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The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome.

Stephen Pressfield
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A black and white photo of patchy clouds in the sky with a small ray of light entering the frame from the bottom.

Making Friends with Fear in the Organizational Ecosystem

Why it’s worth learning to manage our fear in more positive ways

A good friend of mine is an experienced and insightful leadership coach. When we were talking the other day, I mentioned in passing that I was thinking of writing about the place of fear in the organizational ecosystem. Her eyes opened wide and, a bit dismayed, she said, “I have so many clients that, when I ask them what their fears are, immediately tell me that they ‘don’t have any.’” My friend’s clients are hardly the only ones that would say something along the same lines. It’s not that hard to understand why—leaders like that are most likely just repeating the same “success story” they’ve been taught by society, their parents, or the press. Effective leaders are supposed to be “fearless,” the sort of superheroes we see in the movies. If you look online, you’ll find thousands of articles extolling the virtues of “fearless leadership.” These stories are commonly told, but to my view, they’re clearly unhelpful. They’re examples of what Gareth Higgins and Brian McLaren suggest in The Seventh Story are “stories which don’t work.”

Speaking openly and honestly, I’m at the complete opposite end of the continuum. I feel fear when I need to give difficult feedback to a staff member. I feel fear every time I sit down to work on this enews, and every time I get up to teach. I feel fear when I pass a police car and every time I go to a meeting. My logical brain knows that things will be ok. But I feel the fear anyways. These fears, I’ve learned, are not problems; they’re just part of the process. Even with familiar things, I regularly feel something along the lines of what Wendell Berry describes:

​​When you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the Unknown, and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into.

Fear comes, and fear goes, but I’ve learned to go forward anyways. Fear is almost always at my side. It sometimes slows me down, but, when it comes to things I really believe in, it almost never holds back.

Of his most recent publication, Gareth Higgins says: “This book is called How Not to Be Afraid but it’s not about eliminating fear. It’s about learning how to feel fear without being driven by it. It’s about knowing the difference between healthy fear and paranoia.” Years ago now, I learned to just embrace the fear. To make friends with it; and then to do the things that go with any good friendship—to check in with it regularly, accept it for what it is, and use it as a helpful support. Instead of fighting it, or denying it, I’ve learned to put fear on my side. Like a good friend, I’ve figured out how to, first, consider fear’s input, but then, to go forward and make my own decisions to move towards the vision and values of my choosing. The rest of this piece is an exploration of how we can, constructively and caringly, learn to do that together. Because as the horse says in Charlie’s Mackesy’s marvelous book, The Boy, the Horse, the Fox and the Horse, “Everyone is a bit scared. But we’re less scared together.”

Although acknowledging fear in the hierarchical world of power and/or politics would generally be considered a sign of extreme weakness, I’ve come to understand more and more over the years that it’s actually the opposite. The strongest leaders are those who can openly acknowledge their anxiety, talk about it in productive ways, and then figure out how to take productive action anyway. Instead of acting out anxiety that we pretend we don’t have—often by inflicting fear-inducing pain onto others—we learn to talk about our fears in caring and constructive ways. I agree fully with the great Nelson Mandela who wrote: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Those who profess not to feel fear are often the people who create the biggest problems. Instead of making friends with their fear, they impose it on others. It’s commonly understood that bullies are, underneath their bluster, always afraid. They threaten, punish, and pick fights to push off the pain they don’t know how to process. As Gareth Higgins says, “The most insidious of fear’s powers is the ability to lead people to act violently toward themselves and others.”

I believe ever more strongly, it’s only when we can both acknowledge our fears openly and constructively, and then move forward anyways, that we can truly lead effectively. If we want to make a Revolution of Dignity part of our daily reality, we need to work and lead in the way that Ukrainian poet Serhiy Zhadan describes when he talks about living in the place “where fear meets courage.”

