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Artisinal Food - What Does It Mean?

artisan bread

It seems like I can’t walk down one aisle in the supermarket or drive down one street without seeing the word “artisan.” Domino’s has a new line of artisan pizzas, Dunkin Donuts has a new line of artisan bagels, and Tostitos has a line of artisan tortilla chips. What’s with this new trend, and what does it really mean?

Literally, an artisan is a skilled craftsman or worker. In the context of food, artisan usually refers to an item of food that is handcrafted, rather than mass-produced. Until recently, the term “artisan” was mostly used for bread; artisan bread is prepared in smaller batches, with special attention to the quality and number (the fewer, the better) of ingredients, the process, and a return to bread with a tougher texture than its preservative-enhanced store-bought counterparts.

The obvious question is: where’s the association between sundried tomato and cracked black pepper tortilla chips and handmade bread? I don’t think that my tortilla chips were handmade, so why is that the term that adorns the new line of more ambitious flavors?

In an article on the blog network Techonrati, several CEO’s and presidents of artisan-esque food companies described artisan food as placing an emphasis on quality over quantity, and on creativity. The idea of creating an artisan food, at its core, is to make something with a love for the person who is going to eat it. This is why it is created in smaller batches—with a closer attention to detail, the flavor is more on the mark.

While the use of the word artisan is a departure from its original form, the food world has adapted it to describe foods with a unique and more exciting taste. As a lover of all things food, I see nothing wrong in continuing this trend. It introduces people to a deeper side of the culinary world: instead of just ordering a “medium pie” at Domino’s, one [who doesn’t keep kosher] can order pizza with feta cheese and Tuscan salami, instead of mozzarella cheese and pepperoni. It is only a matter of time until we see artisan pizza options at the kosher pizzerias.  Expanding one’s palette is something to be celebrated, so I am happy to join the train.

What do you think of all this Artisanal Madness?

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