Category: Mindfulness

June 5 / Business

cranberry date juice blend

If you’ve even played around with the idea of opening a juice bar, you’re not alone. Lots of people–about one in ten new restaurant owners today–want to invest time and money into turning fruits and vegetables into liquid gold. I work as a restaurant consultant in the city of Los Angeles and in a few city blocks there are at least one or two juice bars and there are more on their way. Fresh juice bars are a $5 billion dollar business that’s projected to grow from 4% to 8% a year.

So why is a fresh juice bar such a popular idea? Well, if you think running a juice bar is easy, think again. There is no such thing as easy in the business of food.

Search the internet for suggestions of how to start your own juice bar, and you’ll find advice that suggests that location is the most important thing to figure out first. After that, they say, come up with a business plan, and then come up with a concept.

As someone who has worked in the restaurant industry for over two decades, I humbly suggest you consider something else first: is running a juice bar something you want to do for the next five years?

Freshly pressed juices are the newest food fad. Lots of people want to get in on a business that promotes a healthy, on-the-go lifestyle for health conscious people who want to take care of their bodies in a fast and efficient way.

Juice, my friends, is the new cupcake.

December 24 / Mindfulness

coffee shop coffee on foodwoolf

I owe a debt of gratitude to a woman who verbally attacked a young cashier the other day. It was a small act of cruelty that lingered with me for days. I couldn’t shake it until I could find a positive solution to my pain.

I was at my local coffee shop, the day after the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The sun had just come up. Sleep and sorrow wrapped around me like a fuzzy scarf. The vexed woman spoke with the cashier in a disappointed tone.

“What do you mean you’re out?” she said.

“I’m sorry,” the cashier said. “We are out of the green tea powder right now. May I get you something else?”

The customer seethed.

“I can’t believe you don’t have my drink,” the woman said.  She ranted about professionalism, disappointment with the cashier, and dismay at the coffee shop’s business practices.

A manager stepped in and offered apologies.  A free beverage was proposed.

“I came here specifically for that drink,” she said.

The manager packaged up a complimentary bagel and a beverage for the woman. She offered it with a smile and a sincere apology.

The red-faced woman snapped the bag from the manager’s hand and stormed out of the shop without a word.

It was just barely seven in the morning.

86 Happiness

I couldn’t fathom the source of her outburst. How a missing green tea powder could inspire such venom so early in the morning was incomprehensible. Pain and anger felt for lost children I could understand. And yet, for this woman on this particular day, an 86’d green tea powder really cut her to the core.

A few hours later, I noticed I was still thinking about the coffee shop melt down. Rather than move past the incident, I replayed the events in my mind’s eye over and over again. I started to embellish the memory. I added fictional speeches in which I would express the need for compassion and gratitude in a broken world. I became anxious for the staff’s well-being, worried they were traumatized. I concentrated on her angular gestures, the tone of her voice, and the way she carried herself as she moved past the barista station.  Honestly, I was kind of obsessing over the whole thing.

I shared with my husband how torn up I was over the coffee shop blow out. Rather than belittle my caffeinated fixation, he kindly suggested that I take more time to explore the root cause of what had me so upset.

A walk around the block helped calm my thinking. By the time I returned to my apartment’s gated door, I realized I shared a trait with the ill-tempered customer. I, too, felt a disproportionate amount of emotion over a minor thing. I had what the unhappy woman had: an amplifying mind. I magnified the coffee shop mistake and transformed it into a grave injustice.

Seeking a solution, I reached out to a dear friend. My companion grinned as she prescribed a set of contrary actions to alleviate my condition. She suggested I do five to ten unselfish acts of kindness for the next few weeks, making sure that no one noticed. The goal of my work, she expained, was to spread joy to others and keep the whole business to myself.

“These mitzvahs,” she said, “are only for you and God to know about. No one else.”

August 1 / Blogging Insights

Big Summer Potluck #3

I’ve attended more than my share of food blogging events over the past five years.  I’m a veteran of icy cold air conditioned conference rooms, Power Point presentations about stats and SEO, and hallways filled with anxious participants who fear being irrelevant. I’m no stranger to food conference agendas, food vendor giveaway frenzies, the anxious shaking of hands, and camera/gear/gadget/logo/design/fashion/friend envy.

But at the Big Summer Potluck–a third annual gathering for new and veteran food writers, photographers, and recipe developers put on by my good friend Maggy (Three Many Cooks), her mother Pam, and the lovely Erika (Ivory Hut)–everything is different. The focus is on small and intimate. The food is simple and made by people you know (or will know) over the course of the weekend. Speakers like Joy (Joy the Baker, Molly O’Neil (Cook n’ Scribble, and myself shared about what matters most in our hearts. Great food making demos from Marissa (Food in Jars) & Max Hansen offered attendees insights into invaluable techniques for canning and curing they can use at home.

Rather than focusing on technology or new frontiers of financial success, the retreat’s themes were on sharing, vulnerability, honest work, and mindfulness. The location itself–at Silver Buttons Farm and the Anderson’s secluded home in the Pennsylvania woods–invited frank discussion and forging of friendships.

Silver Button Farms Buck's County Food Blogging retreat

Thanks to the masterful work of the team behind The Big Summer Potluck, attendees felt safe enough to get honest. We opened up about the things that scared us and mattered to us most. We got still. We put away our cameras, stowed our iPhones, and spent time listening to each other, rather than running off to the next thing. We shared personal issues and realized we weren’t all alone.

February 9 / Mindfulness

mindful eatingTake a moment to be present. Where are you? What are you doing? What are you eating?

Right this second, I’m sitting in a chair at my computer. I have a cup of mint tea in a warm, clay mug.  I have socks on my feet, a big sweater on over my shoulders, and a stick of Morning Star incense burns down to a long, broken comma of ash. My fingers hit the computer keys with confidence. An itch on my back stops me mid-sentence—

What was it I was thinking? What is my intention?

If I’m not careful, I’ll get ahead of myself and think three paragraphs into the future. I’ll edit and hyperlink text in my mind that I haven’t even written down yet. I’ll gulp down an entire cup of tea without paying attention to the flavors of the herbs.

Instead, I choose to stay present.  I practice mindfulness of the activity of writing because I know that my best work happens when I am open to The Big Ideas that come. It seems that the more I’m aware, the more I’m clued into something else going on; inspiration comes from a source outside of myself.

Tech and spirituality

More and more people are looking for something bigger than themselves to help get them through their work. For many, the thing that most people reach out to is technology.  Reuters recently reported that Americans are willing to go longer without friends and sex than the Internet. But if we continue to reach out for inspiration from electronic sources and don’t take the time to nurture some inner peace and mental awareness, we may very well find ourselves on the other side of an energy crisis of the personal kind. We may miss out on the next great idea because we’re just too busy checking Twitter/Facebook/email/Google reader/pintrest/insert favorite website here.