I’m not suggesting we simply ignore our fears. Fear is a natural human emotion that, in the right settings, can literally save us from danger. The problem, as you’ll see in even a quick study, is that any time our fear is triggered, our brain responds in pretty much the same way to a threat of a genuine attack as it does to the fear of an imagined one. What was appropriately fear-provoking when we were four can sit quietly in the back corner of our mind for the rest of our lives. When something similar happens to us 30 years later, we’re likely to experience the same emotions we did when we were kids. In How Not to be Afraid, Gareth Higgins says, “Most of our fears are not true at all and … all of them depend on a story we tell ourselves.” Ninety-percent of our fears, he says, are exaggerated and/or made up altogether. It’s not fear’s fault. As Higgins says, “fear cannot control itself.” Nor, I’ve learned, can we control fear. What we can do is learn how to respond to it effectively.

Last fall, I wrote about how emotions in our organizational ecosystems could be the metaphorical equivalent of the weather. We have no influence over when they come, or how forceful they will be. What we can do is tune into the early signs that they’re arriving and then teach ourselves how to respond gently and effectively, honoring our emotions without letting our work suffer. We can also put ourselves in “safer” places by steering clear, as best we can, of situations that tend to trigger us. Following the metaphor, I’ve been thinking of late that fear would be akin to that strange feeling that’s in the air when a storm is coming. I’m guessing you’ve experienced it. Things suddenly go eerily quiet. The air smells different, the leaves start blowing strangely. What was quiet and felt predictable a few minutes earlier, suddenly seems strange; uncertain, at times, even ominous. It’s hard to get centered and make solid decisions in such unstable conditions. Most of us react, and many times we make hasty, unhelpful decisions about how to get to “safety.”

With five dogs, a shift in the weather is a big deal at our house. As you might expect, the dogs don’t like storms one small bit. A couple of them hide in the bathroom or under the bed. Two others will sometimes act out aggressively on each other. When the air pressure drops, they provoke. We try to reassure them, but dogs respond to feelings, beliefs, and previously learned life lessons, not to logic-focused interventions. In the process, they remind me a lot of human beings. We don’t generally lock ourselves in the bathroom and we’re wordier when we “bark,” but the behavior isn’t all that different. Although most people like to claim that our decisions are guided solely by logic and reason, the reality is quite simply that emotions and beliefs are a huge part of how we show up. In acknowledging and working with my fear, I try to take Terry Tempest Williams’ experience to heart: “I take a deep breath, sidestep my fear and begin speaking from the place where beauty and bravery meet—within the chambers of a quivering heart.”

So how can we make fear-management happen in our ecosystems? Here’s a set of guidelines I’m trying to put to work:

  • Be mindful of our fears when they start to show up — Experienced farmers and foresters (and dogs) can usually feel a storm coming long before unsuspecting city kids like me can. They can feel it coming well in advance of its actual arrival. Increasing our sensitivity to fear when it starts to show up will make a big difference. Like all emotions, it often shows up first in our bodies. For me, it’s a heat I feel rising in my face, a sudden shallowness in breathing. I have a hard time thinking clearly, and I often start to get the feeling that Stephen King conveniently puts into an accurate acronym: “FEAR stands for fuck everything and run.”

    When we’re not in touch with our fear, trouble will almost certainly follow. In They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib says,

    It is jarring, what we let fear do to each other; how we invent enemies and then make them so small that we are fine with wishing them dead. … How we take that long coat of fear and throw it around the shoulders of anyone who doesn’t look like us, or prays to another God.

  • Understand where it comes from — As Gareth Higgins says, “If we can change the burden of fear by reframing our perspective, the obvious starting point would be to ask ourselves one simple question: Why are we afraid in the first place?” This has been, for me, a very interesting, if at times, challenging exploration. What we get mad about is often a fear-based response to what happened when we were four. Higgins says, “Is it possible that what we hold dear and wish to protect—in other words, what lies behind our fear—is just a story? And if it’s just a story, can it be rewritten?” Higgins’ answer is an adamant, “Yes.”

