A Spring Awakening

Fresh, Innovative, Creative Opportunities & The Pursuit of a Meaningful Life

“There is power and freedom in being the fool.  When we declare something completely outrageous we are no longer dominated by the looming shadow of failure and the fear of mockery.  Boldness has power, magic and genius in it.”

Sacred Commerce, A Business Path of Awakening

Its funny how ones life can change in a moment or a day, regardless of your desire for that change to occur.  Certainly this is understood in the recent tragic happenings in Boston.  But it is also true in more mundane instances and some being just time.  I turned 40 this month, yes I had always desired a 40th birthday with a lordy lordy look who is 40 sign but the day was actually quite simple and quite satisfactory.  But the day, the year, the age, the timing was ultimately life changing.  Its true I find myself repeating these words month after month, my life changing drastically that is, but this time I feel it changed profoundly.  I’m not so sure what exactly we are supposed to do when we turn forty, but I did feel both the societal pressure as well as an internal pressure to look at it ( my life)  with contemplation and introspection as well as a certain amount of pride, that is if you have lived well.  ( Well being subjective of course.)  I have lived well, I knew this before I turned 40 but there was something about 40 that has given me a new perspective on my life a desire to achieve more of something different   In the past as I made changes I didn’t always know where I was headed, or what I needed to bring along for the journey.  This time, I feel like my “spring awakening” is more calculated, a product of the last forty years.  I’m calmer about it all, less tense and less fearful, a new one for me since most don’t realize that despite my ability to seem fearless, fear typically fills me, I just never let it affect my progress or opportunities for growth. This year at forty my attention turns towards the pursuit of a meaningful life.   At this point I am aware of the bullshit and aware of the path that fulfills me, so that being said it is time to move with my prior 39 years being my guide and being powerful in my choices and ability to achieve a simpler more gratifying life.

Everywhere I look are opportunities exist  and I have decided that at 40, I need to make my boldest moves yet in life, and take advantage of the fresh, innovative and creative opportunities that abound my life.

I was sitting recently at my computer doing my organic fruit work as usual and suddenly I realized that this is not where I should be every day.  I realized that I was wasting my talents and creativity, not to mention my skills acquired by traveling the world, by sitting and working on a computer all day, spending my time with all the small details in a great big picture.  Can I make the largest impact in my life and the life of others where I sit today?  No.   Almost three years ago I opened Ger-Nis Culinary & Herb Center, in order to bring cooking and food front in center in my life.  I had the same sort of epiphany but it was only a portion of what I am realizing today.  My happiness is derived from my ability to do good and make impact with my work on a level that is engulfed with creativity.  This is who I am, whether it be in cooking or in produce.  I learned I couldn’t escape the lure of the fruit and vegetable world, the entrepreneur in me as well, as the lady who wants to serve small growers was just too forceful for me and so I re-entered into the produce world but this time with more focus, fair-trade, mission driven work..  I didn’t abandon the food world, instead I learned to incorporate the two, I grew wiser and stronger and way more efficient with my time.  Moving out of the city into the Hudson River Valley was another bold and wise move, I learned that with a clear head satisfaction and even happiness are possible, while constantly learning and growing as an individual.  I also learned that focus was more important than ever before and that distraction was too easy in Brooklyn, I was destined for more than Brooklyn and I began to understand that when I left.  All too often in large cities we put too much emphasis on possessions, approval of others and in general life becomes more about the society in which you live than who you are and what you need to fulfill your destiny.   We don’t support each other’s individuality nearly enough in our country and in the industries wherein I work, the culinary world and produce, neither are immune to this “disease”.   We also are less able to connect with the people and cultures that live differently.

At forty I embrace fully my individuality, I embrace fully that I am not easy to describe in one or two sentences, What I do and what I have done is more than most people do in a life time, that is simply who I am.  I have a great deal of energy, a pretty detailed and sharp mind, and I am culturally educated beyond the norm.  I therefore can make larger impact in my work than most if I hone my efforts in a more disciplined fashioned,  I can also create more happiness by placing myself in an environment that allows my values to shine.  Yes at 40 I discovered I had real values!   I need to forget about what others think and say and use my instincts that have always been powerful guide me to the places and people that will help me achieve my goals. Create as much impact and growth for myself and others as I can, while learning and experiencing new cultures, foods, sounds and sights along the way.

I have decided to move to South America this fall, Ecuador to be exact.  I have decided this for a few reasons.  I am hungry for a larger perspective and want to be deliberate and specific about the immediate impact I can make in my work, both culinary and in produce.  Working with small growers I have come to realize that very few people want to truly take the time to empower them with real information and market education.  Perhaps because we are still ultimately colonizers at heart.  We always seem to have or want the upper hand, the control and the power in trade and commerce with the developing world and thus the developing world continues to suffer and we , the developed world, are the ones directly suppressing them with what is essentially just good old fashion greed.  The culinary world is not much different actually either.  Our lack of food knowledge and the proprietary theme in which people in the food world thrive lacks the sense of community that food naturally provides.  American consumers are hungry for the truth about the world and especially their foods.  As the world grows smaller and information moves at record speeds, our ability to be a part of fair, ethical and environmentally sound world trade and enterprise in creative ways is profound and I want to be a part of the revolution that is happening.

I cannot change the world, it took my 40 years to really understand that, when we are young we feel we can and I think that naivety helps push and motivate us.  As we get older we either decide to make concessions or learn to focus.  I obviously would never be the type to make concessions, although I have experienced in the last years a new feeling where I have questioned more often whether I should, mainly this question was based on fear.  What would I do if I lost my income, etc etc.

The truth is I don’t have it in me any more to screw around with life like I used to, I want to progress at the speed in which I naturally progress, which is faster than most.  I want to surround myself by people willing to work hard, learn and grow.  I can make more impact if I simply place myself in a better location for growth.  At this stage of my life and my career I know that living in South America for a year can only bring success to those I work with and to my own personal growth and happiness.  I not only need to learn more myself but I need to pass on my knowledge to those who not only need it but are hungry for it.  I need to build bridges and participate in creating healthy sustainable commerce.

In our modern world we tend to think of success in terms of possessions, power, wealth, position, fame, honors and  too many things that are more connected to the ego.  I don’t place real value on those marks for success, I never really have; I see how they are important in order to create prosperity in the developing world but they are just tiny obstacles in what for me is the actual definition of success which is more along the lines of prosperity.  Prosperity can be defined differently in all cultures and I feel that that is fitting, but in all cultures it is essentially defined as a state of flourishing, encompassing more than wealth and includes happiness and health for not only oneself but ones community.  This is the success I want to seek for myself in my forties, this is the very definition of the success I believe I shall attain and contribute to by not only living in South America but by focusing on what is actually important and not the bullshit!  If we can be helpful in this world we should be, I will continue my entrepreneurial spirit and creative endeavors of course and they will only become more powerfully and “successful” with the “wealth” of knowledge and perspective I will gain from living and working aboard.

Bread & Roses

Recognition & Celebration of the Vital Role of Women in Society

I chuckle to myself almost every day as I venture onto my facebook page and am informed by my peers that “today” is international hamburger day or “today” is international margarita day or “today is international flying saucer day.  You get the idea, it goes on and on and on it is  a tad ridiculous and we all know that.  Everyone market’s off these days with recipes and photos and indulges a little bit more, especially on margarita day and I can only assume on “international shot of vodka day”.  But wait, I just read about September 19th being “International talk like a pirate day”, what the living f**k is that about.  Well the one day I find to be most important in the midst of all these days, which often gets lost in all this bullshit, is International Women’s Day.  What started long before the actual day was created (1857 NYC garment workers protested for shorter hours and greater pay) by a socialist movement in the USA was always about women’s economic and political equality and that is the most important element of today. (It’s funny how men have turned it into celebrate their wives and mother’s day but make little recognition as to their inequality in the work place or in politics). The term or slogan “Bread and Roses” emerged as mostly folklore for  the ongoing slogan for this movement that continued all over the world.  The slogan was based on a poem by James Oppenhiem titled of course, Bread and Roses.  The bread signified their fight for economic security and the roses signified their profound acknowledgment of their innate right to have better living standards.  I think the slogan is today underutilized and underappreciated, in today’s marketing world this would be considered quite genius and has legs that will last forever!  It’s a great title for a movie, a book a documentary a girls club etc!!  Come on peeps get going on that!

