TDS 28 Steven Noah: A Life Well Un-Planned & A Funji Feast Remembered

Steven Noah Introducing Ambassador Kenneth Quinn in the House of Lords, Chambers of Parliament, London U.K. March 2019

Steven Noah Introducing Ambassador Kenneth Quinn in the House of Lords, Chambers of Parliament, London U.K. March 2019

Steve Noah has a resume with a list of accomplishments stretching across the globe, but he doesn’t place any stock in such a tally. I asked Steve, this week’s guest on #thedeliciousstory, what stages of his impressive work history were part of his “A plan.” This turned out to be a silly question, however, because as he explained some of the highlights developed from no plans at all. Also, he is the first to admit that his professional past is strewn with as many failures as successes—most of them developing organically.  It was the busts which led to some of the most interesting opportunities, too, leading down path’s he had not even considered.

So buckle up and prepare for a whirlwind tour that is both fascinating and inspiring. Steve’s story just proves the point that there are always possibilities to explored with mistakes, and often it’s those unexpected twists where the ride gets most interesting.

A bonus of this week’s episode is picking up a bit of wisdom from Steve, who has seen and done enough to last several lifetimes. Steve shares insight that he has gleaned from his travels and from the people he has met through interactions with leaders and influencers all over the world.


We will dive into Steve’s latest chapter, one that has led him and his wife Jane to expand their family to include Rwandan relatives. Steve has recently completed a book called, “Rwanda: A Personal Journey,” chronicling the first 25 trips there, including one with their 5-year-old grandson. For Steve and Jane, Rwanda has morphed into a life-changing purpose and drive as they work with Rwandan leaders to help educate some of the country’s brightest and most talented youth. This venture which started as a partnership between William Penn and the Rwandan government began 23 years after the horrific Rwandan Genocide.

Rwanda’s history from a colonized country to its independence provides a deeply complex background, including much infighting among Rwandans. Fast forward to 2017: Rwandans have achieved a peace, and improved relations among its people to the point where the government was open to such forays. Steve’s partnership with the country in seeking higher education for Rwandan youth is nothing short of a marvel. His book provides a fascinating account of experiences and negotiations to create the program at William Penn, that facilitates the higher education for Rwandan students.


There were proteins involved in Steve’s memorable meal, which I’ll let you discover as you listen to the interview, but for this post, I’ll focus on the fungi he mentions. It turns out that the Yunnan province of China is home to the most extensive varieties of fungi in the world.

Each year when the mushroom season hits locals and tourists go foraging in search for a range of fungi that blow the mind of someone like me who is only familiar with maybe four types. The shapes, colors, and sizes of these wild mushrooms are an extraordinary window into the capacity of nature to produce so many different kinds of fungi. There is even one that grows out of an insect.

For all those that are edible, there are as many that aren’t which sometimes leads to unfortunate outcomes for foragers, but the mushrooms of the region are abundant and have led to a billion-dollar industry. You can read some of the fascinating details of these fungi, and this province over at Go Kunming in the article titled, “Exploring the Curious World of Yunnan Mushrooms.”

China has long understood the medicinal benefits of fungi, but in recent decades, Western medicine has become more interested as well. Over at NPR, the article, “Mushrooms are Good for You But Are They Medicine?” details a myriad of possible health benefits being explored, including help for cancer and dementia patients.

I hadn’t thought of it but found the growth process of mushrooms fascinating. As per Vickie Sabaratnam, the scientist in charge of the mushroom research center at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the primary function of mushrooms is to recycle large molecules in the environment which then turn into the “fruit bodies,” of the fungi.


A little mushroom hunting for information aside, I found Steve’s insights toward the close of our visit to be hugely inspiring and think you will, too. Steve considers this most recent chapter to be one of his major contributions to the world, and thankfully, it is this kind of engagement with purpose that keeps Steve moving along.

The concept of staying purposeful no matter your stage of life is one I never tire of hearing. I believe it is the golden ticket to living a life that is full, rich, and adventurous, and it doesn’t even need to be as expansive as Steve’s to get you there.  


The Aegis trust of Great Britain is an organization focused on preventing genocide in the world.  On March 5th the presented World Food Prize President, Ambassador Kenneth Quinn with the Steven Krulis Champion of Humanity Distinguished Service Award in The Home Dining Room in the House of Lords in London.  The award was in recognition of Ken Quinn’s efforts to make the world aware of the Genocide in Cambodia and for ultimately defeating the Khmer Rouge from 1973-1999.   The Aegis Trust has been in existence for 19 years, and this is just the second time that this award has been bestowed.  I had the privilege of introducing Ken Quinn three times; in Rwanda on February 28th, in Nottinghamshire on March 3rd and in the House of Lords on March 5th. A Des Moines Register article features the story.


Alexandra and Sherry, 2016

Alexandra and Sherry, 2016

Sherry is the founder of Storied Gifts a personal publishing service of family and company histories. She and her team help clients curate and craft their stories into books. When not writing or interviewing, Sherry spends loads of time with her grandchildren and lives in Des Moines, Iowa.


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