    With that in mind, positive psychologist Edith Eva Eger’s statement that “The biggest fear of a child is the fear of abandonment” hit home for me. It took me a long time to understand this had essentially happened to me in my middle-class, well-educated, family history. My parents divorced when I was three; the last time I saw my father was when I was seven. Which, with the benefit of both therapy and hindsight, helps me understand now why my fear is probably still such a prominent part of my everyday existence. Brené Brown says, “Either we own our stories, or else our stories will own us.” In hindsight, I can see that, uncomfortable as it was at the time, it was the willingness to push past my fear and unexpressed anger that allowed me to slowly take ownership of my story. In the new story, fear is my friend. I don’t always listen to its advice, but I have come to appreciate that it will be keeping me company for the rest of my life.

    When we’re tuned in, fear can be a barometer for our own internal weather system. Stephen Pressfield says, “Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do.” It’s often our fear of failure that holds us back from following our hearts. As author Marianne Williamson says: “Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure … We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?” She reminds us, though, that “There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you.”

  • Learn to live with it and honor it — Fear is an appropriate physiological response to a threat. When the threat is real, we need to act quickly and effectively. When the threat is mostly in our minds, we need to do the opposite. We need to get centered, reground, reflect, and recover. Getting in an altered state or lashing out in anger are all too common, but, clearly, wholly unhelpful. Sometimes with the help of friends, family, and mental health professionals. Since we’re all different, each of us needs to get to know ourselves. For me, breathing, journaling, running, and talking with friends can all help in dealing with day-to-day fears.

    Brené Brown says that “hurt people, hurt people.” It’s true, too, for fear; scared people—at least the ones who don’t own their stories—like to scare people. Plug in the political leader, bad boss, abusive parent … They are then making a fearful world. They invoke fear to get their followers focused on some “evil other” who needs to be destroyed, held at a distance, kept away, or even killed. They use fear to create worlds in which the fear mongers get a lot of attention, gain power, etc. Autocracy—in a company or a country—is always fueled by unhealthy fear used in destructive ways to hold people down and keep them from having the power to make a meaningful difference. Democracy—in our case, in the workplace—is the opposite; fear is acknowledged as a norm of everyday life, and in turn the organizational culture is enriched by involvement, activism, and collaboration,

  • Talk about fears — As I’ve written elsewhere, acting in anger is always dangerous. Conversely, talking about how we feel angry can be constructive and helpful. The same, I’ll suggest, goes for fear. If I act out of fear at times where I’m not really under threat, I will cause more pain and more problems for others, and in the process, for myself as well. But when I/we can connect about fear with colleagues, we will decrease the odds of unhelpful conflict, and increase the odds of constructive conversation and effective coordinated action. Higgins says, “Fear is not a life sentence but a gift. Part of the gift only lives when it’s shared.” It’s counterintuitive for many of us, and in a sense, almost counter cultural, but openly acknowledging our fears reduces their ability to cause harm. If autocratic leaders and abusive bosses and bullies could share their fear in conversation, we would have far less conflict in the world. The frequency with which we can start a conversation by saying, relatively calmly, “My fear is that … ” tells me a lot about the health of our culture.

    As leaders, we can benefit from learning to ask gentle questions when we sense that fear is in the air. A kind, well-intended, “What are your fears around this?” can invite meaningful connection. Neuroscientist Andrew Huberman suggests two ways that this work can really help. First is to tell the stories of what caused our fears in the first place—to talk about where our fears first came from, and how they felt at the time. I’m not suggesting we turn our workplaces into group therapy sessions, but I believe we can make it safe for people to acknowledge that they have these hard stories in ways that still respect boundaries and personal dignity. The second suggestion Huberman makes is to introduce different stories of more positive futures. The more we tell these hopeful stories, he says, the more likely it is that we can gradually minimize the impact of early life traumas, and the more effectively we can manage ourselves to get positive outcomes in the present. This latter bit, if you haven’t yet made the connection, could easily be called “visioning.”