Of course there is so much to say on this topic of women and inequality  and I can’t say everything so as I contemplate what is the message I want to send here, ultimately helping to shed light on  how important it is for women to empower each other as well as having men participate in this empowerment.  Obviously I live in a unique professional world where sustainable food meets international business, where the third world worker meets the hipster Brooklynite,  a place I find quite fascinating and comfortable.  When I evaluate these worlds and think about the lack of women’s empowerment in both, I’m a bit disappointed and find it difficult over the years to balance making impact and being happy and peaceful in life.    I’m in the sustainable food business, technically I would call myself a sustainable food educator and a fair-trade organic marketing and agricultural expert and also I am an herbal guru!  I have spent a large part of my life since I was a little girl in other countries, submersed in other cultures.  Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, Holland, Germany, Belgium, England, France, Spain Israel, Jordan. Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and the Island of Mauritius oh yeah and Canada!  I have had the unique pleasure of not really being a tourist in all of my travelers but an invited guest inside of farmer’s homes. My perspective is indeed unique.    The home of a farmer is an interesting place.  Typically the farmers are men, although I have had the unique pleasure of meeting more and more women who are “heads” of the farm.  Each of the farmers of course have wives ( In Jordan some had a few J) each of these wives ran the household and in many cases the actual business of the farms.  The paperwork, the logistics, the payroll, the organization. The saying, behind every great man there is a great woman, is one of those sayings that more often than not rings true.  It’s been interesting to me to witness what I see in my own country, as well as everywhere I travel aborad, that women are doing the majority of the work and achieving the least amount of power.  In fact the very word power has been turned into a word that many women try to avoid, I think women don’t understand the “power of power’ and that the word power is not a word that cant or shouldn’t be associated with women but more so a word that can empower women further.  It’s funny that as I wrote that sentence I realized that for women the word empowerment is more comfortable than the word power, that must change.  Men have dominated and defined the word power for centuries, millenniums…history.  It’s time women begin to understand power.

I have always been grateful for my upbringing in terms of learning about power .  I have been through several stages in terms of  power, how to use power, how others use power and what I want others to know about power and above all I want women to understand that they have endless resources from which to draw power from.  From a young age I was given power by my father, by his simple acknowledgment to me that I was equal. My father by nature was and still is a powerful man, back then he was powerful in a mainly masculine definition of the world and today he is more what I call feminine powerful or perhaps we can call it empowered.   He traveled the world and like me traveled to places that were remote and off the beaten path.  He worked for Xerox back when Xerox was like today’s apple or google.  They sent him all over, Tanzania, Rhodesia, Japan, Australia, France, England, Madagascar,, you name it.  I think this experience, like the one that I have had,  gave him an internal bucket of wisdom from which to grow deepr into a “real”  powerful being.  I was the only girl of 4 boys, which automatically kind of lumped me into learning more masculine ways of life, ways of thinking and ways of being.  When my parents got divorced and I essentially divorced my mother ( still divorced from her quite peacefully, I may add) my only other access to women as a girl was mostly gone.  My dad raised me just as one of the boys and I am grateful for that in a strange way.  It was not until way later in life I realized that the opportunities women have, the pay women get, the respect women get, the opportunities that are available to women are not equal to those of men.  Let alone the personal confidence and compassion for ones self that must be born in order to even consider moving into this journey of equality.   My ability to “move” up the ladder professionally was I think a partial combination of not seeing the boundaries or inequality as an option for me and men being comfortable with my unique style that was less feminine, or less emotional.  In addition  I also was always very good at doing whatever job I was supposed to do, that made it much easier, results were never in question.  My education was worldly and my father’s influence and dedication to his children’s education helped move me through professional life with a bit greater ease.  The problem with me professionally is always that I eventually embody too much power and men don’t know how to handle it. They always find out in the end that I am indeed emotional and have learned to have no issue with having feelings in the work place, why should I not have feelings for my life and the lives of others, this is power. ( We’ll skip the stories for now of my in business dealings with Israeli, Dutch, Latin American and American men over the last 12 years with the exception of one story where I cried in a board room with 6 Israeli men and myself, I have no regrets) As I have gotten older and (just recently) started moving into a softer wiser sort of power wisdom of sorts, there were phases in the last few years that I thought that I lost my “fight”, that “fight” in me was always part of my own personal definition of what was essentially my power-Nissa Power.  I have come to figure out that my “fight” was just a reaction and I, Nissa could learn to control and choose my method of reaction.  For many of us, our childhoods thrust coping mechanisms upon us that sometimes last us way past the event or stage that they were needed.  My “fight” phase was just such a thing.  Today I can still react with “fight” sometimes it’s called for and sometimes it’s not, I’m not perfect and never will be. The most important resource when it comes to power, that I believe I have and that I can share by example, is my ability to always have embraced the power of power itself.  This is my message to women, embrace power; it has been men’s most powerful tool since the dawn of time, a tool they have never wanted to move to the hands of women, for a reason. I also think it is important to recognize that in any case of inequality it takes those that have the power (men) and  recognize that power is unequal and choose to participate in the sharing of this knowledge is a powerful tool for empowering women, after all this is not Wonderwoman’s Paradise Island or Themyscira.   So embrace power and embrace the amazing examples of women that exercise power for the advancement of women daily  and  the men who took a stand to share power equally.

There are really two definitions of power that are relevant, the social and business definition and the physics definition.   Contrary to the masculine definition that has defined our world and cultures, the real definition of power is essentially, like water, a very feminine characteristic by nature.  In physics power is defined as the rate in which energy is transferred, used or transformed.  In the human physical side the rate in which work is preformed.  This is an important definition for women to understand as they embody this definition in all forms, they outperform men on this definition in today’s world, by this definition women have extreme power and change will come more rapid when they begin to embrace this as a whole.

The second relevant definition of power is the social and business definition that tends, more often than not,  to be misinterpreted and especially by men.  It is the ability to influence behavior with or without resistance.  This is an important definition especially the latter half of the definition –without resistance.  Now I know men and women are physically built differently in more ways than just a vagina and a penis, testosterone and estrogen and slew of other hormones and biology stuff, for the most part make men physically stronger, therefore automatically it is easier for them to define their version of power by the –with force definition.  Women on the other hand because they are often less physically capable of men in terms of force and are also more attached to the social sense of most situations, AKA feelings, they typically tend to excel in the –without force category of power.  This is widely seen throughout the third world in highly organized grass roots assemblies of women who found a way to exercise power by influencing without force in groups, the same way International Women’s Day started, power was executed using their strengths and without force and mainly by recognizing that they had power in the first place, by the first definition in physics or energy-work.

So as we move through this day, this week, this year this decade, let’s forget about International Women’s Day as just one day and remember it as the day when, we not only put a woman symbol on our google’s search page but  the day, we make real changes, real progress and the day when we remind ourselves to remember to do this everyday.

I had an epiphany today doing this ‘exercise” ,that will change my life and hopefully the lives of others in the years to come.  That is why there are days for moments like this where one women like me realizes she can make great impact for the lives of many and decides to move her physical and social bucket of power ( I have a big bucket full)  in that direction.

And remember today is not is not about celebrating mothers and daughters and sisters, it’s  about remembering the hard work that is needed to be done so that our mothers, daughters, and sisters can have equal opportunities in this incredible world.

What are you going to do to contribute today and tomorrow and so on?

“Be the change you want to see in this world” , Mahatma Gandhi, fearless  example of real power.

I draw strength from the little ladies in my life

Kianna my niece with me in Peru at a produce convention

foraging for Thanksgiving with my niece Svea

Lexa my neice, first international bites, please note the lovely gentleman Ivin helping empower her


“The First Commandment of the Creative Person is to Evolve”

-Ferran Adria

Ironically I am late on this month’s blog, despite the fact that starting the year with all things in order seems to be what we strive towards in a new year, luckily for me one of my resolutions was to give myself a break and not take on more “professionally” than that which will allow me ample time to take good care of myself and my own personal matters of health and psyche.  The balance in which a creative mind works is a difficult one and my personality is one in which turning the ideas and initiative “off” is all but impossible sometimes.  That being said, this year I try to embark on a journey that I learn just that…….. balance, this year the timing is ripe for a larger evolution of myself and my creative being, a year where I believe I finally  posses the tools to not only nurture myself physically but creatively in a way that I achieve optimal results.

