I was inspired to write the past couple days of food-related posts by an article about the food store I grew up with in Philadelphia called Weaver’s Way, which my family called just “the co-op.” The store is a cooperative, meaning you have to be a co-owner to shop and you have to work a certain number of hours per year. When I was younger and lived in Philadelphia I had to work some of the hours for my family.
Whether you consider buying and preparing food relevant to leadership or life-improvement, I’ll leave for you to decide. As for me, the connection seems clear, particularly if you or the people you lead eat and if what they eat affects their behavior.
Anyway, back to the co-op, its advantages relative to mainstream stores include
- Since it isn’t trying to make a profit, its top motive is quality food, mainly produce. It has little to no highly processed foods
- Buying in bulk and using members’ labor leads to good prices
- Membership requirements promote community
- Work requirements let shoppers know more about the business and food they sell
My parents helped found a food cooperative in Philadelphia in the 60s or 70s. I’m not sure if it was what became Weaver’s Way or not, but they were involved from long ago.
One of my earliest and favorite food preparation memories came from working at Weaver’s Way. My job that day was helping prepare the basil. Many leaves fell off that they let me keep. I bought a mortar and pestle and made pesto with tons of garlic which I remember as one of my favorite dishes.
As a kid I didn’t think much of the place. It didn’t have sugar cereals, for example. But now that I think of it, I don’t think I’ve seen the store’s equal. I know where to get great fresh produce in the West Village, but nothing compares to the Co-op.
- Where do you buy your food, especially the fruits and vegetables (and meat and dairy if you get them)?
- Do you have a great relationship with the place?
- Do you know where they get their produce?
- Do you know how they choose the produce you get?
- How fresh is the produce you buy?
- What does the food delivered to stores you buy from and restaurants you eat at look like — fresh fruits and vegetables (and meat if you eat it) or freeze-dried boxes manufactured elsewhere; or something in between or different?
- How many stages are there between the food growing in the ground to your eating it?
- How processed is most of the food you buy?
- How much of the profits of the stores you buy from come from unprocessed versus processed foods?
- What are the motivations of the managers and buyers at the stores and restaurants where you buy your food?
Fresh produce outside the U.S.
Shanghai’s food stores also prompted my writing about food. Where I live I see fruit and vegetable stands near every corner. By comparison, I don’t think the U.S. has many stores that sell only fresh fruits and vegetables — certainly not one on most blocks, sometimes several within a ten yards of each other.
Dishes routines have vegetables that were clearly prepared that day. Plenty of stores sell pre-packaged, processed food, but not each one. I can’t say that about the U.S.
Weaver’s Way update
Anyway, after all these years, this article says Weaver’s Way has expanded and modernized since before. I’m excited to see it on my next visit, even if it changed its from its quasi-hippie past.
Thoughts on leadership and food
What role does food play in your life and how active you are in creating your life? Do people make your food for you or do you make it yourself?
If you don’t get foods very close to unprocessed, who is managing the process for you? What are their motivations and incentives?
I don’t pretend my diet is particularly healthy, unprocessed, or back-to-nature. I eat plenty of processed foods and eat at restaurants about as much as I cook at home. I’ve never gardened. But I’m finding out more about food all the time and, as I’ve said, find it increasingly fundamental to centering ones life.
I haven’t researched the topic beyond my anecdotal experience, but I think eating processed, refined, junk, and fast “food” limits your ability to lead yourself and others.