Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

What do you think "artisanal" means?


Fat Guy
 Share

Recommended Posts

No we're not, and your attempts to subvert the language will not help.

The language has already been subverted with no credit due to me. You can either go with the flow or you can be one of the lone people in the crowd who keeps trying to make the point revolve around language while others are using it in the context of taste. At some point if the use I am describing becomes prevelant, it will become a definition listed in the OED. But I wonder why that surprises anybody since I am sure that many words or terms have come to be defined as a product of how people use them? And that is true even if that is somewhat different from the original definition.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Further in response to Steven's question --

Today's NY Times food section, p. 2 -- in piece about Murray's Cheese Shop opening in the Grand Central Market -- "The new shop specializes in farmhouse and artisanal cheeses...." The article then mentions that Peter Kindel, who used to run the cheese department at Artisanal is working with Murray's owner to refine the selection of cheeses.

Today's NY Times food section, p. 5 - an article entitled "124-Year-Old Bread, Baked Fresh Today." I didn't find the words "artisan" or "artisanal" used but "... especially these days, when most people would sooner pick up an industrially produced Danish at the supermarket than drive out of their way for the more perishable handmade kind." The interesting thing about this bakery in Staten Island is that their output has declined significantly from the days when they made 5,000 Pullman loaves a day; today they make fewer than 100 a day, almost entirely by hand.

(A note on NY Times' inaccuracy -- a small article on [house-made] rillettes says "After pate and foie gras, New York diners seem receptive to this unctuous new treat." Are rillettes really new to people?)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No we're not, and your attempts to subvert the language will not help.

The language has already been subverted with no credit due to me. You can either go with the flow or you can be one of the lone people in the crowd who keeps trying to make the point revolve around language while others are using it in the context of taste. At some point if the use I am describing becomes prevelant, it will become a definition listed in the OED. But I wonder why that surprises anybody since I am sure that many words or terms have come to be defined as a product of how people use them? And that is true even if that is somewhat different from the original definition.

Not sure if your post is artisanal, but I find myself agreeing with your pragmatic approach--this time. :smile:

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

it tastes good/fresh/yeasty/home-made/delicious or whatever adjective you choose.

Not yeasty, britcook! Pure sourdough. No commercial yeast.

Sorry for the ot comment.

Pure sourdough is yeasty. Sourdough is "trapping the wild yeast" that naturally occurs in our environment, maintaining and developing it over time and using some of the old to develop new batches, but it IS yeast.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well to go from the ridiculous to the sublime, if you tasted something and it tasted as if it was made artisanally, how would anyone know if it wasn't? Would you ask for a certfificate of authenticity? And the same question in reverse? If someone claimed something was artisanal and it tasted like crap, would you ask them to prove it?

Edited by Steve Plotnicki (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Artisinal as applied to Cheese or Bread: The producer taking every possible step to insure the best quality of the end product in terms of ingredients, technique, and taste without sacrificing for quantity

Artisinal as applied to Cabernet: The producer taking every possible step to insure a case production of less than 200 and a price of at least $ 75.00 per bottle

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Look, I used to teach English. I've studied linguistics. I know language is a changing thing. But that, in no way, means that "artisanal", obviously derived from the word "artisan", suddenly means "tasty".

OK then tell me this: if I put two identical sausages in front of 100 people, One was labeled "Schoen's Artisinal Mortadella" and the other was labeled "Schoen's Mortadella" and I asked them to vote which one would they expect to taste better, what do you think most would say? Why?

Now let's say the sausage labeled "Schoen's Artisinal Mortadella" was kind of uneven shaped, a little knarled and the other one was perfectly even and symmetrical. Which one would most people vote for as tasting better? Why?

If the results are as I suspect, what would you conclude that the word artisinal communicates to people? What does it evoke?

Is what a word evokes or comunicates to most people important to its "meaning"?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's not in the OED 1971 edition that I have, but that would only be "official" for English-English. I'd defer to Random House Unabridged for American-English, and the 1993 edition does list artisanal as the adjective form of artisan. But there is no further explanation. Ditto Merriam-Webster online.

