in the inevitable emotional ups and downs of daily life. Organizationally, we have adapted Anese’s approaches to what we do here at Zingerman’s in a range of helpful ways. First, we formally defined “fun” on a professional level at Zingerman’s as “positive energy.” We then went further and defined what energy is (we look at the three parts: physical, mental/emotional/spiritual/intellectual, and vibrational—a reference to the energy others pick up from us). As pretty much everyone at Zingerman’s, and many of you, already know, we have “Four Steps to Effective Energy Management”:

Read it — We use a 0 (terrible) to 10 (terrific) scale to measure it.

Vision it — Where do you want to be at the end of the day (or conversation, etc.)?

Manage it — Knowing ourselves, what do we need to do to get there?

Repeat it — Since the world is happening around us all the time, often in unexpected ways, we need to constantly recenter ourselves to get back to where we want to be.

(You can read all about the recipe and much more about our energy work in Secrets #20 and #21 which Jenny Tubbs turned into a terrific little single pamphlet that’s like an upside down book. The pamphlet also has a form for an exercise you can use to track your energy inputs… it’s simple, but it works well.)

Over the years, we have done a pretty decent job of building energy into our organizational culture (see Secret #19 for more on those). We teach it, we’ve defined it, we’ve tried to live it (we all fall short regularly), we measure it, and through feedback to each other hopefully we recognize and reward it. Energy comes up regularly in classes (I teach it in the Welcome to ZCoB new-staff orientation class, it gets written into job descriptions and shift notes, and it’s a commonly used organizational icebreaker at huddles and meetings (one of the best ways to get people’s voices into the room, which in turn is likely to raise their energy). This focus on energy has had, I believe, a very big impact. Here’s what Bethany Zinger, a manager at the Roadhouse, shared on the subject:

I think it’s easy as managers, and ZCoBbers to forget just how much energy management we do in a day and how much it has become second nature. This year everyone has had immense challenges and we have all in some way or another have had to deal with trauma and grief, whether it’s grief for the way things were, or trauma over having our year and day-to-day life ripped away. For me this year I was faced with the sudden loss of my Father. Throughout the whole thing, I continued to find myself surprised by my own actions and energy management throughout that process. So often we think of energy management as needing to be happy and positive all the time, but I don’t think that’s true necessarily—sometimes energy management is remaining calm so others can break down. I know I used the ‘3 and Out’ method a lot in the weeks following his passing. Anytime I was on the brink of falling apart (at an inopportune time, because let’s be real, sometimes we should fall apart), I would appreciate a family member or friend for something they were doing for my family, and I would keep doing it until I felt in control of my emotions and energy again.

Bethany’s write-up is a lovely testimony to how teaching energy management can make a difference in all parts of our lives. The impact it has on each of us as individuals, on our co-workers, on our customers, and our friends and family is huge. In nature, energy never goes away. As the U.S. Energy Information Administration says, “Energy is neither created nor destroyed. When people use energy, it doesn’t disappear. Energy changes from one form of energy into another form of energy.” Which means that what we put into our organizational ecosystems every minute of every day will be with us, in one form or another, for the rest of our lives. That energy may show up in our service, our food, our connection with our coworkers; it can come home with us, and we may pass it on to the clerk at the convenience store after we leave work. Whether we realize it or not, energy is in the art we’re making, it’s in the food we’re cooking, it’s in our emails. It lives. Energy is everywhere. Our organizational ecosystems, when it comes down to it, are all about energy. As with love, I want to suggest that you can feel the successes and the struggles of our organizations in the energy you experience every time you come to work, come to shop, or get a catalog or an email.

Energy, I’ve come to realize, is as much an indicator of our collective health as any economic metric we might study. In What’s Your Story, authors Rebecca Walker and Lily Diamond point out, “Every moment brings the opportunity to awaken and to put ourselves, and our stories, together in a new way.” What follows is, perhaps, a different way to put our stories together, to understand and assess our organizational lives through a different lens. What, I began to wonder, if we were to begin measuring our organizational effectiveness by focusing as much on energy as we do on economics? What if our organizations had an “energy statement” each month to show the net loss or gain of human energy in the ecosystem? What if we had a “balance sheet” that showed our energy contribution to our greater ecosystem over time? What if each person in the organization did the same—they didn’t just check their paycheck each week, they also measured their energy and their impact? What if then, taking that further, the ecosystems that are our towns, communities, neighborhoods, and families were made up of organizations that all had net positive outputs of human energy? And just like with financial statements, when things are off course (as they will inevitably be at times), we could work collaboratively to correct our course?

