How to listen with unselfish understanding

How to listen with unselfish understanding

I love Brain Pickings, it’s such a “breath of fresh air” on Sunday mornings. Recently I’ve delved into learning about participatory group processes as means to make better decisions with collaborators and make better decisions for our local food and health system. Today Brain Picking’s nailed it with an article on “listening.”

One of the key principles of good participatory decision making is to gather all the wisdom in the room. This requires  hearing all the voices in the room and striving for a deeper understanding of each other’s thoughts. Only by doing this can we “unlock” the potential for innovation. I knew this intuitively, but I was finding it difficult to put into words until recently.

I’m very grateful for to my facilitator partner Anne Stieger for encouraging me to read participatory decision making books and for inviting me help host an Art of Hosting Training in the Valley.

Anway, here’s the part that I think is most useful from Maria Popova’s Brainpicking’s  Erich Fromm’s 6 Rules of Listening: The Great Humanistic Philosopher and Psychologist on the Art of Unselfish Understanding article this morning:

Listening, Fromm argues, is “is an art like the understanding of poetry” and, like any art, has its own rules and norms. Drawing on his half-century practice as a therapist, Fromm offers six such guidelines for mastering the art of unselfish understanding:

  1. The basic rule for practicing this art is the complete concentration of the listener.
  2. Nothing of importance must be on his mind, he must be optimally free from anxiety as well as from greed.
  3. He must possess a freely-working imagination which is sufficiently concrete to be expressed in words.
  4. He must be endowed with a capacity for empathy with another person and strong enough to feel the experience of the other as if it were his own.
  5. The condition for such empathy is a crucial facet of the capacity for love. To understand another means to love him — not in the erotic sense but in the sense of reaching out to him and of overcoming the fear of losing oneself.
  6. Understanding and loving are inseparable. If they are separate, it is a cerebral process and the door to essential understanding remains closed.

I’m curious to hear from you, what strategies do you use for better listening every day?

Slow food is peasant food

Slow food is peasant food

Slow food is peasant food. It is the way our families have been growing and preparing food for centuries. It tastes good, it’s feels clean, and it’s honest. We feel more alive when we eat it.

Learn more about Slow Food in Canada and the upcoming national summit Eating Heritage festival in New Brunswick

Learn more about what Slow Food does at

I’m involved in Slow Food in Canada and Internationally, I send monthly updates to my email community about events I’m involved with, recipes I love and other food work. If you’d like to join it, go to my homepage


Canadian Hero Wab Kinew Drops Some Wisdom

Canadian Hero Wab Kinew Drops Some Wisdom

Here’s a mic dropping moment from Wab Kinew. We have so much to learn about peace and living with nature from the indigenous people of Turtle Island (Aka North America).

My interpretation of the best ways to learn in this video:

  1. Immersion and learn through doing
  2. Learn as a child
  3. Have children teach adults

So grateful my parents encouraged me to try everything, learn and go to all types of religious gatherings, were great teachers, and made an effort to find great teachers.

Happiness Music by Coco Love Alcorn

Anne and I saw Coco Love Alcorn at Al Whittle Theatre in Wolfville. Her new album Wonderland is mind blowing. The album’s theme is “the spirit” and the music is wondrously soulful, lively, and inspiring.

As you may know, I loooove coffee, so it’s a big statement for me to say that  Coco’s new Wonderland album is better than coffee in the morning.

I just can’t stop singing Coco’s song “The River.” Last night, she sang this song with 150+ people at the Al Whittle Theatre and the room was vibrating with the voices and happy energy. Fun fact: since the release of “The River” has been covered by over 30 different choirs since she released it. Have a listen and you’ll know why. It’s a classic already.

Here’s some happiness music for your soul.

Have a happy day!

First day at 2016 Slow Food Terre Madre

Hi there, I’ve just arrived back from a one month work and learning trip in Germany and Italy. The photos in this post highlight a few memorable moments from the 2016 Slow Food Terre Madre and Salone del Gusto conference in Turin, Italy. I was fortunate to be one of the 55 Canadian delegates selected to go. In 2014 we had only 4 youth delegates go to Terre Madre, while only two years later, we now have over 20 youth delegates. I’m excited to say our Slow Food Youth Network Canada is slowly growing. Check out Slow Food Canada and Slow Food Nova Scotia to see what kinds of things are going on locally.

Arriving at 2016 Slow Food Terre Madre Salone del Gusto– thousands of food producers, leaders, activists await.


Slow Food Leadership Meeting: Models for Change

This workshop opened with Felia, from Hivos International, explaining how we can use the Iceberg systems thinking model to think about Slow Food and creating systemic change. The Iceberg model, in the case of Slow Food, can be used to illustrate how the things we see “above the water”, such as Slow Food events and campaigns , are the most visible parts of change, but in reality, are a very small part of systemic change. She suggests that in order to create lasting systemic change, we must look deeper at where real change happens – below the water.

To illustrate an example of a change model that addresses the Mental Models, Underlying Structures, and Patterns within the Iceberg model, Felia explained how Theory U, or Hivos‘ version of it, can be applied to slow food projects. The model she presented resembles the Business Model Canvas and Social Enterprise Model Canvas in terms of market testing and prototyping, while additional tapping into human emotion and group commitment.2016-09-22-15-33-41

Felia explained how this model works well with both enterprises and not-for-profits explaining how she has used this model to implement a successful food project in Uganda. She explained that this project was successful because the change making group really listened to the community without judgement or jumping to conclusions. After listening well, the group in Uganda found it easier to obtain commitment and build a solution that worked for everyone. I was excited to learn about this model because I can see how I can apply parts of this model to my food community building work.