  • Bring empathy and compassion — Trying to talk people “out” of their fear is never helpful. I’ve learned it’s better to listen than to use logic. In the third week of the Russian invasion, Ukrainian poet Serhiy Zhadan put this line in one of his poems: “I know your fears and where they came from.” In the context of this piece, what Zhadan has described is what, I believe, we want to create in our workplaces. Organizations in which we know each other’s fears, and understand what triggers them, so that we can then move forward together more effectively. Accepting that what evokes extreme fear in one of us might well go unnoticed by the other folks we work with, and that each of us are experiencing our own, different, “emotional weather fronts” at the same time.

  • Fill the void with love — When we lead and live with love, fear is left to its appropriate devices. Rather than dominate, it remains a useful tool for the right situations. As the late bell hooks wrote: “When we choose to love we choose to move against fear—against alienation and separation. The choice to love is a choice to connect—to find ourselves in the other.” Instead of lashing out, we can learn to let love fill our days caringly and consistently. And as we let our own light shine, we quietly give other people permission to do the same.

  • Move forward, together — Having noticed, accepted, and understood our fears, we can, I believe, move forward far more effectively. Gareth Higgins says, “It has been said that the antidote to fear is not optimism, but action rooted in hope.”

If we do all this work well, I believe we will create companies, and lives, that are calmer—workplaces in which we can more effectively live out the Revolution of Dignity. In the process, we will increase the odds of making our vision and values a reality. The better we learn to let the eerie winds of a storm coming in pass without causing any damage, the healthier our ecosystems. It takes practice. I like Eleanor Roosevelt’s practical suggestion to “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Ukrainian poet Lyuba Yakimchuk, who fled the Donbas with her family back when Russia invaded in 2014 (in what became the Revolution of Dignity), wrote in one of her poems, “Where no more apricots grow, Russia starts.” Her words are a stark reminder to me of how much difference a healthy relationship with our fear can make. Living in denial can lead to problems, pain, and a slow spiritual death. When we hide our fear from ourselves, when we act our anxieties out on others, our ecosystem becomes frozen with fear. We end up with unhealthy cultural soil—soil in which generosity is diminished, hearts are hardened, and people are hurt.

On the other hand, we can make friends with fear and accept that, as Gareth Higgins reminds us, “It’s not a sin to feel fear; in fact, it’s quite natural.” When we do, we can effectively lead the way towards more engaged, caring, and creative companies—and countries. Instead of invasions, we get inspiration. Instead of pain and destruction, we get dignity. Where fear is openly acknowledged and worked through constructively, we can learn to ease those scary moments before a storm starts, and help them to pass quietly. Honoring and handling our fear well brings out beauty and life. In the process, our stress levels go down, and the quality of relationships blossom. Flowers and then fruit can follow, many lives can be made better, and the Revolution of Dignity will be markedly more likely to flourish.

For more on self-management, see Secret #31 in Part 3. Also check out ZingTrain’s “Mindful Self-Management” online training session in May.
Sign up for ZingTrain’s Mindful Self-Management
Half of a wheel of cheese.

Little Mountain Cheese from Wisconsin at the Deli

A Best-of-Show award winner from the great-grandson of a Swiss cheesemaker

One of the tastiest cheeses we’ve got on hand right now comes from the small town of Platteville, Wisconsin. Chris Roelli, the man who makes Little Mountain, is a fourth generation Wisconsin cheesemaker. His great-grandfather, Adolph Roelli, came over from Switzerland in 1903. Other farmers in the area soon discovered that he knew how to make cheese and invited him into the local co-op to work the curd. His son Walter added milk hauling to the cheesemaking—at one time the family’s trucks were picking up milk from nearly 500 other farms. The Roelli’s success was challenged in the second half of the 20th century. The pressure for lower and lower prices made the Roelli’s commitment to quality unsustainable. The big buyers that dominated the market were offering so little that the Roellis finally gave in—they closed their cheese plant in May of 1991.