Changing our stories, the way we tell them and remember them, can make a big difference. If energy were to be considered an essential metric of our organizational health, all sorts of good things might well follow. In their book Metaphors We Live By, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson write, “Our concepts structure what we perceive, how we get around in the world, and how we relate to other people. Our conceptual system thus plays a central role in defining our everyday realities.” How we perceive energy, how much we value it, how much work we do to make it better, how we appreciate it when it’s really good, can make a big difference in our organizations and our communities. As Toni Morrison says, “I am a teller of stories and therefore an optimist, a believer in the ethical bend of the human heart, a believer in the mind’s disgust with fraud and its appetite for truth, a believer in the ferocity of beauty… I see your life as already artful, waiting, just waiting and ready for you to make it art.” How we put energy to work in our organizations is one of those ways. And how to use it is up to us. As Morrison reminds us: “You are your own stories.”

(Please know, I’m not suggesting we just pretend there are no problems, or that we don’t feel pain, grief, anger, sadness, or a sense of loss. As Bethany described so beautifully above, acknowledging and accepting things as they are, can be difficult, and actually improves energy. I was recently part of a difficult but meaningful meeting that reminded me of that point—acknowledgement, and taking responsibility for our roles, are prerequisites for making things better. Please know too that nothing about taking responsibility for our energy implies blame for those who have been so unfairly pushed out and left behind by society for having “bad energy.” It’s hard to keep your energy grounded when so many things are against you before you even begin.)

Anese has told me many times: “Where attention goes, energy flows.” The inverse is also true. Where energy flows, attention goes. If we focus only on what’s wrong, talk behind each other’s backs or place blame, we’re going to create energetically negative nightmares for ourselves. If you think—as I have been—of organizations as ecosystems and maybe frame our work as farmers, then the question I ask myself here is, ‘How can we create the organizational equivalent of what’s come to be called ‘regenerative agriculture?’” Here’s what the highly-esteemed Rodale Institute, founded in 1947, says about it:

Robert Rodale, J.I. Rodale’s son, coined the term “regenerative organic” to distinguish a kind of farming that goes beyond sustainable. Regenerative organic agriculture not only maintains resources but improves them… The idea is to create farm systems that work in harmony with nature to improve quality of life for every creature involved.

David Bronner adds, “Regenerative organic agriculture is just the name for taking responsibility to grow your materials in a way that respects the soil, rewards farmers, and makes sure everyone is winning.” To illustrate the point, Indian farmer Pawan Kumar shares, “The land that my father has given me, I hope to be able to pass on to my children in good condition, so that they can pass it on to future generations and that for them it will be even better than when I received it.” I will say the same for us in terms of our organization. Anese teaches that one of the most important elements of effective energy management is to clearly set our intention. So, what if we adapt this holistic philosophy of farming to what we do at work by developing regenerative organizational ecosystems?

Keeping track of our energy outputs might be one of the most effective ways we can do that. All organizations emit energy into their ecosystems. Healthy organizations radiate positive energy; unhealthy organizations do the opposite. The latter may be financially profitable, but they often make money by extracting energy from staff and suppliers and “reallocating” it to those at the top of their own hierarchy. Conversely, if we’re thinking in terms of regenerative work as I’m writing about here, we would consistently impart more positive energy—to each other, customers, vendors, neighbors, in our social media and our marketing, etc.—than we take in. In the process we would move way past the neutrality of “zero-footprint,” and instead actively work to make meaningful positive impacts on our communities.

Shifting from the macro to the micro… while our organizations emit a collective, ecosystem-wide energy, each of us as individuals has the ability and responsibility to manage our own energy as well. The more positive energy we each bring, the better our work is likely to go. In the process we can make our lives regenerative as well! There are a range of things that generally increase our energy. You have seen many of them in what I write, and you will likely know all of them from your own life experiences. Like the spiritual stimulus of generosity that I wrote about last week, these have little or really no financial cost. They do though, I believe, have economic impact—the better our energy, the better our work will be. And as author Sarah Lewis says, “No object is immune from deriving some energy from its surroundings.” In no particular order then, here’s a list of things that I think improve my energy and may help yours as well.

Visionseeing a positive future, seeing how we’re part of something greater than ourselves, seeing how our individual work contributes to collective creativity.

