I could never have anticipated that the first newsletter of 2018 was going to end up being on a monumental day in our history. If I had met some prophet on January 1st this year who had said before the end of February when you write your first newsletter Jacob Zuma will no longer be president of this country, I’d have never believed it. Yet here we are, and this is the rate of life and change now.  Things happen quickly and life can alter over-night and that is now – the most powerful constant.  Things don’t stay the same, they’re not meant to stay the same and transitions that took 25 years in the previous era – can now happen in the blink of an eye.

The rise of a new consciousness worldwide commanding a world based on different values – is here – and we are in its dawn, dazzled and bewildered at the pace of it all.  Old ways of being and relating are being dismantled globally.

The psychopathic tyrants of the past – both revered as heroes in business and politics and wherever they stomped their selfish feet – are today’s outcasts. We simply no longer collectively tolerate the values upon which old society was built. The individualistic paradigm of success defined as strengthening oneself at the expense of others – is taking last choking rattled breaths everywhere as the voices of a more evolved collective collaborative consciousness are gaining strength and increased volume – creating impact. This is the impetus for the grand changes that we are being bewildered by at every turn, and it is the hope we have in the creation of an alternative world where things make sense and our lives have meaning.

At Organic Emporium our mission is to create an alternative food system – to challenge the ways in which nourishment is brought to people’s tables and to stimulate the growth of good farmers who restore and rehabilitate the land they work on.

To provide a place where you can access food that nourishes you, helps you recover from disease and gives you peace of mind that the mouthful you choose has created health for all, that it was in other words grown or comes to you being in alignment with nature’s over-arching intelligence. Food that does what food is meant to do – restores you. Gives you a good functioning thriving body from which to take your spirit out on, in this lifetime.

To do this, we need to challenge everything and most importantly challenge business as usual in retail that has historically been an exploitative model build on manipulating the consumer and exploiting the producer.

We need to create a new type of retail paradigm as much as anything else and to provide a store and relationship between you, us and our farmers based on transparency and trust. This sounds so incredibly easy but to make this work, we are still sitting connected to old structures – trying to carve out a new way of doing business with a different way of relating to the interconnected relationships that make things work – some entrenched in the new operating system of collaboration and shared values and others still operating in the old. It’s not an open clear path and it takes just being comfortable with working things out piece by piece.

We’re here and we’re in it and set to stay no matter the challenges we find on our path. This has been no easy road and when I’m talking to the team at the end of a day when it’s all calmed down and we’re reflecting – we often take note of how absurdly tough and resilient we have become in this space. There have been so many times when we get to look at each other and say ‘if we have survived this context – we can survive anywhere’, we’ve had every constraint you can put around a food business around us. We’ve had to survive and thrive and overcome obstacles inconceivable, been brought to our knees many times – yet here we still stand and here we remain.

On our committed path. We aren’t going anywhere and we cannot be knocked off course. We stand here with an unwavering commitment to this cause. It’s too important to give up on. I’ll say to you again what I’ve said so many times to you in-store – there have been many times over the past 8 years where I have been close to giving up. Many, and there has always only been one thought that always stopped me. The question – if I give up on Organic Emporium – where will I buy my food? I simply know too much now to be able to shop anywhere – if there wasn’t Organic Emporium – what would I eat? When the answer is – I would be stuck, I would have nowhere to go and purchase food I believe in, I find the strength to give it another week – then another month – and years passed by on just that alone.

I still – despite there being better options in Jozi than 5 years ago – wouldn’t have anywhere I’d be happy to shop at if Organic Emporium wasn’t here. This store is the only place I trust, this food is the food I want to be eating connected to farmers I know well – and I need Organic Emporium to remain as much as you do. Without her, I’d feel like I was stuck in an oasis of confusion and illusion and questionable food. That’s the truth of it. Or I’d be travelling the country with a cooler box buying directly from farms, I’d spend all day sourcing food – and isn’t it ironic – that kind of characterizes what Organic Emporium is. The place where all that sourcing provides a connection point for you to also buy from those farms.

So with all that said, where are we and what’s worth talking about now?

The new store. As you all well know, we’re busting out of the seams here and Themba is doing his utmost to find more and more space and somehow – through some miraculous tendency of his to manifest – he seems to squeeze more in. Now he’s asking for another fridge and I look at him with a ‘are you on crack’ gaze and say Themba there is no freaking space left here for a fridge and he replies ‘I’ll make space, just get me another fridge, I’m out of space’….so getting into the larger store is still mission critical before the man puts a fridge in the hallway or starts trading from the corridor and he will if push comes to shove.

The plans for the new store have taken much time. Whilst I am passionate and operate from a place of focused and intense emotionality – I am not a rash decision maker and I don’t build on quick sand.

