Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Care Packages

            The long days of studying, eating, sleeping, repeat. College gets to be a drag. All you can think about are your Mother’s cookies you lived off in the summer. The candy bars you just can’t find in Ann Arbor. And that toothbrush you left at home. Summer seems so long ago, even if it’s only been a month. All you need is something to break the monotony… wait…what’s that in my mailbox? A slip of paper? I have a package?! NICE!

What do I REALLY want to do with my life?

Ari Weinzweig is the most captivating speaker I have ever heard. It’s that simple. Never has a lecturer inspired, captivated and made me think like Ari. Ari is the founder and CEO of my favorite restaurant enterprise in the world; Zingermans. However his lecture satisfied much more than my craving for information about how Zingermans started and ultimately thrived, it literally changed my position on life.
When I found out the founder of Zingermans was going to present to us I expected a strong willed, adamant capitalist and of course a graduate of the business school. To my surprise Ari was strong willed but he was far from adamant capitalist and even farther from a business school graduate. Ari was a Russian history major focusing in Russian anarchism, an uncommon and fascinating discipline, which ultimately shaped the way he built his business and the nature of his relationships with his employees. Within the first five minutes of the presentation I realized Ari had achieved with his life exactly what I strive for. Ari created a business that became so successful because he made its success and growth his life. Not out of a driving desire to make a ton of money but rather because it represented the ideals he believes in and his passion for the food industry.
After class, on the walk back to my house, my friend and I spoke about how amazing the lecture was and how much we would love to do something similar to Zingermans. I loved the idea of living in Ann Arbor for the rest of my life and creating a business with a unique enough niche to be successful while also serving the needs of the community while simultaneously giving back to a town that has given me so much. I want to wake up in the morning and be excited to go to work rather than dwell on the busy day ahead and counting the days until the weekend. My friend and I began throwing around some ideas of various clothing stores or generic food restaurants we could potentially open with no real substantive conversation forming. After about 10 minutes of talking I asked my friend “what food do you love”. He responded with a simple one-word answer that fuelled our conversation for the next hour. The word was “breakfast”. We began talking about a breakfast cart right in front of the diag. Serving up made to order breakfast sandwiches ranging from the simple 2 eggs on a roll to a bacon egg and cheese with a small side of frosted flakes and milk. This half serious, half kidding conversation lead to my realization that whatever it is that I do with my life needs to be in line with my ideals, morals and above all must make me happy. I’m the type of person that cannot settle with sitting behind a desk working to make money when I know I could be out in the world creating something of my own or working in a field that truly satisfy’s me intellectually and creatively. Life is way too short to spend the majority of my adult life in a field or position that does not truly make me excited to get out of bed in the morning and continue the journey of my career. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

"I'm Having An Old Friend For Dinner"

             Most people have read stories about an individual’s death-defying experience and the extreme lengths he or she went to in order to survive, whether it be drinking urine, eating bugs, or even dismembering a body part. Seldom do we hear of people eating other people in these types of situations… or perhaps we do not allow ourselves to believe it. People eating seems to be something more common in myth and literature than in real life. According to Peggy McCracken, in her lecture “Eating Others”, passengers who survived the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 wreckage in October 1972 fed off of the deceased passengers due to a dearth of food. Though considered both a sacrilegious and atrocious act, does eating other people become acceptable under such dire circumstances? Revisiting the lecture concerning the ethics of eating, do people have the right to eat others? 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Food: Constructed by Culture