Purpose — knowing that what we do makes a positive difference for others is huge. In the ecosystem metaphor, purpose is air, and as Toni Morrison writes, “If you surrender to the wind, you can ride it.”

Hope — being able to imagine a better tomorrow always boosts our spirit. As philosopher Gabriel Marcel said, “Hope is a memory of the future”

Spirit of generosity — I shared a whole program for spiritual stimulus led by generosity last week. It waters our spiritual garden.

Financial safety — if we can’t pay bills, we’re going to be hard pressed to hold the course with positive energy. This correlation is part of what made me wonder if energy metrics wouldn’t be a really good way to measure our organizational health.

Positive beliefs — positive beliefs, I learned in working on Part 4, lead to positive outcomes; negative beliefs lead to negative outcomes. And yes, we absolutely can have positive, hopeful beliefs about problems that we need to address.

Laughing —not at someone but with someone.

Being true to ourselves and being honored as such — As John O’Donohue said, “An awful lot of people put a whole lot of energy into being something they aren’t.

Having your voice count — we all want to make a difference.

Authenticity — being able to be real, to be who you really are, to share concerns in constructive ways, and to have your anxieties acknowledged.

Acceptance ( I don’t mean passivity) — being in denial (I’ve done it) is not helpful. Owning the realities of our situation, imperfect as it is, honoring our shortfalls, fears, frustrations, and limitations is often hard to do, but is ultimately a boost for our energy.

BeautyI’ve written a lot about this already so I’m not going repeat it all here. We have two directions to turn and both are terrific: Creating more beauty, or noticing the beauty in what’s all around us already. Andy Warhol wrote, “You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.”

Breathing — as ZCoBber Zach Milner reminds me, “Breathing is the cornerstone of energy management.”

Being in nature — getting outside, breathing fresh air, appreciating natural beauty all help.

Vocation — another way to say, “good work.” As Sam Keen says, “A voice from my future, an in-dwelling impulse that draws me forward, a love song calling me to fulfill the promise of my life.”

Learning — active learning is like “working out for our brains.”

Solitude and connection — some like seeking solitude, others strive to socialize. Both have value.

Freedom to — making conscious choices to pursue our path, and owning those decisions makes a big energetic difference.

Diversity — different perspectives and diversity lead to health and energetic wealth.

Self-awareness — Arianna Tellez Leon, trainer at ZingTrain shared, “Learning energy management has taught me that I get ‘hangry.’ And that other people do too! It’s not a bad thing, just a clue that I need to change my behavior (eat a meal or a snack) so I can give better service to my coworkers and customers. Even better, it gives me an opportunity to let my coworkers know about this idiosyncrasy so they can help me too.”

There’s so much more: Collaboration, Physical health, Connection, Dignity, Music, Hydration, Singing, Dancing, Cooking, Eating food that nourishes us, Meditation, Mindfulness, Exercise, Care, Connection, Friendship, Humbleness, Art, Being around the right people, and Creative engagement of our abilities (physical, intellectual, and emotional)…

There are, unfortunately, an equal number of things that will reduce energy. It’s not something to brag about, but I‘ve unintentionally done them all over the years. My apologies to those I’ve let down, on whom I’ve unwittingly inflicted pain, or for whom I’ve caused problems. Again, in no particular order:

Inequity, Exclusion, Egotism (when we choose ego over ecosystem we extract energy instead of enhance it), Humiliation, Cynicism, Gossip , Drama, Negative beliefs, Stereotyping, Freezing people in time, Complaining without constructive approaches to improve, Blaming, Victim mindsets, Pursuing only freedom from (when we’re pushing away only in reaction), Being out of alignment, Not speaking our truth, Not speaking our minds in constructive ways, and Doing work we don’t believe in (see Secret #40 in Part 4)…

To be clear, none of us get this right every day. We make mistakes, we forget, we fall short. One key to good energy management is to breathe, get grounded, and return to a centered state of humbleness even when we’ve gone awry. Another key is learning to accept a compliment with grace. (It took me years of therapy!) And one of the nicest compliments I believe we get is about energy. When a coworker shares something like: “You know, when I came to work today, my energy wasn’t that great. But I’m going home now feeling much better than when I got here!” That, at its most down to earth, grass roots level, is what this idea of regenerative business is about. We leave feeling better than we did when we arrived. We can see—and say—the same for the broader ecosystem as well. While I was working on this piece I got a lovely note from Christy McKenzie, who owns Pasture and Plate in Madison. She wrote that, thanks to what she’d read in the Guide to Good Leading books and pamphlets, her business and her leadership were in a much better place: “Well,” she shared enthusiastically, “we did it. It only took a year and a half and a pandemic, but we have effectively made the energy shift in our business!!” She shared some of the details of what that had meant, and then closed with, “So, all that to say, THANK YOU! The words seem too simple to encompass the gratitude and support I feel from all you do. I hope the Zingerman’s team is well, and that your energy is a ten today.”