I tend to read the same way I take on life, many books of interest and little time for total follow through.  Typically I either read the entire book in one day or it takes a while to get through it.  One book I sent out to read a few years back was,    “Ferran, The Inside Story of El Bulli and the Man Who Reinvented Food”.  Now as someone who is considered a “foodie” and embedded in the food world one would suspect that I am in the total know of El Bulli and Ferran Adria, but the truth is I was not and had not been.  The same goes for most of these wildly popular and fascinating food stories, events and people, I have been just too busy to indulge myself in a lot of it.  But my intrigue in this man and this story continued to grow, especially upon the closing of El Bulli.   I was intrigued suddenly by the real man and his story and what surprised the world, but seemed normal and creative to me that he would want to move on to other ventures, or as I would say and he would most agree, evolve.  The book, one of like 6 books I bought a few years back on my ipad as I envisioned myself reading all the time with that gadget, sat on my ipad or in perhaps, for a few years.  On a recent trip I took cross country to LA, where with 6 hours or more to kill, and my new found timing and curiosity on creative minds evolving and changing, I pressed the kindle app and there it was.  By the time I had landed in LA I had the idea for my blog, tons of inspiration and new excitement about food and life. And the very intrinsic realization that to evolve was a simply creative act itself.

The book, or the story I should say is rippled with excitement, creativity (of course) and evolution, evolution of a man, a place, and an idea about food.  The evolution of an idea about food, both happened in the man and the place ( people around him) and influenced the entire world in the process.  As I am constantly battling with what the right path of my human journey is, I am often drawn to stories like this, and they often both inspire and support my own idea of creativity.  Many of the lessons I am dealing with in my own creative life, I see replicated in his/this story.  One of the most important similarities I am witnessing is that I am on a path where I must begin to write down my culinary philosophy in a way that allows me to understand it enough to lets its evolution flow.  I take seven key points from this book that I think are the main focus to the evolution of a creative person.  Points that I am in the midst of understanding fully myself  and upon reading hints of them in Ferran’s story, put some substance to them or the idea of them anyhow.  Certainly there is more to the success of this man, this idea and this creativity that he evokes, but these points are the points I need to place emphasis and focus on in both living them and truly understanding them the way I see myself evolving creatively.

1Recognize Opportunities & Master Taking Advantage of Them

For evolution to occur, one must “recognize opportunities”.  This is something that I think comes easy for me, but not necessarily for all, which can be a problem as we are not “living in a vacuum”. (For all of those who I have had countless conversations with about that saying please tell me I finally used it right and understand it!)  Sometimes we must battle away taking the opportunities regardless of the difficulty is it to take them or who or what is standing in our way.  This can mean people; money or even geographic restrictions, like the location of El Bulli, for instance, long a subject that made opportunities challenging to say the least.  In order to see opportunities one’s mind must be creative in general (Ferran says creativity is animalistic and I couldn’t agree more).  So looking for opportunities like they are primal needs is key.  Without the ability to recognize where opportunities lie, evolution cannot take place.  Sure we must also create opportunities for ourselves and our ideas, but the first step is to recognize that they are there.

2 – Use Imagination and Intuition

This is where I think most people need to place more focus.  To leave the box, one must think out of it, no?  Imagination and intuition are qualities that we are in tune with as children but as we move through society into adults we often lose the connection with these two crucial components of the evolution process.  The place where imagination and intuition comes together is the birthplace of the creative spark.  In order to access creativity we must be in touch with these two “senses”, and accept that they are both real and with in all of us.  Some of us need to dig deeper than others to access these “senses” but mostly we just need to practice using them in our day to day lives and certainly our jobs.

3 – Surround Yourself with Inspiration, People, Places, Things

Here is yet another remarkable point that I thought I knew well only to learn it is not necessarily a location or a person or a thing per say but a way of actually surrounding yourself with inspiration from people, places and things.  Certainly we should strive to put ourselves in the actual proximity of such inspirations but we should also be able to seek it out where ever we are, something I am learning to do better, recently, thanks in part to a summer in Branson, Missouri.  In order to really surround ourselves with inspiration we need to know what kind of place, people and things inspire us, we also must recognize that these change and evolve.  I would like to say that I feel most truly inspired when by water, the ocean most specifically, yet I can also say I am equally inspired in a dirty city or the woods as I live know.  The key is surrounding yourself by it and knowing how to find it.    I can recognize when its around me by my creativity that flourishes because of it.  People for me are the toughest to recognize and one that I am working on a deeper understanding of.  Sure if I could work next to Ferran I’m sure I would be inspired, but I can be inspired by a neighbor a co-worker, I am learning to seek it out in those all around me.  But make no mistake, where you physically place yourself and by whom and with what makes a huge difference in how you are inspired.

4 – Practice Some Tomfoolery- Have Fun

This is something that my father taught me at an early age that didn’t make much sense to me (although I tried to employ the philosophy throughout my life) until the Israeli’s that entered my life about ten years ago really engrained in me.  Without having fun, the journey can be trying and often disappointing.  So throughout the path that life takes us on it is truly important to adopt strategies that allow for some fun.  Tomfoolery is something we often equate to children but as adults is so necessary and for a creative mind or person, essential to success.  I have an ardent  and devoted work ethic which has caused some difficulty in truly understanding this philosophy at times.  But I have learned that the two can co-exist and can even be amazingly complimentary for the process of creative success.  Ferran’s story is filled with stories where the “guys and gals” had fun throughout their journey and evolution process.  This aspect for me is utterly important and one can be committed and serious and still have fun.  I think also the ability to have fun is part of number 3 on the list here, where if we place emphasis on fun we in turn place ourselves in positions where inspiration comes more readily.  When I began working for an Israeli company years ago, my boss Itzhak at the time, who was a lovely, intelligent and kind man (who also worked like a phene) told me once it’s important to take time for fun.  This meant that when we took trips to conventions or visited growers, we always made time to discover fun and in that what I discovered was that we were always working harder and smarter. Thanks to Itzhak for teaching me this lesson.  (Also thanks to Itzhak for doing morning Hebrew flashcards with me!)

5 – Learn Lessons and Move On

Oh, the struggle I have with number 5!  I genuinely believe in learning lessons, but I often revert back to old habits.  As I grow older I spend more time thinking about the lessons learned, dissolving the ego (slowly) and allowing myself to see where I can improve and learn.  This process is hard, despite that we often think we learn and move.  To truly learn and move on, somewhat keeps the lesson engrained in you and almost creates and instinct like reaction to the challenge.  For me one of the hardest parts of learning the lesson is the moving on, I battle with “feeling” stuck in the lesson over and over.  Spending way to much time trying to understand it, challenge it and even change it.  The reality is sometimes it’s just necessary to learn and move, otherwise you can be stuck in the same challenge for way to long, never evolving further as your path intended for you.

6 – Actively Seek Inspiration

Yes we surround ourselves with inspiration, but more important is to actively seek it most of the time.  If we wait for inspiration to come, it won’t.  Seek it and continue to seek it.  Keep your mind focused on this inspiration, and feel it.  So let’s say I am one of the people lucky enough to work with Ferran in the future, it is not enough that I am simply surrounding myself with inspiration, being in Spain, being next to Ferran and others who are creative genius’, I need to seek the actual inspiration within all of those people, places and things in order to truly achieve it or activate it within myself.  This 6th point can be so subtle, a conversation, a leaf in the wind, a speck of light, a flavor, a texture, this point is where the real substance occurs and those who grasp this point will achieve creative liberation.

7 – Know There is Always More to Learn

Above all, in order to evolve, one must know for sure that there is always more to learn.  This is the ultimate point and I think the point that led Ferran to closing El Bulli and moving on, evolving, the fact that there is more to learn.  The best of Ferran is yet to come, his contribution to food, culture and in general the evolution of ideas and creativity has touched many people, but the point here fully is to feel it within yourself and to do that you must be 100% aware that you can always learn more and evolution will always occur.

So in lieu of resolutions this year I make a vow to myself to concentrate on my creativity with a focus on these 7 points, inspired by  a man who I barely knew and today after reading his story and educating myself to all things Ferran and El Bulli, I know him not as a food genius but as a true creative artist, a man who understand the need to evolve, an inspiration to me as I continue to  “grow up”.

Creative journey’s for all!

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Visionary Thinking in Old School Environments

Life moves, with or without us, and lately it moves fast. I can only imagine what my 83 year old father thinks of the rapid changes and as I get older I realize more and more that aging is really the world getting smaller and smaller. Change is hard and if we are stuck in our ways and judgments it can be even more difficult, difficult to change and even more difficult to notice the need to change. Some more than others are capable of this noticing the need for change. I feel blessed that I am one of these folks, the “noticers” of the need for change. I would assume that there is a gene for this or something as most of the folks in my immediate family have this ability….noticing the need for change. (Although to be fair, my mother, whom I am estranged from certainly doesn’t have it.) What’s more interesting to me is not only the fact that most who notice the need for change, don’t typically stop there, they are usually the visionaries, those who move through life on unchartered paths. I am reminded of people such as Jack Gilbert, the poet who died recently. Jack Gilbert was my father’s namesake so when I came across his works I took notice, if only for the namesake reason. But upon discovering this poet and his works, what I found was another unique creature a visionary. This man went his own way though life, often living in obscurity because of it. The poems he produced were “starkly original and an uncommon combination of intellect, craft, clarity and emotionality.” I find great solace in the discovery of others who live life with originality, now I am no one important and produce nothing of the kind of value people will write about when I die, but it is indeed comforting, knowing that not everyone is the same in this world and that to be a visionary is to live the journey.