In the early 2000s, Chris, who was just out of school at the time, was determined to get back into it. Keeping his plans quietly to himself, he started to make a bit of cheese. First up was the now nationally renowned Dunbarton Blue. The Little Mountain came later—it’s Chris’ effort to honor his family history and return to the type of cheese that his great-grandfather would have learned to make back in Switzerland. It started in the style of a Swiss Appenzell, and with all of Chris Roelli’s recipe work, as he says, its flavor finished up somewhere between a Swiss Emmentaler and a Gruyère, and squarely in the family of mountain cheeses that its name would indicate. It’s got an amazingly wonderful flavor and aroma. Nutty, a nice nose, smooth, only the tiniest bit of sweetness, Little Mountain is meaty with a lovely long finish. I’ve been eating it out of hand (as with all good cheese, it’s best at room temperature). Super good for sandwiches, grated onto pasta or salad, or in scalloped potatoes. Great after dinner paired with dried apricots, Red Walnuts, or a few of those really fine Pâte de Fruit I wrote up last week! Supplies are, as with so many of the special things we stock, very limited, so swing by the Deli soon and pick some up!

You won’t see the Little Mountain on the Zingermans.com Mail Order site, but it’d be our pleasure to send some your way! Email us at service@zingermans.com.

Grab this award-winning cheese from the Deli
P.S. Want to read more about the history of Wisconsin cheese? Check out this little chapbook on the zingermanspress.com site. Words by me, design by Lynn Fiorentino, and hand-sewing by Jenny Tubbs.
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A plate of five pancakes with maple syrup and butter off to the side.

Spelt Pancakes at the Roadhouse made with Freshly-Milled Flour from the Bakehouse

A delicious new upgrade to the daily breakfast menu

As you likely know, I love to look here at the ways we are actively working to make our food better at Zingerman’s. From the first week we opened our doors 40 years ago, we have worked with the mindset that is now documented in the list of Natural Laws of Business (See Part 1). Number 8 on the list of the original 12 is: “To get to greatness you’ve got to keep getting better, all the time!” It’s a rare week that we aren’t doing something to raise the bar on a recipe or source a more flavorful, more traditionally crafted ingredient (watch for some chocolate upgrades with a few Bakehouse items and new pecans at the Roadhouse coming at you soon in the print edition of Zingerman’s News for May–June.) This week’s work is around the upgrade that the folks at the Roadhouse are rolling out—starting to make pancakes using the spelt we’re milling fresh at the Bakehouse.

If you don’t know it, spelt is an ancient grain that’s in the same family as wheat. Greek mythology has it that it was a gift from the goddess Demeter. Spelt has been grown in central Asia for over 9000 years and came to North America only at the end of the 19th century. It’s related to farro and has been called farro grande (as opposed to the farro piccolo we serve at the Roadhouse that comes from Anson Mills). Compared to standard wheat varieties, spelt has a harder husk, a lower yield, and a more positive nutritional profile—it’s good for heart health, blood pressure, digestion, high in vitamins (like zinc and magnesium), and brings a reduction in risk of diabetes. St. Hildegard of Bingen, an 11th century mystic, poet, and composer who was putting her visions in writing a thousand years ago, said that “Spelt is the best of grains. It is rich and nourishing and milder than other grains. It produces a strong body and healthy blood to those who eat it and it makes the spirit of man light and cheerful.” A thousand years later, the folks at the Bakehouse share:

Our organic spelt berries come from Michigan and the surrounding Midwest region. When we mill them on our stone mill, it produces a beautiful cream-colored silky flour with large flakes of nutritious bran. Compared to whole wheat flour, it’s softer, not as absorbent, and produces a very extensible dough. Given its delicious flavor and strong baking qualities, we use freshly-milled whole spelt flour in a number of our breads, including Country Miche and Dinkelbrot.

The latter are two of my favorite breads—the Miche is a magical blend of spelt, wheat, buckwheat, and rye that we bake in beautiful big 2-kilo loaves with lovely dark crusts. The Dinkelbrot is a dense, delicious, German-style spelt bread made with a bit of mashed potato, honey, and a lot of sunflower seeds. The fresh milling itself has been a huge improvement for us as well. It offers us better flavor and much better nutrition. In the last five years, we’ve rolled it (literally and figuratively) into most of our breads and an increasing number of pastries. Everything we use it in is enhanced by its addition!