Poet Gary Snyder says, “With no surroundings there can be no path, and with no path one cannot become free.” We are all part of greater ecosystems than ourselves; the effective energy management and measurement we learned from Anese gives us a productive and positive path forward. When we follow that path, each in our own unique ways—with kindness, humility, generosity, love, compassion, and care—we can and will contribute greatly to the world around us and everyone and everything who’s in it. As Anese says, “Let’s do what we need to do, and become who we need to become, to make more good in the world and unlock what’s possible together.”

P.S. For more on Anese’s work see her books, Contagious Culture and Contagious You, as well as her website and this piece she posted last fall. For more on our application of energy management here at Zingerman’s, see Secrets #19, 20, and 21 in Part 2, Being a Better Leader.
P.P.S. Want to learn more about how to help improve energy in your organizations? Check out ZingTrain’s Compassionate Change symposium where I’ll be joining some great speakers to share thoughts on March 18.
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A package of Cruschi fried dried peppers. The package features an illustration of a fresh pepper with a photograph of a real dried pepper over top of it.

Cruschi: Crunchy Fried Sweet Peppers from Southern Italy

The potato chip of the pepper world

Looking for a terrific new taste treat? These amazing little fried peppers—which are not spicy—are as awesome as potato chips and also equally addictive. If you’re at all like me, you might eat most of the bag in the course of a single long Zoom call!

Cruschi (pronounced,“Krew-ski”) come to us from the southern Italian region of Basilicata. They’re made from a particular local pepper—Peperone di Senise—that are so special they have a denomination of origin like a wine. For nearly three hundred years now, locals grow the peperoni, allow them to ripen to a deep red on the vine, then harvest them by hand. The freshly picked peppers are strung into large wreaths, then hung in open-walled sheds to dry for three to four weeks. When the peppers are completely dry, the wreaths are carefully unstrung and the peppers are fried in local olive oil until the skin is a deep dark, brick red with a terrific crispy texture.

The Cruschi are slightly smoky, slightly sweet, very slightly spicy, and super terrifically tasty. You can definitely eat them directly out of the bag as I’ve been doing regularly for the last few days. Or you can use Cruschi in salads like croutons, or crumble them onto soups or pasta dishes as a crunchy red garnish. You can also cook with them—add them to sauces, stews, braises, etc., in the way you would other dried chiles or dried mushrooms. The other evening, I made a pasta sauce with chunks of pork, fresh fennel, celery, and a generous handful of these peppers. I finished the dish with more of the peppers crumbled dry atop the bowls before serving. The typical dish of the area calls for the Cruschi to be slow cooked in a sauté pan with olive oil, garlic, and toasted bread crumbs. Add them to omelets. Or try them crushed atop bruschetta—toasted Farm Bread with olive oil, ricotta, and these peppers… wonderful. An awesome taste of a region that is not—even when there’s no pandemic—heavily touristed. Pack them for lunches, put them out in a bowl to munch on while you watch a good film, or stick a bag in the car for when you get stuck in traffic!

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A strikingly yellow back of Peru Erlita's Microlot coffee, sitting on a burlap coffee sack

Erlita’s Lot Coffee from Peru

Grown, harvested, sold, and shipped by women

Back in 2004, Isabel Uriarte Latorre co-founded Café Femenino, an organization dedicated to empowering women on the front lines of the coffee industry. From the get-go, she built the business to support women in the work world financially, spiritually and socially. The project allows women to produce high-quality coffee and get paid commensurately—they’re not stuck bargaining with aggressive buying agents out on the marketplace. And, as per what I wrote above, to boost the energy of women who had generally been left out, ignored, or even abused, and help them reclaim the full lives to which they have always been entitled. The folks at Café Femenino share that:

Women in remote and rural coffee communities face a host of challenges that keep them trapped in poverty. Many of these isolated women live in male-dominated societies and have very little financial control or decision-making power. 464 women farmers in northern Peru decided to change this dynamic by separating their coffee production from the men’s. In that moment, for the first time, this group of women created their own product and income… to support social justice and empowerment for women coffee producers worldwide.