These days several different aspects collide on this notion of being a visionary, but even more so they collide in the sense of the need to have visionaries in “old school environments”, which is essentially saying that old school thinking still exists in so many aspects of life and that people who provide a visionary approach or fresh, modern perspective are really the valuable thinkers that are often not appreciated as they should be.

This idea of old school environments being pressured by visionary thinking has been heavily noticed in my professional life, both in produce and my culinary world. I work in the produce industry which is notoriously an “old school” industry, run predominantly by men, and typically multi-generational men who are not so connected to the modern world. At the annual produce convention, the PMA this year, I witnessed a difference. For the first time in 13 years I noticed change, visionary change and change that was being rewarded and celebrated. I walked by the same booths and associated with the same people and saw the same products, but what I was witnessing most of all was the transformation of thought and the idea that change is inevitable and the modern world and its vision is where we need to go. So many folks in produce have been fighting this route for a while and certainly, most certainly there are still many that live in the past. The majority however has realized that even if they disagree with change and following the visionaries, to be tuck in the past will result in lower sales and lack of brand recognition, neither things people in produce are fond of. So as I walked the floor on my 13th (maybe 14th) year of this convention, I noticed not only the visionaries, but how there was a little more visionary in each of the 26,000 attendees. The acceptance of this visionary train of thought gave me hope for my industry, that I always felt was lacking and behind the times. Perhaps it was the pressure of the economy, perhaps you can only fight change for so long, either way I am open and accepting as always and hope to continue to contribute to this visionary change way of thinking in an old school industry!

In my culinary world or career, I feel similar bouts of visionary thinking. I’m lucky in my culinary life not to be bound by old school thinking. As a chef who was pretty much self trained, I am open to all forms of cooking and all thought processes on the subject of cooking. Many of you are probably aware that I moved up into the woods along the Hudson in High Falls, NY in order to become a bit more free and I am happy to say that the experience has given me true visionary momentum. Inspired by both the land and the fact that I have nothing else to really do, the world is my oyster up here. The interesting thing about visionary thinking is that the environment is of utmost importance to the visionary act itself. The environment helps dictate the visionary experience. When you are surrounded by like-minded visionaries, it’s hard not to produce visionary quality goods. My cooking has never been so clever and creative as it has since I have moved up into the woods!

My personal life is also somewhat laden with this idea of visionary thinking in old school environments. As modern life takes the lead so does our notion of what is an ideal relationship. I am not married and do not have a full time boyfriend and the world (old school world) technically views me as somewhat of a spinster. But what is the ideal relationship? What is it that we seek from relationships? Comfort, growth, a solution to loneliness? I have had the unique opportunity and pleasure to be involved in a more modern relationship for the past 7-8 years of my life. It’s not one I can openly talk about, it’s not one that had gained me a husband or a defaulted secure Friday night date, but it is one that I have been able to grow and flourish as woman. Old school thinking says if you don’t have what everyone else has, you have nothing. Despite being affected by what others and old school environments think, I have realized, and not without a lot of pain and growth, that I didn’t have what others had and yet I had much more and that even relationships can be redefined.

Fresh perceptive are crucial to progress. We just past through the election and I think that is a good example of the basic premise my blog this month, visionary thinking. Not always does it create massive changes but the fact of the matter is that visionary thinking makes change, and eventually influences others to change. After the others change, things change. We don’t celebrate these visionaries enough and this month I try to celebrate that visionary thinking and all that is can inspire and change.

Happy Birthday to Me!

herbacious as always……..

Another Year of Coloring Outside the Lines-Successfully

Being comfortable in your own skin is a tough feat, especially with the daily pressures in this modern world.  I find birthdays to be both exciting and inspiring and always feel that they provide the opportunity to think about where we have come and where we are seeking to go.  This year, I have found myself contemplating my “differentness” yet again, but with much more appreciation of the topic than ever before. I’m still fearful of being outed as a “weirdo” but have much more ownership over this and a great deal more acceptance of myself than ever before.  As I devote my annual time to this introspection, I discover new appreciations of myself, both in what I have been through and what I choose for my future.  As we grow older we should inevitably become more comfortable in not only our own skin, but in our own energies and souls, if you will.  I think I am on that path and this year especially has been one of profound growth for me in this “comfortability” with my differentness and with myself in general.

My life has been one of constant motion as well as a lot and discovery—which is an understatement actually.  One could say that it is hard to be rooted with this partially forced and partially chosen lifestyle of moving around, and one could be partially correct I suppose.  It can be hard to find sincere support groups with a mobile lifestyle that doesn’t always allow you to be deeply rooted in your community for a good length of time.  We need support groups that are physically present in our lives and I’m beginning to understand this more and more.  Many of my closest friends and family live far away and this is the first year I celebrated my birthday without any of them present. There are not many people who have known me since I was a child that are around today or still incontact with; this is the reality of my childhood that I accept fully. But I will say that to know me as a little girl is not all that different than to know me today.  When I take time to remember this I appreciate my “differentness” on a much greater level. I remember as a kindergartener coloring outside the lines frequently in school and how many people (mainly authority figures such as teachers, parents, etc.) made a stink about this.  I even have a strong memory of the topic being covered in a parent teacher conference (at five years old-c’mon!).  I remember when asked by both my teacher and my parents why I was coloring outside the lines, with an obvious lack of concern or will to follow the “rule” of coloring inside the lines, and I replied, “ I don’t understand why I have to color in the lines” and “the rule doesn’t make sense to me”.  As my father can contest, I never, ever accepted “because I said so” from adults.  There was never any real attempt to explain to me why coloring within the lines was so important, who invented the rule, or what it represented, and certainly I am more than aware that the behavior was partly fueled by rebellion, but I was too young to understand rebellion as I do today.  The commonality I distinctly feel in my bones between that time as a five year old and now a 39 year old, is that coloring outside the lines is just who I was and am. I was as comfortable then with that notion as I am today. There is an inherent instinctual need for me to simply be me, and that typically places me outside the lines and outside the circles where many people that I know stay neatly tucked comfortably inside of.  It’s hard to intermingle in these circles deeply when you are an “outside the lines” type.

This way of being an “outside the lines” person, adventurous, inquisitive, different and essentially not fearing fear (despite feeling it profusely), is not without its challenges. I don’t believe it was a conscious choice to be who I am and I do believe that I rarely allowed myself to fight the natural tendency I had to be uniquely me.  This was not easy, especially as a little girl when many of the adults in my life should have done more to support me.  Coloring outside the lines as a five year old was when I first learned that being this way, true to one’s self and one’s own uniqueness, can be both lonely and isolating.  Certainly as I grew into a woman it was also challenging and I can honestly say I was often scared of being me – afraid that others wouldn’t like me, afraid men wouldn’t want to be with me, afraid my friends would grow tired of my weirdness, and that most would not understand my mind patterns and way of thinking - but I rarely let this fear control me.  I will admit I spent more time being lonely during my late 20’s and early 30’s, despite this being a time in my life I was meeting people from all over the world and getting to travel to amazing places.  I believe this was the case for a few reasons, one of which was that I was discovering new skills and learning new things, developing a prestigious career in a male-dominated industry which can breed insecurities like bunnies in just about anyone.  I have eventually come to learn that male-dominated worlds are like that, they prey off a woman’s innate sense of questioning and contemplation which makes them incredibly adaptable, but it also makes them incredibly susceptible to insecurity. I was no different with the exception of not letting my fear guide my path (at least not more than a few times in life).  Even in the business world I was thought to be “a rarity”, an unusual addition to the industry and was certainly known for coloring outside the lines, and sometimes it was appreciated while other times it was scrutinized.  My loneliness and isolation is felt less and less the older and more rooted in myself I become.


As the years have passed and birthdays come and go, I find more and more comfort in my own skin. When we are young, it is instinctual and when we are old it is wisdom. I still color outside the lines and am proud of that fact, but I am learning to understand that there are times when coloring inside the lines is needed, when compromise is necessary without sacrificing oneself, another part of both wisdom and comfort in one’s skin.  I’m also aware that I need to place even more attention on learning this balance, especially if I want to form solid and lasting relationships with others, which I do.