Connecting culinary dots, head chef Bob Bennett had the thought to make use of the Bakehouse’s fresh-milled grains in the Roadhouse’s pancakes. The pancakes have long been a staple on the morning menu, and for years we have used all-purpose flour. After a series of experiments, we enthusiastically chose the spelt. Swapping in the spelt for the standard wheat flour has boosted the flavor exponentially! Creamy on the tongue, still mellow but marvelously flavorful, gently nutty, and very delicious. The pancakes are fantastically flavorful on their own, but if you like them a little sweeter, we have maple syrup from H&H Sugarbush in Chelsea. Swing by this week and order a plateful! Along with those Texas Tacos I wrote about last week, they’re giving you and me even more reasons to go out for breakfast. Add in a glass of orange juice, freshly-squeezed on site (the juice equivalent of fresh milling for grain), some Roadhouse Joe coffee from the Coffee Company, wireless, and Roadhouse Park out front … there are more and more reasons to make your way to the Westside!

Make a reservation for the Roadhouse
If you’re intrigued by the idea of fresh-milling of flour, the Bakehouse’s Hazim Tugun is doing a great online class about milling at home!
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Glass mug of cappuccino showing, clearly, the bottom half of espresso and then top half of milk.

Cappuccino at the Coffee Company, Next Door, and the Roadshow

The true story of your morning “cap” revealed!

It’s getting close to a decade ago now that I started to study beliefs. What began as a small bit of intrigue and intellectual interest evolved, over the course of five or six years, into a 600-plus-page book, The Power of Beliefs in Business. Later, that work expanded in the form of our Statement of Beliefs, and also another Natural Law (#16). One of the many things I’ve learned is how many commonly-held beliefs are quite simply wrong. G. K. Chesterton writes, “Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”

So, here’s a good one for you! Much of what most of us believe about the history of cappuccino is incorrect. While this disinformation won’t lead to war, overturn an election, end a relationship, or cause a coup, I figured it’s still a good idea to share the full story. Although many of us might assume that cappuccino originated in Italy ages ago, a bit of historical exploration will show that to be wholly inaccurate. Modern cappuccino, the kind we serve and that many of you consume, is actually less than a hundred years old. Milk was not part of the original recipe. And its roots aren’t in Italy, but, instead, to the north, in Austria.

What we now know as cappuccino was first called “Kapuziner,” showing up in Viennese coffee houses in the 1700s. It was made at that time with whipped cream and sugar. Some recipes also reference spices. If you go to Vienna today, you’ll still find the classic Kapuziner on the menu! What we know now as cappuccino was first made in Europe in the early years of the 20th century, as the relatively new-fangled espresso machines became popular, at roughly the same time the Deli’s building was being built in 1902, and about the same time Chris Roelli’s great-grandfather was arriving in Wisconsin from Switzerland. The drink became more popular in Italy, and the name evolved from German to Italian. It gained widespread acclaim in the U.S. only in the last 50 years.

Like all food and drink, the quality of the ingredients that go into a cappuccino will have a huge impact on the flavor of the finished item. It’s almost impossible, I’ve learned over the years, to make something super delicious out of so-so raw materials. Here in the ZCoB (Coffee Co., Next Door, and Roadshow), we use a pair of excellent ingredients:

  • Espresso Blend #1 from Daterra Estate in Brazil — Sustainably grown, Rainforest Alliance certified, we’ve been working with the Pascoal family and the Daterra team for 20 years now!

  • Milk from Calder Dairy — One of the state’s only farmstead dairies, the Calder family still has its own herd of about 150 cattle. (And yes, we also have skim milk, oat milk, and almond milk.)

While most cappuccini look somewhat similar in the cup, there’s a huge difference in the flavor. I brought one as a gift to a friend I was meeting the other day. She took a sip, shook her head, and quietly, almost under her breath, said “Wow! You really can taste the difference.”