           Though food’s basic function is to fuel the human body with nutrients, its uses, forms, preparation, and prevalence varies from culture to culture. Fundamentally, people choose what they do or do not eat depending on cultural, religious, historic, economic factors, not just by flavors, textures, or the nutritional value. Consider how Hindus refuse to eat beef, some Jews follow a kosher diet, and only the most affluent people eat caviar. Moreover, food that appears “disgusting” or unusual to foreigners serves as a cultural marker, or an indication of who belongs to a specific culture and who does not.
Jason DeLeon’s lecture, which discussed the anthropological approaches to food and water, stressed that the foods we prefer, what they are paired with, and how we experience them are all influenced by our unique cultures.  His presentation reminded me of my travels to countries in Europe and Asia, and how I was exposed to novel and exotic foods as well as peculiar practices for eating that differs entirely from those in the United States. I learned that breakfast is not the most important meal of the day after my trip to Italy, for breakfast is generally a light meal consisting of coffee and bread and jam. Lunch, rather, is usually the largest meal and is served in a series of courses: first an antipasto, then a primo piatto, a secondo piatto, a contorno  (a side dish), and finally a dolce and café. The antipasto is a hot or cold appetizer served in small portions. What follows is a rice, pasta, or sometimes a soup dish. The secondo piatto, or entrée, is usually fish or meat-based, and is succeeded by a salad course.  Whereas Italians concern themselves with the order in which foods are eaten and separate their food groups into different stages and portion sizes, I’m familiar with piling an indefinite number of foods onto one plate. Further, daily meals tend to last a while, for they are seen as time to spend with families and friends. I consider myself lucky if my meal lasts more than 30 minutes. My excursion to Spain was not much different: around 2pm until 5pm, people spent two-to-three hours eating lunch and taking a siesta (a nap).  It was difficult adjusting to the late dinner times and the options provided for each meal of the day.  But these eating and cooking styles were nowhere close to as shocking as those I witnessed in China.

Donating to the Homeless

I never give change to the homeless. I think that most of the time, the homeless who are begging on the street corner will use the money for things other than food. Last year during Christmas my father gave a man $100.00. In my opinion, that is enough to eat and become presentable to apply for a job. I mean really, how hard is it to say, “Welcome to McDonalds! Can I take your order?” But that man still pollutes the streets of my hometown to this day.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

"I Don't Expect This To Do Anything"

Matthew Evans continuously repeated, “I don’t expect this to do anything” as he lectured about the moral dilemma of eating meat. Congratulations Professor Evans, you have a convert.  Well, a convert to a certain extent. I’ve decided to become a pescetarian, meaning I will continue to eat seafood but cut out everything else.

After reading the Basic Argument in James Rachel’s article, it is difficult to not agree that eating meat promotes abhorrent cruelties to animals. Rachel focused on cattle and hog farms. The part that hit me the hardest was his description of the pigpens that factory hogs live in. Unable to move, they end up chewing off the tail of the pig in front of them. Once this occurs, farmers chop off the remaining part of the tail without anesthesia. This is done to animals that have the social and mental abilities equivalent to those of a dog. Can you imagine chopping off Lassie’s tail?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Quality vs. Quantity

One of the first pieces of advice I received last year was: Go to Zingerman’s Deli. It wasn’t so much a suggestion as it was a resolute demand. As a naïve, disoriented freshman, I could not comprehend why anyone would want to wait on an endless line for what I assumed to be an overpriced, overrated sandwich. Needless to say, I was baffled when I visited Zingerman’s Deli for the first time: it was an unassuming, insipid building located on an obscure street outside of the University of Michigan campus. The inside, however, though congested with countless students and residents of Ann Arbor, was vibrant and welcoming. Aside from the remarkable quality of food and service at Zingerman’s, what made my experience that much better was that it made me feel like I was part of a community.
I used to deeply regret not applying to the Ross School of Business, for I thought a degree from Ross would provide me with an unlimited amount of opportunities for my future aspirations. Therefore, it was extremely comforting to hear that Ari Weinzweig, one of the founders of Zingerman’s Deli, majored in Russian History in college. What’s more, his love affair with food only began after a modest job waiting tables at a restaurant. These revelations startled me—how does one go from studying history to establishing a renowned gourmet deli? For someone who has no formal education in business, it still astounds me that Ari not only opened a successful and distinguished deli, but seven additional businesses as well.
A self-proclaimed anarchist, Ari differs entirely from the stereotypical businessman. He doesn’t preoccupy himself with sales or profit, but rather on building a respectful, creative workplace. In fact, of all twelve natural laws of business he lists, the majority focuses on creating an environment that employees would want to genuinely be a part of. Essentially, such laws indicate that the taste and quality of food alone is not enough to establish and sustain a successful, popular business. This is something that often goes overlooked in other businesses.  Considering Zingerman’s can cite Oprah Winfrey as a fan, it seems as if Ari and his business partners are doing something right.