As I move into another part of my life, a new year and a new career, I feel blessed; blessed to have 39 years under my skin of being uniquely me and having the wisdom to learn from the process.  What I crave today for myself is very different than what I craved in the last ten years of life.  In some ways, I feel like I am moving in a circle and heading back to the little creative girl who was innately and instinctually me, only wiser.  Coloring outside the lines is who I am and I think my latest work is a reflection of this fact.   My cooking for instance  has recently come full circle, back to its place of being outside the lines, but the brief period it spent inside the lines taught me fundamentals I needed in order to capture greater depth and flavor.   I feel that my life and my cooking are typically in sync and on the same page.  So Happy Birthday to me, I am content with my unique self and my 39 years of coloring outside the lines. I encourage others to turn to their creative sides and challenge themselves.

Here is to another year of adventure, learning, and growth.

I believe fully I am still deep down a little child with lots to learn and lots to experience.  I hope that I never lose the natural curiosity and openness of that little Nissa who just wanted to know why we must color inside the lines……to this day I still don’t have an answer and to this day I color outside the lines!

Restraint & Self Regulation

My Fear of Freedom Suffocation Conquered Through Restraint – Go Figure…

I know that many of my friends, family and even acquaintances are laughing at the idea of this month’s blog title, Restraint. In fact I just got off the phone with one of my gentleman friends who I have known quite well for over nine years now, who laughed at the mere idea of me writing my blog, insinuating that I have mastered the art of restraint. He more than anyone can attest to me lack of it in the past. Generally restraint is not something I am known for in any aspect of life, or in any circles, including the culinary life I lead. We know this blog is somewhat of a diary of my philosophical journeys experienced through food and culture experiences and a documentation of my general growth. This month’s theme is along the same lines of becoming “seasoned” as they say in the culinary and other worlds, alluding to the fact that time and experiences lead to wisdom, restraint is one of these things in life that is in proper balance, good for us. I suppose at 38 years of age, it is essentially what one desires, to grow and become wiser, more seasoned. The ability to self-regulate and exercise restraint is one of the most essential components of healthy emotional development and essential to covet as we age and grow. Age is unimportant in this equation except for the fact of the more years that pass; one should be getting indeed, wiser. Most women hate aging and divulging their age, neither of these do I care too much about actually. For me, more importantly is the fact that as I age, I get better. Now this is obviously a personal observation, the jury is still out for the rest of the world on whether this is true, me becoming better, wiser. In reality if we are indeed growing nicely, at this point, age of our lives, we should not give a shit what others think of us. I teeter on that wall, I must admit. Mostly not caring what others think, but still having to battle with it sometimes, usually in my own head and typically only momentarily. The fear of my freedom to be me, the fear of suffocating in a world where my “uniqueness” doesn’t get to shine, has always been the real pressure behind my lack of restraint. Kind of like wanting to be accepted simply for all I am and all I am not. I have come to some interesting conclusions that have allowed me to see this new found friend in restraint and this fear of freedom suffocation conquered through a genuine respect and acceptance of myself. As usual this growth spurt is effecting my culinary life as well as it is showing up in my cooking, my recipe development and certainly in my acceptance of myself as a talented culinary artist.

Now, I am not here saying that suddenly I have restraint and exercise it in all facets of life, that would be a big fat lie. But I will say, the I have a recent understanding of the importance of restraint and how I need to continue to incorporate this into my life, personal and professional. As a means to accepting myself as the unique and talented being I am and also as a means to become a little more introspective. With aging properly (getting wiser) one learns new behaviors that take them farther in the here and now. When I was younger I was a passionate firecracker. Today I am still that, but with very specific and well thought out plans and processes and a new humility or what I like to call way of listening to the world, versus talking all the time, which is yet another form of restraint. Again I am not perfect, just on the cusp of really allowing proper restraint in all forms into my life, but with a genuine openness to it, knowing it is part of becomes seasoned, like a useful cast iron pan.

As usual there have been several simultaneous incidents, moments of awareness and a few specific catalysts leading me towards this month’s topic– restraint. In fact I came to the idea around the beginning of February and interestingly enough there have been several opportunities since to try and understand the reasoning behind this little word coming into my life several times since then. It’s interesting how as we grow we start to truly understand concepts, sayings and in general what others have told us all along. The saying; life imitates art is true and continues to be true the older I get and the more imbedded in my art I get. All of the things I tend to feel, see, touch, taste and experience always show up in my food, this includes lessons in life. Restraint has shown itself in many shapes as of late and a new pattern is now being created, one that will allow me to think about restraint in a different manner for here on out, and hopefully exercise it regularly.

At this point us “seasoned” folks are of the understanding that is the choices we make along that path that ultimately build who we are and how we either flourish or fail. The first part of restraint that I have learned is something my father would probably laugh at me about; you can’t teach the young what you have learned, you can only teach them, maybe, how to find the right path for learning that, that  best suits them. This is an irritating realization (on both the side of the young and old) as in this stage we begin to deal with the young that “think” they know it all and the old who “know” how much the young don’t know. Life in the kitchen and in the culinary world is the same. But reality is that the creative spirit is what is born of this experience, the old can’t simply tell the young as the experience creates the magic. This normal circle of life is hard for both the young and the old and in the past I might have been a little harsher to the young and today I exercise a little restraint, knowing that they will either find their way, or they will not. They will either learn from what I have to offer, or they won’t but my restraint makes the largest difference in how I teach the finding of this path. I had a specific issue this month with an intern, a confrontation of sorts, and it was interesting for me as for the first time in my life I felt really calm being confronted (perhaps that is because most the other confrontations have been with extremely series business negotiations of large dollars). I realized that the confrontation needed to move along as the intern needed it to, it was she that had something to work out and not me. She was finding her path, her role and exercising her voice, it was certainly a lack of restraint on her part, but the fact that I exercised mine, I know will make the largest difference in what we are both able to absorb from the incident. So I sat, engaged but disengaged, listening but keeping myself separate. I listened and didn’t agree. I gave my few, minimally opinionated points and called it quits. I normally would have not exercised restraint, trying to demonstrate all that is wrong, how right I am and all the points that were embellished or made up or filled with emotion, but I reacted differently this time, knowing that she needed to move through this for her own reasons. I was secure in it all, it was no profound moment in my life as it was hers outside of being a prime moment to exercise my new muscle of restraint. I have a large amount of respect, in the afterthought of this experience with this young woman, as she is that much more capable of learning what she wants and what she needs by voicing it and learning how to voice it takes a lifetime.

The second large restraint message that I encountered this month was in my personal life, which I know I am not exactly divulging of and typically just alluding to more of the time, which I imagine is irritating, but that is how it has to be. I have been moving through some major changes in my personal life that have been a very long path of learning. I have learned somewhat not to react but to simply absorb what is happening, try to understand it and move into a solution that guarantees the best outcome for me and for others. Sounds easier than it is. The main learning curve for me on this issue is to listen, truly listen and despite what all my instincts tell me, don’t react. Listen, absorb, contemplate, and find the best answer or response after exercising restraint in reactions. This has been a hard one for me. I am an off the cuff shooter, I react, I respond, I engage, I provoke. But is that the seasoned way? No, it is not and I have learned slowly to just absorb, take witness and react with a bit more forethought, patience and time. None of this is easy for me but since I have begun to dabble in this, I have experienced more completeness in my relationships and excursions and a new openness and attraction to that which is better for me. Let’s just say that with this recent month’s restraint there have been major changes to my personal life, leaving me for the first time in a long time excited and thirsty  to experience others and new “seasoned” people.

The third and last message of restraint was delivered at the perfect time. This last lesson of restraint is what I call, “ It’s not all about me” I have been working on my cookbook proposal as well as finalizing my recent edition of my company’s business plan this month and this month’s restraint theme couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Being a passionate, entrepreneurial, visionary type I often times feel like I live on a different planet and have a hard time bridging the path between my passion and art to the real world which I must exist and hopefully thrive in. As I have aged and gone through my career in produce and my import business I have been able to get huge reality check moments that have led me to learn that is not all about me and my need for freedom of being me. So what this means is essentially, I need to live in a world filled with others. (Seems obvious, I do comprehend that.) The lessons of my past, my experiences and my new found attraction to restraint has helped bring this deeper into my subconscious than ever before. My cookbook for instance evolved more clearly and became more coherent when I started to think of the book not for me, but for others. Restraint helped bring balance, balance between my culinary artistry, marketing and a subtler way of expressing my passion. My business plan become more succinct and direct with the same lesson of restraint incorporated into it. The plan became clearer and clearer with more balance of what the investors needed, while still being true to me. Less passion, more sustenance, a healthy dose of self regulation is key to that.

Adaptation & My “Wild” Side

Big Game, Hunting, Cowboys & Rugged Stuff…………..