I like the sound of the word. I'm in favor of its inclusion in the language. I'm just having trouble with usage and interpretation.

We had this discussion somewhere else.

‘Artisanal’ is not in the OED 2nd edition (1989). It is, however, used in the definition of ‘mechanical’* in the planned third edition. I assume this means that it will be included in the 3rd edition. ‘Artisinal’ is found in neither and is, I suspect, a typo.

*Belonging to or characteristic of people engaged in manual work, esp. regarded as a class, artisanal; vulgar, coarse. Now rare.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some people claim they have only to look at the producer of the product to tell the quality of the product. A customer of ours at the market wrote a small book (which I now can't find on my bookshelves) claiming that he had only to look at the farmer at a farmers' market in order to tell whether the produce would be good or not. This is too ridiculous even for me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well to go from the ridiculous to the sublime, if you tasted something and it tasted as if it was made artisanally, how would anyone know if it wasn't? Would you ask for a certfificate of authenticity? And the same question in reverse? If someone claimed something was artisinal and it tasted like crap, would you ask them to prove it?

Ye gods, how many times can you go past the point and still miss it. Something can't taste "as if it was made artisanally". It can be well made and so taste good, but it could also be well made and "taste like crap". The method of production DOES NOT HAVE A DIRECT CAUSAL EFFECT ON THE TASTE. An artisan (I think we have all agreed) is a craftsman, a skilled worker. If he is good at his craft then one would normally expect his output to be a good example of whatever it is he produces whether it be furniture, pottery or cheese. If he is a successful artisan then you can assume that what he produces matches the taste of at least some people, which is because he takes care in the selection of his raw materials and then fashions them properly in response to market demands. So far so good but you can also get an industrial process which takes average materials and then applies science and/or technology to obtain a product which looks/feels/tastes good, maybe even better than the "artisan" product. Can you taste an industrial product? How do you know? Can you believe it's not butter?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Something can't taste "as if it was made artisanally".

I don't know. I agree on your definition of artisan=skilled worker, but I think buyers are wanting things to look rustic, non-mass produced, and looking for products that look and taste artisnal/small-batch, etc. Take Le Pain Quotidien, if I knew nothing about the company and I were to see one of these round peasant (there you go.) loaves, I'd probably conclude it was made in a cozy farmhouse. I'd no idea until recently that this was a huge international company, yet to me its taste conjures up "artisanally-made" and I imagine that's what customers like. Same for the loaves made by the Parisian baker who recently died, yet the bread was made in huge factory-bakeries.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Earlier, in another thread, I asked if anyone knew if the word "artisanal" was controlled in France and I don't recall getting an answer. My guess was that you cannot legally use the word "artisanal" on a label in France unless you complied with a legal definition.

I don't have a complete answer for you, but the term 'cru artisan' is an official term for Bordeaux classification. It ranks below 'cru bourgeois.' Serveral sources say this term is no longer used, but I have seen it used on some 'garargiste' wines very recently. This looks like a case of the winemakers reclaiming a somewhat perjorative term for their own (marketing) use.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

All I know is next time I write a restaurant parody the name of the place is Craftisanal.

What I'm having trouble understanding, quite aside from the method versus result debate, is the question of what precisely defines the method. As Steve Klc said prophetically, isn't it a bit like the distinction between natural and artificial -- easy to say but difficult to establish?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

it tastes good/fresh/yeasty/home-made/delicious or whatever adjective you choose.

Not yeasty, britcook! Pure sourdough. No commercial yeast.

Sorry for the ot comment.

Pure sourdough is yeasty. Sourdough is "trapping the wild yeast" that naturally occurs in our environment, maintaining and developing it over time and using some of the old to develop new batches, but it IS yeast.

This can be kept on topic if we posit that sourdough bread is artisanal, and bread made with commercial yeast is, well, commercial. I am not necessarily subscribing to this position.