If it takes me years to ensure my foundation is solid, I’ll do the painstaking yards but I simply do not build on unfertile ground. I don’t take impulsive risks – I am thorough about how I build – my intent might always come from deep passion and be fiery but that doesn’t mean that any move I make isn’t always carefully considered, my heart and head work well together.  If any part of how we grow and where had been rushed, I’d have jeopardized the foundations of an extremely character-hardy sound business. So good deals take time, persistence, patience and evolvement.

Growth for the sake of growth to look good isn’t my style. Evolvement is. I am far more trusting of the organic evolvement of solid creations, why I love antiques and hand-made things and things that have lasted through-out time. I value evolvement and the deep character that emerges from things that have stood the test of time. So getting to a point of being ready for a larger store with a deal done the right way, in a fair way that meets everybody’s needs has been a long and lengthy process but we’re one step away now from announcing the new store and where it will be. The moment our final ‘t’ is crossed on that deal – I’ll let you know.

The months then leading up to our May opening in a larger space will be a trifle intense as we keep this going for you while we roll into a large space – again – I want us to evolve into it – not rush in with banners and some grand opening. I’ll never have a grand opening of anything – we will just take you with us on a series of continued forward steps – always a journey – never an arrival and this team will be constantly reminded that I will always insist we retain humility however far we grow.

As far as the eatery goes – we will do it slowly and in sensible stages. We’ll open our first tier offering while we settle down the retail – that will be the coffee shop with light easy organic meals. As we bed that down and are confidant of our service and processes and in dialogue with you, will then expand the offering incrementally – with you and in line with how much the farmers have for us. Much like with the store – the eatery is only going to have food that is sold in the store – that truly has an organic ethos and philosophy behind it. I don’t want you to ever lose that safe space where you can walk in relax and trust I’ve checked things for you.

I don’t want us to leap too far in one step that we shock ourselves and put ourselves under too extreme pressure because if we’re pressurized out of our wits – you’ll feel it and we’ll lose sight of the core reason we’re here – to serve farmers and connect you to their produce. I also need to evolve a great team and culture within too – slowly – if we suddenly grow too quickly and you get an influx of staff, you have problems. It is as important that we have the right team in cohesion with our culture of service and bring in the right people that fit our values and take care of the internal team first. So you’ll never see us jump too far or too quickly – it’s just not worth it. We will not build on quick sand or rush this – there is just too much at stake, this business is too precious to risk stretching the heart of it too far or past its critical pulse point.

Then we need to speak about the new delivery service. This again, was an evolvement of several conversations. As many of you know, once we shut down the online service I wasn’t keen on re-opening it. We did it for 6 solid years and we did that better than we did retail and I’ve done the hard yards and made many mistakes with online.

I simply find it incredibly costly as a business model with all sorts of hidden administrative costs and a highly inefficient model. Few agree with me, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been given the party line that online is the way of the future and that all business is moving in that direction and we should re-open it and it’s never felt true to me. I feel an internal shuddering at any idea of re-opening it after doing it for 6 years. I never wanted to open a store or ever even be in retail, the path evolved here but I had no intention of doing this. Once we were here though the online store died a death together with my interest for it after the endless hidden costs and I don’t find it efficient when it comes to grocery shopping.

If you’re having to spend 20 minutes minimum even sitting at a desk – logging in, scrolling through categories – checking out – going to a pay portal, paying online, getting a reference number and then waiting. On the other side we have every item as a product code that needs to be updated and managed, plugged into to a stock level system, manage stock levels, have a resource collating orders, checking on payments, packing the order, setting a delivery schedule, checking the order has been packed correctly and then you end up with one driver driving all over Johannesburg to get there while we communicate to you where he is. To my mind this is the opposite of efficient and it a very expensive model. So we went back and forth on this and I increasingly came under pressure to re-open it while I was utterly resistant to it and kept pushing back. Add to that the costs of setting up a new online store and all that involved, I could not see the logic nor find the motivation for it.  

Then a new answer just sort of evolved – and we know how much I trust that process😊

We decided to just cut out all that middle piece –  that piece that is time consuming and simplify it altogether. What if we don’t have the costly online store and all the admin attached to it and you don’t need to find time and be reminded to jump on online and spend 20 minutes building a cart?

What if we just call you and chat about what we have in-store and arrive at your house with friendly Sam and a speed point? So we started doing that just for customers we knew and that has evolved and now that’s where we are.

So we do deliver. Still within the northern suburbs and we do stretch that depending on your location. We do need you to be familiar with the produce and the farms we support first, that helps and then you can simply message Pretty with ‘please call me for a delivery’ or whatsapp your order and that’s it. The End, she’ll make sure you get it. She’ll call you to clarify the detail, we’ll take the communication fuss away from you and you don’t have to be at a keyboard. We’ll just do that one thing we do better than anything elsetalk to you!