I pride myself on my ability to adapt well to my surroundings, especially when visiting new places that are extremely foreign and different. Certainly when one spends life traveling to various parts of the world (outside vacation spots), you get used to this need to adapt.  I remember my first big challenge in adapting on the travel circuit.  My father, my four brothers and me jumped into a red Chevy pick-up truck with a camper shell, a decked out bed in the back and pulling a travel trailer (you know the type with a kitchen, bed, and a tiny little place for a bunch of people to camp in).  It was our home for about 4-6 months after our initial journey began.  We were headed to Nicaragua on a venture my father has always called (and still does) “The Pierson Fight & Flight for Family Freedom.” We left from Palmdale, California and next thing you know us four American kids were sitting at the border of the United States and Mexico in Mexicali, crossing the border in an experience that would shape all of our lives and the lives of the many others we came across.  As my father went into “La Migra,” the immigration office, a word we became super familiar with on our long journey to Central America, my brothers and me stayed in the truck in a state of utter culture shock. 

I should probably first give you a bit of background on us four kids, to make the nature of the shock more understandable.  We grew up technically poor all over the Los Angeles surrounding area, born in Santa Monica and then moving to Venice, Westlake Village, Agoura Hills, Acton, and finally ending up in Palmdale.  We played sports, were good in school, but our parents fought (the divorce being the catalyst for the venture to Nicaragua – technically it was a kidnapping but we never looked at it that way, and no one ever asked!) It was me, 12 at the time, and my 3 brothers; Axel, who was 13, Olof 8, and Gustav 4. We were a tight knit group of siblings with a massive need for freedom and we still are (close but independent).  Our general upbringing and all of that moving around certainly required us to be adaptive, but this was different.  The journey to Nicaragua not only was our first major  experience of adapting outside of the US, it was an experience that went on to change our lives forever, allowing us to broaden our perspective on what adaptation really means, and has proved to us all that it’s an essential component in moving our lives forward.

To get back to the pick-up truck, there we were waiting for my father who was in the office of La Migra on the Mexicali border.  Everything was written in Spanish (not too foreign for us being from Southern California), and there were tons and tons of small children that appeared homeless running all around like nothing we had ever seen.  Almost immediately after my father left the car, about 15 kids rushed to the windows of our truck, banging on them and speaking to us, holding out their hands.  At the same time, about 6 more of the children jumped on the windshield and started to wipe it with dirty and greasy rags (which we learned later were useless when it rains and you’re in the nighttime jungle and can’t see a thing!)  We of course were confused and somewhat angry, being territorial of our truck, and were repeatedly telling them no, learning that we couldn’t communicate as we understood very little Spanish at the time.  This lasted for about 30 minutes until my father came out, when the children rushed around him, putting their hands out.  He gave them all coins: nickels, dimes, pennies, and maybe a few quarters.  When he got into the car we told him we didn’t ask them to clean the windows and he said, “It’s ok guys, it’s just a part of what we are about to experience.”  He smiled at the kids and we – my brothers and me – were baffled beyond belief at what had just happened.  Two months later, by the time we finally made it to Nicaragua, we were all well versed in this occurrence and knew to give the kids coins before they wiped the windows so that we could avoid the smeared and greasy windows in the rain! 

It didn’t take us long to adapt to the strange new cultures we are experiencing every day.  As we drove through Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and into Nicaragua, it wasn’t long before the American culture began to seem a strange and distant memory.  Upon our return 3 ½ years later, we had to adapt gravely yet again, and I am not sure any of us ever really adapted back to the American way.  I think we all still hold a large part of Central America inside of us.  We learned of the need for adaptation and the importance to try and quickly understand the surroundings and the people you are around.  As I continued to travel the world as an adult into small rural areas of South America, Mexico & Central America, Europe and the Middle East to visit subsistence-based locations, I realized I would always use this skill, and that to be able to adapt has given me an openness that allows me to have a full experience of each location I visit.

This year for Christmas I stayed a bit closer to home (at least staying in the United States), and went to Wyoming to visit my brother and his family.  I had been to Wyoming before and knew that it was a desolate and somewhat isolated place.  My expectations were pretty clear going into it and my priority was spending time with my family.  But what I discovered through this trip is how my ingrained ability to adapt has given me an amazingly unique way of looking at and absorbing my experience of the world, as well as really being able to take in and understand the people that inhabit the area.  As a New Yorker, we get pegged as city folk, and while I like that, I know that deep down the person I have become is a product of the world.  This recent trip to Wyoming allowed me to contemplate again the idea of adaption and the necessity of truly adapting with openness.  

The kitchen is no different.  Adaption plays an integral part in the process of preparing food.  It is a process that I have always been comfortable with, and one that I try to teach to my students.  Adaptation is not only integral to how one approaches cooking and the ingredients used, but in how one approaches eating as well.  I had come to Wyoming at a time when I was really trying to make a push towards eating less meat, but Wyoming is filled with meat and a meat philosophy that was a new experience for me.  Yes, they have grocery stores filled with mass market factory farmed meats, which is the real problem with meat and the reason I had wanted to cut back.  But what was so amazing about my Wyoming experience was coming closer to an understanding of the hunting mentality, which has always been one that I don’t understand, but once in Wyoming it started to make more sense.  There is literally nothing around in terms of development, and people hunt and eat bear, elk, moose, wolf, deer, sheep, and other things in the wild, and they eat it and cook it using recipes that utilize the whole animal – nothing goes to waste.  It is indeed their “local movement,” and the actual experience and concept of hunting, for the first time in my life, began to make more sense.  I could feel myself being open to things that I didn’t previously understand by allowing myself to see and experience the perspective of others.  I believe this process of adaptation and openness is the key to moving through life.  It is so important when moving around and meeting other people from so many diverse backgrounds to be open to trying to understand their perspectives, knowing that like almost everything, our perspectives have to change in order for us to adapt.



When Even A Whisk Can’t fix it…………..

But A Drink Might! This blog is pretty therapeutic for me. I find my cooking and my life so interconnected that I realize that the more I “work out” what’s inside my head, the better my cooking gets. As I grow older, wiser and  mature, I think, as I have stated before, that my cooking has more depth, clarity and a subtle naturalness to it that I desire in my being in general. This month, December, the end of the year, we embark on the meaning or shall I say acceptance of failure. Now I don’t want to sugar coat this and make failure seem to be something sweeter than it is. Failure is a lack of success; certainly I’m not a big fan and haven’t found too much satisfaction in the experience of failure in my life nor in the kitchen, but I have recently found it to be helpful.

Let’s start with the obvious dictionary definition of failure:

1. The condition or fact of not achieving the desired end or ends: the failure of an experiment.
2. One that fails: a failure at one’s career.
3. The condition or fact of being insufficient or falling short: a crop failure.
4. A cessation of proper functioning or performance: a power failure.
5. Nonperformance of what is requested or expected; failure to report a change of address.
6. The act or fact of failing to pass a course, test, or assignment.
7. A decline in strength or effectiveness.
8. The act or fact of becoming bankrupt or insolvent.

I will first off admit I have experienced each and every one of these definitions of the word failure so I can attest in this blog, most specifically, that I am well qualified to write on this topic. I have had all kinds of failures in life, everything on this list including bankruptcy and insolvency. My kitchen failures have probably been a bit less than my personal and life failures; however I am now starting to believe that has only been a matter of perception. Failure, despite it’s very real and is certainly not succeeding. But what does “not succeeding” exactly mean and what positive impact if any can failure have on us, in our general lives and then how does failure in our general lives change our successes in the future? These are the questions I have been pondering as of late, due to the same sort of factors I speak about in my blog in general; love, work, family and friends, all of which reflect on my cooking thoughts, ideas, executions and ultimately my failures and success’. I guess my conclusion in all this thinking is ultimately that the energy that one’s takes out of a failure (whether it be positive or negative energy) and puts into the growth or learning process or general meaning of that particular failure, has a direct correlation with any future success on has not only in that particular failed, event, relationship or cake.