Swing by the Coffee Company, Next Door, or Roadshow to taste the difference! Or if you want to replicate a bit of Zingerman’s at your house, order a bag of Espresso Blend #1.

Order a Cappuccino from the Coffee Co.
Treat yourself at the Deli Next Door
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Bacon and oysters combined with eggs, sprinkled with fresh-ground pepper on a blue plate.

Making Hangtown Fry at Home

A tasty dish of oysters and eggs with 19th century California roots

Hangtown Fry is a California classic—oysters, eggs, and bacon in one really good all-American dish. I love it because it’s simple to make, it’s delicious, and it’s got a great story to boot. I like to use a dry-cured bacon like Broadbent’s because that’s likely the sort of intense, long-cured bacon that Gold Rush-era cooks would likely have been working with, but any of the amazing bacons we have on hand—including Nueske’s classic applewood-smoked—would be great.

The story of Hangtown Fry takes us to a northern California town originally known as Old Dry Diggins, then Hangtown, and now Placerville. Back in Gold Rush days, it was a prominent supply town—many of the area’s miners went there to restock and cut loose and got themselves into a bit of trouble. The name “Hangtown” came about in the middle of the nineteenth century, when three bad guys were strung up on the branches of a big old oak in the center of town. I’ve been told that the stump of that old oak is still “stuck in the mud” (so to speak) in the basement of a bar called The Hangman’s Tree.

Hangtown Fry, the dish, is said to have originated at the now defunct El Dorado Hotel, just across the street from the hanging tree. Legend has it that a miner rolled into town with gold from a fresh strike and ordered the saloon keeper to serve up his most special dish. The cook offered a choice of three high-end options: oysters, eggs (hard to transport, and hence costly), and bacon. The miner told him to toss all three into one dish, and Hangtown Fry was born.

It’s typically made—and is terrific—with fresh oysters. We also have some great canned smoked oysters at the Deli from the folks at Hog Island Oyster Co.! To make the dish, toss some shucked oysters in cracker crumbs and coat well. In a medium hot skillet, fry a bit of chopped bacon lightly to release the fat; and then add the oysters to the hot bacon fat. Stir lightly with a gentle hand for just a minute or two max. Add the eggs, and proceed as you would to make scrambled eggs. (If you want the detailed recipe, it’s fully documented in the Guide to Better Bacon.) Don’t skimp on the egg quality—remember, they were a luxury in mid-nineteenth century Hangtown and remain a key component of the dish, not just a way to hold the oysters and bacon together. It’s a very versatile recipe—great for brunch, lunch, or a light supper. A bit of culinary history, a whole lot of flavor, a little easy-to-make surf-and-turf, all in a meal you can make in under 10 minutes!

Start with bacon
Add smoked oysters

Other Things on My Mind

Listening

Jenina MacGillivray makes lovely, lyrically witty music on Newfoundland in the Canadian Maritimes.

I continue to listen to DakhaBrakha a lot! Here’s an NPR concert they recorded a month before the Russian invasion.

Reading

There’s also a wonderful new book out called The Carbon Almanac: It’s Not Too Late for which Seth Godin has generously written the foreword. It’s put together for folks like me, and maybe you, who are deeply concerned about the climate crisis, but are not scientists, don’t run alternative energy companies, and can easily start to feel overwhelmed by all the ways that we could/should move forward to make a difference—a “place” where fear of doing the work in the “wrong” way keeps us from doing anything beyond sticking with the status quo. The book is loaded with real life, eminently learnable tips, tools, and visuals. It’s both fun, and informative. I’m only a bit into it but I can see already that it will be hugely helpful!

The Deli is hiring a Specialty Foods Manager!

This position is one of 2 management positions that leads the Specialty Food Department. This department consists of a team of 16-18 people that execute sales of approx. 3 million dollars a year of traditionally made full-flavored foods. The work is a balance of overseeing the day to day operations, working on the floor during shifts, as well as  developing budgets, reviewing cost margins, coordinating with our marketing department, and coaching and developing staff.

Send in your application today
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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