Sam will arrive with a speed point, no fuss, real conversation, you can be driving and rattle off what you need at home and Pretty will get it all down for you.

That – for me – is far more efficient. So if you’re keen to have our produce delivered to your door – message or call Pretty on 084 892 0940.  We won’t lie – Sam is back in his element delivering – we have learnt over many years and challenges that Sam is happiest when he’s out and about so this works.

I also need to give you some information on the probiotic. It is becoming a topic of large conversation as many of you have turned to it and I’ve given you snippets of information about its magic and potency in-store and it’s becoming a daily reoccurrence now that I am hearing the most incredible stories of how it is helping you deal with all sorts of ailments and there’s good reason for it. I interviewed the soil scientist Thomas Linders – one of the founding Godfathers of the organic movement in this country and the very special soul that makes this up for us. Click here for the article on Effective Micro-Organisms and Thomas’ preparation. It is an astounding preparation this, and a far cheaper way to repair gut health than purchasing over priced single strain bacteria, which really makes little sense. As Thomas explains, bacteria do not function in isolation, they function as families. The particular family in this solution, is the oldest surviving family of bacteria that have evolved together over 4 million years because they are the strongest combination. More on the probiotic in the article here – ‘Effective Micro-Organisms and Thomas Linder’s Preparation‘.

Before I end off, I need to give you a recipe and point you to a new book we have in-store that is an utter delight.

So many of you have been asking for goat meat for such a long time and I’ve been wanting to bring it to the store but have been unable to find what I’m looking for to do so. In order to sell goat, it has to be wholly veldt reared, has to have been raised without industrial pellet feed and in a true free- range environment. I obviously can’t look at goat from dairy farms where goats are in pens eating pellets with GM corn or soy in but that was all I could find. Until one thing led to another and I managed to find exactly what we’re looking for from the Northern Cape of all places. These are goats raised on northern cape terrain so you’re getting the kind of Karoo lamb version of goat, raised on fynbos and northern cape veldt, no pellets, growth hormones, antibiotics or GM feed.

For those new to itgoat is comparable to lamb the most – yet quite different. It is much leaner and when cooked right, the magic is a flavor in the meat that you only taste once you’ve made it tender and then it does something to you and you ‘get it’ and then you can’t compare it to anything but love it. It’s bizarre that way. Cooked well you’re going to get the x factor in it which is about a particular flavor that is less rich than lamb, but deeply satisfying and the texture of it is filling, more so for me than lamb. The trick is – to get it to fall off the bone.

Really wanting to understand goat – I set about trying recipes to learn the character of it so that I can teach you how to cook it and my team for the eatery so I failed at a good few recipes; failing it until I had my Eureka moment came when I succumbed to the West African tradition of cooking goat with spices.

It just worked. For some strange reason – I was intent on pairing plums with goat – it didn’t turn out well with my first recipe using neck cuts – it turned to utter magic when I paired goat and plum in a curry that had been pre-marinated in lamb fat with garlic, lemon and chili.

The Greeks tell me much about pre-marinating goat in yoghurt. I didn’t get this quite right or find that it worked. I was also told that it needed sugar added to the yoghurt for the chops to tenderize it properly and that didn’t work for me.  I don’t like cooking with sugar and always feel that if it takes sugar to make something taste good or work we have a problem. So I tried plums to create sweetness and help break down the meat – and boy did it work together with a pre-marinade using lemon and lamb fat. This recipe is utterly unctuous – I’ll go as far as saying that this became the most satisfying curry I have ever made. I served it with a yoghurt & honey dressing and amadumbe chips from a page in Nompumelelo’s exciting new book ‘Through the Eyes of An African Chef’.

I am going to attempt the Greek yoghurt pre-marinade again but on the right cut which I suspect is a roast after some incredible advice from a Greek foodie extraordinaire, not the chops I tried it on and not the neck. The neck is very thin and needs to be in a curry not done the way I did it.

So for those of you wanting to explore something new, try this. This recipe is going to work incredibly well with venison too. Any meat that is lean and needs to be tenderized is going to do well with this recipe so good luck and do spend time plating this in a fun way.

If you’re doing one platter serving – you want to plate the curry on one side – pour the yoghurt  sauce  over it – layer the madumbe chips (stupid delicious) on another side – garnish with slices  of lemon, a chili to represent the heat (and warn people of what’s to come) and some green. It’s a very beautiful dish, I tested this on my neighbors and got an unanimous thumbs up and pleasure from a broad range of pallettes. This recipe is charming and if you try it I want to hear all about it please.

Coming up in next week’s newsletter – news of the Glen Oakes barley being fed to the pigs, and nitrate free bacon in store soon!