So let’s take three examples in my life of recent failures in all different categories and try and breakdown what I am saying or shall I say proving my hypothesis with examples from my own life, my own failures and how they have come to be paths to my future success:

Work I’ve been working on a particular large project in my fruit & vegetable world, one that I thought would be a total success and quite easy to be frank with you. As I entered into this project, everything I knew to be true was not, all I expected was not and I realized I wasn’t equipped to handle such wide spread differences that I was encountering in my daily work life. I wasn’t able to communicate properly with the new people I was working with, I wasn’t able to convey my expertise or expert opinions to the new systems and I wasn’t able to make the progress I set out to achieve. Ultimately I failed. In this case I failed myself, by realizing I hadn’t developed the tools for work failures like this. I hadn’t the people skills I needed in this new realm and I hadn’t quite mustard the patience to deal with the overwhelm I was facing. The good news is as failure began to get underneath my skin I knew I needed to find ways not out of this particular failure, as that was now out of my hands, but I had  to concentrate on what it meant, what my role was in it and how I can deal with this type of failure in the future. Also I needed to address similarities in the general failure I was facing in life  and try to correlate them with triggered behaviors or reactions. When I started to analyze the path and the other similar paths I began to take notice of patterns in my behavior that I needed to change, not for the sake of the work not failing but for the sake of learning better coping skills in the future for the possibility of disassembling future failures on the way. Meaning with my good attention paid to the real behavior problems (my own) that triggered or had a leading role in the failure I would be able to make changes to, not necessarily the failure, but my reaction to it, thus leading to the failures being limited in the future as the general rule of energy goes, what you put it you get out. So changing the very way I look at failures in this case was the pinnacle of what helped me understand that failure in the work place (something I rarely experience) is not only inevitable but invaluable for growth. The greatest lesson on took from this recent work failure would be my problems with reacting and my need to control reaction and this lesson I can also see needed in my cooking, which is often like my work, rarely failures but always room for subtle life changing improvements!

Love failure in love is a  heart wrenching experience, I don’t think there is any gentle way of putting it or any way at all to put it that is doesn’t totally suck!  I talk in riddle a lot on my blog when it comes to love, mainly to protect the identity of someone I have deemed to be “the most positive influence to my life”.  There will be no uplifting of this veil here today as to his identity, however I will say that I have recently encountered failure in this particular “relationship”, massive failure, which we will see evolves into growth not that it feels good but it does evolve into growth.  It seems so dramatic and points to some sort of breakup or explosion of sorts, but to understand that this is not and could not be the case, I will first have to give some background to the very nature of the relationship that will help put it into perspective as well as shed some light on the beauty of “complicated” relationships.  This “relationship” I have been a part of   for many many years now has waxed and waned and evolved into many things, but the main thing it evolved into was a nurturing, supportive place for us to be ourselves and grow, evolve into better people.  My cooking over the years waxed and waned as well and as I was nurtiered I in turn nutured my cooking. For whatever reasons our bond was unique and our ability to communicate, somewhat easy, although it required much hard work, especially from my part, as I had never encountered someone so pure in communication (not that he doesn’t has his communication faults) and our genuine care for each other always seemed to trump feelings of anger, conflict  or confusion etc.  The recent failure I have encountered in this “relationship” was all about my problems, my unresolved issues and ultimately my inability to deal with overwhelm as well as my inabylity to  take care of myself.  Essentially what happens to me is this natural occurrence of “shit coming to the surface” when it needs to.  It was time for me to deal with a few personal, let’s call them “quirks”, so that I could take good care of myself and evolve as I needed to. I was stuck and he was my obstacle.   I became stuck in the idea of this “relationship” and was so intoxicated by the beauty of the communication, the care and positivity that it didn’t matter to me that the tangible possibility of being didn’t exist, for many complicated reasons.  My cooking was always stuck as well when I was and I began to realize I had gotten into a pattern that was unhealthy.  I had failed myself by allowing myself to get too deep and now was having a hard time breaking away and taking better care of myself.  The overwhelm, the anger, the negativity I began to drum up often, was sinking me and making even our beautiful communication and connection come crashing down.  I needed to regroup to ultimately take what I am calling a failure; it was a failure at the time because I didn’t deal with it well and turn that failure into something positive.  By really gaining clarity on my role in the failure, by taking accountability and responsibility, I began to realize that it was me, making this a failure and me making it a negative in my life which was prolonging more negativity in my life and brining more failure to  all aspects of it.  There is that negative energy again attracting itself! So without getting to deep into the nitty gritty of my life, I have begun to take responsibility, and  on this slow path I am finding that with the support of this new “friendship” that has changed and evolved from this older “relationship”  and with my constant focus on trying to deal with overwhelm and feelings, the failure has become a lesson, the “relationship” a beautiful story and the future will hopefully offer me more of the beauty of the past with a tangibility that appeals to me these days.  I know my cooking with take with it the beauty of this long adventure as well as detailed wisdom.  Wisdom and change were born of the failures in this  love, which will ultimately give me greater access to real love in tangible ways in the future and this way of understanding my feelings role in my life an patterns led me to understand how it effected both me and my cooking.

 Kitchen I am a feeling person, so many people say and my cooking is and has always been a direct result of how I am feeling in life; work, love, family etc. As I am evolving into a more, let’s call it, grounded person, I am beginning to separate the feeling from cooking and more and more make cooking not about my feelings but about me. The evolution has been great for me to witness, as it has given my cooking more power and my feelings less. Failure is what has helped me realize this, failure has made my cooking inevitably better, stronger, more detailed and it has completely given me a new artistic edge that comes with simple conviction, which I think is an evolvement of the conviction of who I am as a person. The lessons of failure in life have made way for me to learn and grow as a human being and most importantly make a distinction between who I am and what my feelings are. As this has occurred feelings don’t have that great of power over my cooking and I am somewhat free to have my talents in the kitchen separated from my feelings and what is happening in my life. Now this very occurrence ( my feelings and cooking being separated) have given way to the greater realization that I am not my feelings either, which has helped me manage in life better lately. I have found my cooking as of lately to be more whimsical, more grounded and more flavor merging that has surprised even me. I feel like my cooking is slowly evolving into the adult that I am and I am proud of that fact and I know that through my failures in and out of the kitchen I have come to be a better cook and a better person!


My New Favorite Tool in the Kitchen & In Life!

There is a pot of Spicy Chipotle Pork Chili slowly stewing on the stove, I am patiently awaiting its final approval to enter into my belly. It’s snowing outside (it’s Oct 29th today if that gives you an idea of the oddity of that fact) and I just arrived on the red eye from LA, where it was 85 degrees and sunny, life is diverse and each moment things change and in some cases drastically, the one thing that has changed most for me recently is my newly “acquiring” instincts in the art of patience. This art of patience I have always thought was impossible for me to achieve in my life, I have often just accepted defeat in this realm and accepted this was not my strong suite and have over the years developed mechanisms for dealing with my lack of patience. Life in the past year has given me some of the most challenges and the most positive growth yet and this current moment of life I find myself with an abundance of walls breaking down, these walls are some pretty major interior ones, protecting my core being. Now I am not going to tell you that the walls simple began to breakdown, I know this is a bi-product of the work that I have done on myself, the attention to my issues that I have placed importance on and the acceptance of the path or journey that I am on, knowing this is a life process rather than “tasks” or “things to overcome”.

My life as of lately has been providing me with tremendous growth and deep revelations of breakthroughs and I can see my cooking being affected through this process and transformation as well. Which for me doesn’t seem odd as I believe in the interconnectedness of all. Like my new nuances in the kitchen I have a great deal more gentleness in my life, toward people, processes and in general. This does not mean I have lost my edge, my verve or my aggressive side, it simply means that the instinct of patience is now a newcomer to the mix and shows its face typically when I need it to. When I think back to my childhood, which I did a great deal of this past month because of a trip to Santa Monica & the LA area, where I was born, I remember being a patient child, especially with all of our animals. So I realize that it wasn’t that I never had patience but my life circumstances and my lack of coping skills and adults to show or emulate the art of healthy dealing, made way for my impatience to be born. And thus many other bad habits and ways of being. We all deal with our childhoods in some way, we all adapt to the shortcomings that we lack as children and for me my defense mechanisms were to protect myself at all costs, rely on my instincts and survival skills first and foremost. This way of being is not conducive towards pensive thought, pros and cons, ramifications or anything like that, it is quite animal actually and I think if I was to be completely honest and this is the first time I have said this or thought about it, up until lately I would describe myself as more animal than human in a weird way. With this new found patience (many other new gifts are being born in me as well lately not just patience) comes a new feeling inside of my body. The way I physically feel things is completely new to me and certainly has a great deal of fear associated with this new “feeling”. But there is also a new trust in myself that is not just about instinct and animal but about intellect and reason and sanity of sorts.