Coffee production came to Peru in the 1700s. After two centuries, the heirloom typica variety still comprises 60 percent of the country's exports. There are more than 110,000 coffee growers in Peru, most of whom are indigenous to these landscapes and speak Spanish only as a second language. The average land-holding farmer lives on less than three hectares, hours from the comforts of electricity and running water. Erlita Baca Arce’s farm is near the Peruvian village of Nueva York, a small coffee community in the Amazonas region of northern Peru, east of the Andes Mountains, at 5700 to 6500 feet above sea level—an ideal altitude for high-quality Arabica coffee trees. Erlita has been part of the project since its inception and now serves as the treasurer of the coop, and as she explains:

Café Femenino has given me many opportunities to improve the quality of my coffee and the quality of life for my family. I invest the premium I earn in improving our community, providing education for our daughters, and improving the food that we feed our families. Café Femenino has been wonderful in improving the self-esteem and empowerment of the women in our community.

Erlita is not alone in her positive comments. Every article I’ve read about Café Femenino details outstanding results: increased local recognition of the work the women are doing, both in the fields and on the home front; a reduction in abuse (physical, emotional, and sexual); an increase in income; more men are participating in child care and housework; and upswing in school attendance among local girls. In addition, because the female coffee producers in the area now have the potential to get a better price for their coffee, many men are signing the deeds of their land over to their wives so their coffee will be eligible for Café Femenino designation.

While dignity, meaningful work, and good coffee are always in season, National Women’s History Month is a particularly good time to take notice of Erlita’s Lot. The history of the event goes back over a century to the years before WWI and the Spanish flu, to the end of February 1909, when “National Women’s Day” was sponsored by the Socialist Party of America. By March of 1911, International Women's Day (IWD) was marked by over a million people demanding the right to vote for women, workplace safety, equitable pay, etc. Six years later, on March 8, 1917 in the Russian capital of Petrograd, women workers took to the streets for National Women’s Day, demonstrating en masse in an event that unexpectedly turned into the Russian Revolution. The Tsar abdicated a week later, on March 15. Leon Trotsky wrote, “March 8th was International Women's Day, and meetings and actions were foreseen. But we did not imagine that this 'Women's Day' would inaugurate the revolution.”

The Erlita’s Lot coffee is as great as the story behind it. Smooth, a bit of dark chocolate, maybe even like a piece of toasted Country Miche bread from the Bakehouse. The coffee has a surprisingly clean finish and modestly full mouthfeel. All the brew methods have been good, but I’m stuck on the smoothest flavor of the bunch, which I found to be Chemex (the syphon pot and the Clever brewing weren’t far behind). Sip some of this great new coffee and nibble on a Bakehouse oatmeal raisin cookie. Erlita’s Lot is available at the Coffee Company, Next Door at the Deli, and at the Roadhouse. Sit, and appreciate the morning as we move into spring. And because I seem to have a proclivity of late for Peruvian poets, here’s a short one that seems right for the moment from surrealist writer Blanca Varela:

it’s seven in the morning
it’s the perfect time to start

the coffee becomes eternal
and the sun eternal
if you don’t move

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One Big O cookie split in half, another full Big O cookie is individually wrapped in a package.

The Best Oatmeal Raisin Cookies Around

Ooohs and Aaahs for Big O’s from the Bakehouse

Italian designer Giorgio Armani once said, “I love things that age well—things that don’t date, that stand the test of time and that become living examples of the absolute best.” These simple but super good oatmeal cookies prove his point for me. Long one of my favorite cookies, Big O’s are exceptionally excellent, and they have been for probably three decades now. Every time I take a bite of one I’m reminded why I like them so much. Culinary beauty in such a simple, super accessible form totally makes me smile. It is, in many ways, what I think Zingerman’s is all about. Taking something that’s typically mundane and making it over into a world class offering that everyone can enjoy. I don’t actually know if Italian designers have any affinity for something so mainstream American as an oatmeal raisin cookie, but if they do I have to believe Signor Armani would be an admirer.

Like almost everything we make and sell, the cookies are so good because they start with great ingredients. Organic soft white wheat grown by Ferris Organic Farm in Eaton Rapids that we mill fresh at the Bakehouse. Old-fashioned organic rolled oats, big juicy red flame raisins, Muscovado brown sugar. Maple syrup from Michigan Maple Farms in Rudyard in the Upper Peninsula makes for a marvelously magical cookie. Add in real vanilla, some cinnamon, and nutmeg. Even after all these years of making them, every time I taste one I’m reminded of just how amazingly good they really are. The depth of flavor and complexity is wonderful!

