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What do you think "artisanal" means?


Fat Guy
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Just curious: When somebody calls a product "artisanal" what do you assume it implies, if anything? I'm seeing the word used more and more but I'm not sure there's an actual definition shared by those using it.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
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I (cynically) assume it is a marketing ploy until further investigation.

What I think it [should] mean is produced by an individual or small group focusing solely on the product or related products using time-honored techniques. I think we've had this discussion before but I don't think a turnip, say, can be artsinal because it is grown, not made by an artisan. Of course, great, small dedicated farms produce better turnips than commericial entities, but I don't consider it an artisinal product. It could be "organic" or "heirloom" or "grower", but, to me, not artisinal. Cheese can be artisianal. Balsamic vinegar, wine, olive oil, etc.

(Actually I think the previous discussion was about "artisinal" fish, which is simply preposterous.)

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I would like to assume that it meant a skilled tradesperson was deeply involved in the making of the product.  It seems that it is being morphed into "handmade".

Ben

There you go.

Homemade chocolate chip cookies made by a master chocolate chip cookie baker -- artisanal

Oreos -- not artisanal

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We had this discussion on the French board I believe. Or maybe it was on the NYC board.

People use artisanal as a way to describe something that tastes as if it is made by hand or grown with utmost care. In reality, something can be mass produced and commercially made and still be artisanal if it meets the taste requirements. But as a practical matter, people can usually taste the difference betwen a commercially made product and a hand made product and they use artisanal to describe the latter.

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Right, and as opposed to mass-produced. But i think there are (or are going to be) a lot of things described as artisanal that aren't as the word's cachet grows.

Well when I was in Paris last month and waiting on line at the Pierre Herme shop on rue Bonaparte, I started having a conversation with the French couple on line ahead of me. We started chatting about Lionel Poillane (he died the day before) and they said his bread was "mass produced" and that there were other breads in Paris which was better. Their standard of artisanal, I submit, is too rigorous. Pain Poillane would qualify as being artisanal by any reasonable industry wide standard. Even if they have a big factory on the outskirts of Paris that is mass producing the bread.

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Perhaps. But I think it is important to have definitions. I'm not saying mass-produced bread=evil, artisanal=good, just, by definition, not the same thing. I mean, if Kraft started producing "Artisanal American Singles" would that be an honest use of the word, or just a marketing ploy? I don't think it's anal to demand industry standard and definitions. Look at system like the AOC in France or the DOCG in Italy. Though not perfect, they help a new customer make decisions because they represent a set of standards. If everyone were honest, or everyone had time to educate themselves about the products they were buying, then standards and defintions would be less important. Me, I have about eight hours of free time a week so when I buy something that says "artisinal" or "organic" or "free-range" I can only hope there is some truth in it. Though in addition to being anal, i'm also a cynic, so I doubt it.

BTW, I like a re-placed hyphen as much as anyone.

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New Oxford Dictionary: Artisan- a worker in a skilled trade, esp. one that involves making things by hand.

Even if you leave out the "by hand" part, mass-produced doesn't cut it. Workers in mass-production are generally unskilled workers with little or no attachment to a trade. They could just as easily work at Pain Pollaine as Wonder.

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It means the box of pasta is $2 more but has a more interesting shape. It means the cheese could be considered illegal. It means I have the name of the guy who bottled the EVOO on the bottle.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

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Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Well what I am trying to say that artisanal is defined as what the public accepts as being artisanal. That's why the definitions you pull out of your dictionaries don't matter. It's a marketing term that is tied to a level of quality. How they got to that level of quality doesn't matter as long as a producer provides it. It doesn't matter if it is made by hand, only that it tastes like it's made by hand. But as a practical matter, I can't imagine a producer could offer something and call it artisanal unless a material part of his product was made in an artisanal manner :wink:.

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I can't believe you used "marketing term" and "level of quality" in the same sentence! (Actually, I can believe it.) It is precisely it's use as a marketing term which will eventually cause it to be meaningless and, thus, have nothing whatsoever to do with quality. That's why "public acceptance" is useless as a standard of definition. The public accepts far too much. Really Plotnicki, with this reasoning, you yourself might as well start producing "Artisinal American Singles" and save Kraft the trouble.

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It doesn't matter if it is made by hand, only that it tastes like it's made by hand. But as a practical matter, I can't imagine a producer could offer something and call it artisanal unless a material part of his product was made in an artisanal manner :wink:.

Steve, once again you've cleared the muddy water. :rolleyes:

Edited by Nickn (log)
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Schaem - Nobody has proprietary use of the word artisanal. If Kraft wants to make such a cheese, nobody can stop them. But in the meanwhile, before theu ruin the term, we can apply our own reasonable standard. And in reality, today artisanal only means "high quality." That's because most things of high quality are made "artisanally." :wink: But if we take your textbook definition of artisanal, if Kraft has somebody do one small task by hand when fabricating that cheese, they would meet your deifinition. At least my definition means "tastes good and is of high quality."

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