The journey of how this new found patience came to be, I think is the irony of it all, the secret to success if you will is so utterly simply it seems like a bunch of bullshit. The answer that I seem to gravitate towards is love, and I am not talking about getting married, holding hands or sex. For me love is something I have always battled with in terms of what the definition is. I am swayed by society and influenced by media and even hallmark for shit sakes, but most of all my confusion came to be because of a lack of it in my life, throughout most of my life. “When you have never seen the ocean, how can you know if it is indeed the ocean you are witnessing?” Now I never wanted to delve into this fact much probably more so to protect my family, mainly my father, but to my father’s defense, he was the one in my life and still is that gave me love and as our family aged together we evolved in that process as people should, learned from our pasts and in the end myself and my three brother and father were the only family I had and thus the only early on love I really know. I know there will be many out there that want to dismiss this, mainly my mother but realistically she was simply angry for her own choices and thus even the love she thought she was showing us wasn’t genuine as basically she had her own stuff going on she avoided dealing with. My mother’s family the same as they abandoned us when the divorce happened and thus send us a subliminal message that we were not loved. Now I don’t think any of this is overly complicated just hard for us to really understand the future ramifications of it all and the “trickle-down” effects that begin to take shape, so minutely and just add up over the years. As I aged I became good at self sufficiency and kept feelings in a place inside to deal with later (which I did, and I thank myself for that) and while I moved through life I didn’t really learn what love was, I thought I did, I felt deep love for many people and not just lovers and men but my brothers and their wives and their children and friends. But I was not great at accepting love form others it confused me. I had no boundaries and no patience to sit and analyze any of it. I had fleeting moment throughout life with amazing examples of people who taught me genuine love and genuine human kindness, this, the meaning of this, I also put away to deal with later in life (which I again thank myself for doing) so I have been absorbing many things in life and basically subconsciously putting them aside until something clicked, which is where I find myself today. I reference on of my favorite saying sin Hebrew often; ha simon nafal, which basically translates to the coin click when a coin drops into a slot. The coin click for me always represents simplicity and yes I know it is not simple, the key to it all is that I have been present and active in trying to make sense of this thing called life. I have been able to do this partly because I invest heavily in the work and sacrifice a great deal in order to achieve this depth within myself but I have also chosen to surround myself with a few others, one in particular who has allowed me a safe loving place where I can move through this journey with love and love real love, the kind that is about, kindness, understanding, gentleness, non judgment, protection, trust, respect, and above all patience. When we can mirror these traits or qualities to each other we can then give to each other a safe place to grow and learn and make sense of these lives we have that are complicated, messy but also amazingly beautiful.
I met a woman on my trip to LA and she was 103 years old, decked out in a bright colored dress with jewels on her ears, pearls around her neck a bright broach and florescent yellow eye shadow, she was amazing, her energy simple and beautiful. She said to me in our discussion, ‘the secret to life is simple, it is only what you make of it”. I used to want to make everything happen at once, my explosive nature is a gift but a quality that needed some patience as well. So as I continue to acquire this new art of patience, I can see my life changing positively as a direct result of this. In the kitchen I think I realize I have the same tendencies that I did in life, quickly produce results top notch results, but as this patience continue to merge into my blood, I can see even my cooking becoming more joyful an experience rather than a task. I can understand more deeply why I need to slow down in the kitchen and I can directly equate my current lengthy personal relationship journey with an unbelievable man to the slow process of caremalization in onions and how that long slow, subtle heat process is needed to achieve that sweet, savory, succulent perfect flavor. All good things need patience and I am glad I was able to grow and evolve in life in order to achieve that as I can see my life benefiting positively because of it.

Don’t get me wrong, lately my patience has been tested in more than five of six ways. There is a substantial amount of change happening in my life at this moment, new processes being born ad this is typically the time when patience is the most difficult to attain and attract, especially for a hot head like me. So as I venture out into this world that continues to challenge me I am defiantly tested regularly even when I am in the midst of learning valuable lessons and this patience lesson is no different. I find myself dealing with a lot of new personalities, many of which I find frankly confused or warped, however I have matters of business with each and items I need to accomplish and need these folks to accomplish it s I am trying to find the common ground or in this case the patience to let it play out as I need it to. To keep my ideals and stay true to myself while giving a larger open to others or in this case a big dose of patience. Its hard and I make countless mistakes but I am trying my damnedest to come through with results all while exercising patience, I think solely I am accomplishing this!

I think life is a lot like cooking, talent is not the issue it’s the effort and faith in the possibility of achievement. We must move forward in life and cooking with the idea that we are able, we must be willing to do the work, really do the work needed.

“I claim to be no more than an average man with less than average abilities. I have not the shadow of a doubt that any man or woman can achieve what I have, if he or she would make the same effort and cultivate the same hope and faith.”



The Unexpected On Your Plate!

Discovery of the Unexpected & Added Growth

The weather is now finally turning cooler; the summer is and feels gone.  Fall has arrived and the feeling of change is in the air.  When the seasons change I often feel inspired to discover, especially in the kitchen with new seasonal items coming into our lives it seems like a great time to discover and rediscover something “different”.  For me this something different keeps my mind alive, leaves the stagnation for others and inspires me to go further into life and finding the “unexpected” which is ultimately I believe what feeds my growth, growth in my body, mind and spirit as well as in my cooking repertoire. I feel like when my cooking is easy and open, than my entire being is as well.  It’s true one does not have to travel across the world to find this openness in oneself, this invitation to attract the unexpected.  I guess I am simply lucky that traveling around the world is part of my life and therefore and extra catalyst for my growth and discovery of the unexpected in my life and on my plate.

This past month I had the privilege of traveling to Israel.  As many of you know this is somewhat of a normal commute for me, typically traveling there about 4-5 times per year over the past 8 years.  My travels to Israel have always been for my business.  This fall my travels were somewhat unexpected to Israel.  After closing down my fruit and vegetable company months back I hadn’t imagined that I would be traveling back to Israel for a long, long time.  But then the unexpected came into my life, an invitation of sorts to go back inside the world of produce, the invitation was both exciting and frightening.  Exciting because for sure after an in-depth career in produce for as long as I had, I did in a sense miss it and the prospect of doing something I had focuses most of my adult life on again in order to make income, was extremely inviting.  But the fear was also present as I had become submerged so in depth in my business that I had lost my personal self.  All that I did and tried to achieve was for others, growers, customers, and the overall perception of success at my job, took over my soul.  I have in the last years slowly pulled myself out of that way of life or way of not actually living and my fear was that I was not able to control myself in that world, as one grower said, its addictive this produce business.  So with a great deal of thought and introspective reasoning, I decided to venture back into this world that almost killed me.  But what was unusual was the unexpected pairing I encountered.  I guess the best way to describe it is that old saying you attract what you spend your energy thinking about.  So because I wanted to be in this world of produce in a more subtle and sorter way, this is the exact situation I attracted and thus I think for me this new venture is finally more fitting than any other venture I have taken on in produce to date.  So this unexpected time of my life is exciting and Israel came next with even more unexpected rewards and thus even more growth, not to mention as usual some of the most amazing food I have ever eaten!

 I typically travel to Israel alone and because I go so often “tourism” isn’t typically on my agenda, I have done most the tourism in the past and grew somewhat complacent in my travels there, seeking food and the solace of the sea in most my free time, not to mention a few fine gentleman callers!  But on this occasion I had a traveling companion, and not any traveling companion a woman from the new company I am venturing into a cooperation with who is one of the few woman professionally that I have met that is extremely similar to me.  She is my senior and she has much more experience in certain realms of the business than I but in general we are extremely similar.  She has been in charge and responsible for a large sector of the company she works for, she travels all over the world often and alone doing business with mainly men and has this amazing passion and drive to help growers of cultures all over the world.  She is trained corporately and is well respected in the industry.  I had known her in passing in the industry for some years but on this amazing trip I got to know her and really understand that I am not alone in this business as I had thought I was for so long and I probably was alone in my business, which is blamed for the way my business started, essentially I was alone. 


Not only did I find out so many (pleasant) unexpected things about this woman, we (me and my fellow Israeli produce peeps) also had the pleasure of ‘selling” this woman on Israeli culture. Since it was her first time in Israel and she was about to start a long term relationship with the Israelis, the same one I have had over the last 9 years, the culture, their world was important for her to see and unexpectedly I discovered my connection again to this place I had been traveling for almost 25% of my life!.  For me this “tourism” allowed me to discover so much unexpectedness in myself, not only the rediscovery of my connection and love for Israel but I got to witness so much that I wouldn’t have seen on my own, so much that I got to indulge in, that had she not been with me, I would have passed right by.  Also I have found that the more I travel alone the less I do.  It’s kind of like this circle.  At first traveling alone is an absolute pleasure, however after time, it’s  well, lonely. And the loneliness made me a little stagnant in my travels so I want to take notice and appreciate with full gratitude the fact that traveling with this women brought me back into my discovery mode, my awareness of the unexpected! This unexpected discovery brings one always closer to the or their truth and for one to discover this, you must be looking so I was helped by this lady, encouraged to be looking again.  The reality in the end is the unexpected can be found anywhere just look around, which is much harder to do than we realize!