A bit of background? The Bakehouse team shares some history:

Oatmeal cookies have been an American staple since the late nineteenth century, when Fannie Merritt Farmer published the first recorded recipe for them in the original 1896 edition of her famous Boston Cooking-School Cookbook, better known today as the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. The cookies evolved from oatcakes, a type of plain flatbread made centuries ago by the English and the Scots. Raisins and nuts were added to the mix sometime around the Middle Ages to make the oatcakes tastier. By the early 1900s, the cookies were billed here in America as “health food,” and a recipe appeared on every container of Quaker® Oats.

Raisins became the “norm” for oatmeal cookies not long before the first National Women’s Day when Quaker® began printing a recipe for oatmeal raisin cookies on every carton of their oats. They shared the same marketing firm as Sun-Maid® Raisins, and the collaboration came about!

Big O’s are great as they are, and pretty much perfect with a pot of that Erlita’s Lot coffee from Peru. Very good with a scoop of the Creamery’s vanilla gelato. While cookies aren’t considered proper breakfast food, the truth is they’re great with your morning coffee—sort of a bowl of oatmeal in hand-held form!

Get some Big O cookies from the Bakehouse
Pick up a 6-pack from the Deli
P.S. We now have the Oatmeal Raisin Cookie dough in the Bakeshop freezer so you can bake them off fresh in your own oven!
A close-up of sauerkraut salad. Visible are pieces of apple, carrot, celery, flakes of black pepper and caraway seeds, and the shredded cabbage of sauerkraut.

Sauerkraut Salad

Another easy to make marvelous winter meal

Continuing on my focus on winter salads, sauerkraut salad may sound a bit strange to most American ears, but seriously, it’s terrific. I ate it three days in a row while I was testing and could easily go back for another round tonight. It’s raising my energy here to write about it.

As the name implies, it starts with sauerkraut rather than salad greens. I use The Brinery’s terrific, naturally fermented kraut, made, of course, from local cabbage and other vegetables. It’s what we use at the Deli on the Reuben, sell through Mail Order in the Reuben Kit, and serve at the Roadhouse on the Montreal Reuben (with the house made Montreal smoked meat). We sell it by the jar at the Deli and Cream Top Shop. Seriously, the stuff is superb. And superbly good for us too. Dr. Zach Bush says, “ Foods that undergo wild (air) fermentation are among the most ancient gut health tools. Wild and live fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kavas, and kefirs gain much greater biodiversity than probiotics through the hundreds of species that are introduced to the fermenting crock from the ambient air environment.” So, although I made the salad for the flavor, it happens to be really good for your health as well! I’ve used these three different Brinery krauts, but any of their offerings would probably work well:

  • Fair n’ By — green cabbage, filtered water, sea salt
  • Stimulus Package — green cabbage, filtered water, caraway seed, sea salt
  • Galaxy Rose — green cabbage, watermelon radish, filtered water, sea salt
To make the salad, start by putting a bunch of sauerkraut in a mixing bowl. A healthy handful per person would work. Add a good bit of fresh apple, cut into chunks, and then an array of vegetables. You can use whatever you like—I did fresh fennel, celery, and a carrot one night. The next night I added bell pepper. Radishes would work well, as would celeriac, etc. The apple is key to bring sweet freshness. The rest is optional. Sprinkle on a bit of sea salt and a good bit of black pepper. I added a bunch of caraway (though the Stimulus Package kraut from the Brinery already has some). Sprinkle on some apple cider vinegar, add a bit of extra virgin olive oil, and a bit more black pepper if you like. Mix well, then let the salad stand for a few minutes. Eat and enjoy. The sour crunch of the kraut, the sweet brightness of the apple, and the savory freshness of the vegetables all come together in a shockingly good way.

Other Things on My Mind

Lindsay Beth Clark is making some marvelous music.

I’ve been going back to listen to old Vic Chesnutt records a lot of late. Vic passed away on Christmas Day, 2009, a few months after I met Anese. He was only 45 years old. All these years later, the quirky, honest, sometimes dark, greatness of his music continues to boost my energy every time I listen to it.

Very interesting interview by Brené Brown with Dr. Yaba Blay about race and her book, One Drop.

Sarah Lewis, The Rise

George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By

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