Sidenote: when I arrived home, my partner Anne Stieger, the facilitating genius and love of my life, already had the Theory U book (affiliate link) on the bookshelf. Of course 🙂

Measuring Success

Next, Felia used the Youth Food Movement Netherlands’ Slow Food Youth Academy as an example of how to measure social project outcomes using Social, Physical, Natural, Financial, and Human Capitals. It was nice to see a Slow Food being measured in a holistic and thorough manner. This event helped me realize that the next step for Slow Food Youth in Canada, that will have real value for young food professionals in Canada and forward the movement, is to start a Slow Food Youth Academy in Canada. More on this topic coming soon.

For lunch, I headed to a plating workshop with a Piemontese Chef Christian Madura, formerly at Noma and Cambio


Canenlloni with crispy bacon, and microgreens. A bean purree to be added next


My attempt at plating: Soy sauce marinated veal with tuna sauce and crumbled egg yoke

My attempt at plating: Soy sauce marinated veal with tuna sauce and crumbled egg yoke

Slow Food Canada Meetup

In the evening, our Slow Food Canada group had a meetup at one of the Canada delegate apartments. Wine, cheese, Italian cured meats, and awesome slow foodies from across Canada  Need I say more?

More adventures coming soon.

Socializing with the Canadian delegates

The Easiest Way to Ferment Vegetables

The Easiest Way to Ferment Vegetables

This post is for anyone that wants to get started with making sauerkraut, kimchi, fermenting vegetables etc. It’s basically an email I sent to a friend about how to get started making ferments. I’m writing this now because I’m visiting Amade Billesberger at Billesberger Hof and about to share with him the basics of fermenting vegetables.  We’ve been making fermented vegetables at the Hill House since last year’s Slow Food Youth Nova Scotia “Canning Jam” at Moon Tide Farm. It’s changed how we eat and my partner Anne now longer has migraines. It’s not well understand how fermented foods affect our health in western medicine, but they do immensely and fermented foods provide the most interesting of flavours. Almost all the worlds favorite foods are fermented (for example, chocolate, coffee, all sourdough bread, traditional meats etc.

Hi there,

This video is a little 90s and not the recipe I would use, but the process is good, basically the same as I was taught. The fermentation wizard in the video is Sandor Katz, he’s basically the North American wild fermentation guru.

I suggest doing the same thing as he does in the video with some cabbage (80%), carrots grated or chopped (I like chopped better) and lots of grated or finely chopped ginger in every layer.

Put enough salt so that if you taste the vegetables before they ferment, they will taste a little saltier than you would like to eat (taste it! :-)) To be sure it will work use sea salt or another natural, unprocessed salt. Table salt with iodine (iodized) or kosher salt will very likely not work.

Other combos that I like and are easy:

  • Cabbage, fennel, a couple dried cranberries, salt
  • Simple cabbage (80%) and carrots (20%), salt
  • Onions, cabbage, carrots, and a couple juniper berries is yummy

Fermentation Vegetable Tips:

  • Ferment in a warm and well ventilated space(warmer areas makes the fermentation process speed up). Most counter tops are fine. It will mold easily in a shelf with two walls and shelve close above because of lack of airflow. Even if there no cabinet door in shelves, we’ve had the jars mold in shelves.
  • When you start to play with ratios of other vegetables, remember that too many sweet vegetables or fruit can make your ferments foam (this can be scooped off and is just yeast, but it’s not very pleasant) This is why I mention the cabbage to carrot ratio above, we go as high as 70% cabbage to 30% carrots, but never more carrots than 30%.
  • The scooping the mold off (in video) is debatable, we usually chuck ours if it gets moldy.
    To lower chances of mold, which happens when veggies are exposed to air, take a cabbage leaf and use it to cover the top of the submerged vegetables to prevent small pieces of vegetables from floating to the surface of the brine (the water and salt mixture)
  • We use a wide-mouth mason jar (500ml or 1L) for the ferment, and use a 250ml smaller jar filled with water to keep the vegetables submerged like this (as you can see any glass jars will work)
    If you add water at any point during the fermentation process and your tap water has chlorine in it or it’s treated (most town and city water is in Canada) leave water out on the counter in the sun for a couple hours before adding it to your fermenting vegetables.. The chlorinated water can kill the fermentation or reduce the beneficial bacteria
  • If vegetables or part of the cabbage leaf sticks out of the brine, push it down with your finger or a jar
    If you do stuff with acidic foods like tomatoes (fermented salsa!- delicious!) or a ton of sweet foods, us a recipe to get the PH right and have success

Next steps:

  • Taste every day then re-submerge so that no vegetables are above the water. I find it tends to be acidic after 5 days, but depends on how warm it is. In warmer conditions, we’ve had ferments ready to put in the fridge after 3 days.
  • It will continue to change flavour and acidity, getting stronger in flavour and more acidic over time out of the fridge. If you leave it for a while and it doesn’t taste good, leave it longer and taste every day, it should taste better unless it goes moldy (you’ll know if white stuff starts growing on top.
  • We eat with bowls, eggs, on rice, with meat, and with tofu…basically anything. I love fermented vegetables with mustard, toast, and something fatty (cheese, cheese-like stuff, avocado etc.). I also love them with hummus or a seed paté