Happy Pi Day

pieHappy Pi Day, everyone! To celebrate this illustrious occasion, I decided to make one of my favorite pies — banana cream — so custardy, so sweet. I was going to attempt to improve upon the epicurious recipe, but it was pretty perfect as is.

So instead of sharing a new recipe, I thought I’d tell you why I like the first piece of pie. As many pie aficionados know, the first piece of pie, like the first pancake, is often a sacrifice. It’s difficult to keep the first piece beautiful. It wants to cave in on itself. It doesn’t want to let go of the other pieces around it, but finally it slides away, allowing the rest of the pieces to be served whole.

I used to work in a bakery, so I ended up learning the trick of keeping each piece pretty, at least when they’re baked uniformly and cut equally. At home, though, I’ve never bothered. I’ve always loved its mushy yielding to the spatula. It may not be bonny, but it tastes just as good, and because it yields its solidity to either end, the person who gets the first piece usually ends up with a tad more of the treat than anyone else.

That’s why it’s the piece for me. It sacrifices for the greater good, is just as sweet, and offers a couple more forkfuls in the end. Happy Pi Day, everyone! Try to take the first slice — unless I’m serving.

And as far as pairings go, consume this baby with a good cup of coffee. I’d recommend an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. Its floral aromas and lemon notes in the cup are what make it my all-time favorite. Just make sure to get a light roast to experience its full flavor profile. That’s a must! Have I ever mentioned I used to be a barista? It made me very particular about my coffee. In fact, learning coffee flavor profiles and attending many cuppings was actually what led me to my wine tasting obsession. Every single day still begins with an amazing cup of craft coffee, and I’d be a sad soul without it.

Equal Exchange

A taste of what will be in the next BriarPatch Vine Newsletter:

Cooperative and Fair Trade are integrally mixed in the philosophy of Equal Exchange.

A worker-owned co-op, Equal Exchange is on the forefront of fighting to keep Fair Trade Certification dedicated to the living-wage of small farmers, not the boon of plantations. The company feels that Fair Trade USA has diluted the original intent of the certification to extend to large scale plantations.

“In the developing world, co-op production is focused on the 99 percent. Plantations are the one percent,” said Rodney North, worker-owner, former board director, and The Answer Man at Equal Exchange.

“Fair Trade and farmer co-ops are an opportunity to shift the economic power back to the community,” he said.

While their current battle is to keep Fair Trade for small farmers, it has always been a founding principle. Equal Exchange helped introduce Fair Trade coffees to grocery stores in the United States and was the first U.S. company to use Fair Trade Certified sugar as an ingredient as well as to offer it as a stand-alone product.

They also have a direct relationship with the farmer co-ops from whom they buy their coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate, olive oil, California almonds, and bananas. In fact, everyone that is employed by Equal Exchange gets to visit a farmer co-op.

“It’s very powerful,” said Kevin Hollender, retail representative from Equal Exchange.

“It brings what we’re doing home.”

Kevin also said that the direct relationship helps when times are tough, when things need to be addressed, like the threat from Fair Trade USA. Then, not only can the worker co-op organize, so too can the farmer co-ops.

The value of fairness to farmers and dedication to that practice, as well as building a closer connection with them, was the motivating vision of Equal Exchange’s founders.

Rink Dickinson, Jonathan Rosenthal, and Michael Rozyne met while working in management at a food co-op in New England. They wanted to transform the relationship between food producers and the public, change the food world.

Twenty years later, Equal Exchange is the world’s largest worker-owned coffee roaster, a $50 million enterprise. They employ 120 full-time people, 103 of whom are members. Employees must work one year before they become eligible to join. They’ve won WorldBlu’s World’s Most Democratic Workplace a few times and won “Best Support of the Fair Trade Movement” this year.

“From an unlikely beginning, we’ve now grown into a sizable organization,” said Rodney.

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