Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bob del Grosso on "Artisanal"

Here's Bob del Grosso commenting on "Artisanal":
The meaning of the word “artisan” has been so inflated and distorted by industry and journalists, reporters, bloggers, marketers and credulous “foodies” that it cannot even be trusted to convey its basal meaning of “a craftsman who makes something with hand tools or by hand alone.” I mean, how much faith can you have in a word that finds applications like “artisan bread” on thaw-and-bake supermarket bread or “artisan eggs” on boxes of eggs that only the week before were labeled “free range eggs?” And when you live in a culture that allows some 25 year old with hand saw a boning knife and a two week long butchering class under his belt to hang the name “Artisan” over his door, you can be forgiven your mistrust of the quality of his “artisanal” craft work.

I think the term “artisan [fill in the food/cooking noun]” is at best nearly useless and at worst another one of those Kafkaesque devices whose meaning has little to do with what it is applied to and which, like the terms “free range” and “organic,” does a much better job of obscuring the truth than explaining it.

So Michael, in answer to your question (“Does Artisansal Mean Anything Anymore?”) : unless it is qualified with supporting evidence that a piece of work was produced by a human being using her hands and hand-operated tools, the word “artisan” cannot be trusted to mean anything other than what the entity that has decided to apply that label to itself or its products thinks you think it means. In other words, when you see the word “Artisan(al) ” on a sign or label you can expect to find handmade or hand-rendered products within, but don’t be surprised to discover that the artisan was a drunken robot.

I think the team at Swiss is as "artisanal" as it gets when it comes to killing and cutting pigs in the USA. But even then, it's a job. There's a team of people, and they work as fast as they can to get the job done. It isn't about artistry or looking cool.

It is about getting the pigs killed, cut, processed and sent out the door so that we and our customers can all make as much money from them as possible.

I met Bob in person at Mosefund's wonderful event in January - which is being held again this November. Bob is a very nice guy. One striking thing about him is that he sounds like Christopher Walken - one of my favorite actors.

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