Briefly, wild yeast (Sacchraromyces exiges) and commercial yeast (Saccharomyces cerrivasae) are distant cousins. The crucial difference is that wild yeast is comfortable in the acidic environment created by the also-present lactobaccilli, whereas commercial yeast is not. These acids, lactic and acetic, are what sometimes give the bread a sour tang. Tang or not, they are the foundation of the rich, complex taste of great sourdough bread, something that can only be made by a skilled craftsperson. Steve would say it is artisinal because of the resulting taste.

But "yeasty" is not a desirable description of bread, commercial or sourdough. It means that there is too much of the stuff, concealing the true flavors that should be evident in the loaf. In competitions, judges will often first smell a slice of bread. They are looking for that yeasty smell. If it's there, it's a detraction.

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Gee this is getting sillier. Britcook insists that things not made by hand will not taste artisanal. I say that there is no harm to say they could, and to let people's taste buds make the ultimate determination. What I haven't heard him say is why that standard isn't good enough? If it's impossible, then no harm, no foul. But if it is actually possible, what's the problem with that? As Yvonne has pointed out about LPQ, and I've pointed out about LP, some things are on the borderline.

I think there's a further error on his part because not only do we use the term artisanal to describe things that taste like they are made by hand, we use it to exclude things made artisanally but of poor quality. They are not worthy of the distinction. Nobody calls the sauvignon blanc that is so acidic and has so little fruit that it is undrinkable artisanal, even if it is.

Robert S. - I would say it's artisanal because when I tasted it, I would quickly ask how come it tastes that way. And the answer to that question(s) would no doubt disclose that it was fabricated "artisanally."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had a hot sauce business for a few years. We sold them at our stand at a farmers' market. I made six different hot sauces, all different themes on West Indian scotch bonnet peppers. At first I made small batches (around 60 5 oz. bottles at a time), in my licensed kitchen; I washed and stemmed the peppers, and cleaned and peeled large quantities of garlic, onions, carrots and fruits, but used a food processor to roughly chop up the vegetables and a spice grinder to grind the various spice mixes I used, and I used a blender to blend up the cooked ingredients into the hot sauce. I was able to control the final seasoning, consistency and taste, because I could determine how much of the cooking liquid to add to the solids when I blended everything and I could let the sauce sit for a while before I bottled it to adjust final seasoning.

Because of increased demand for the hot sauces, we decided to do two of the sauces at a co-packer. The way a co-packer works, I found out, was that you bring the co-packer the recipe and they make it in quantity for you. The co-packer charged us 25% of what we were selling the sauce for. To make more money, the co-packer tried to sell us the ingredients as well; really industrial junk, such as pre-peeled dead-tasting cloves of garlic, yucky vinegar. We were using all organic produce, really nice spices, good vinegars (adding cane vinegar to some of the sauces), good dark rum. I had to fight with the co-packer to use my own ingredients. I ended up preparing all the ingredients the night before we went to the co-packer. I also stood there the whole time and told him what to do. (You can bet he didn't like me.) The ingredients got cooked in a great big cauldron-like thing for a long time, but never came up to a boil. I'd cooked mine quickly just to a boil and then taken them off heat. Then I had to fight with the co-packer about straining the sauces before bottling to get rid of the pepper peels and seeds in one of the sauces which I wanted to be very smooth, and I ended up doing it myself.

The two hot sauces we decided to bring to the co-packer were the best-selling ones I was making. They had a very fresh, sparkling taste to them. But when the co-packer made them, they weren't really very good. They tasted dull and industrial; also he'd dumped in extra vinegar to increase the number of bottles he could charge us for and the batch ended up tasting too vinegary. We always put out sample bottles for the customers. When we started bringing the two sauces made by the co-packer, along with the four sauces I was still making at home, the homemade ones became more popular than those made by the co-packer. There really was a difference, even though the ingredients were the same and it was the same recipe, same proportions, and the customers could tell.

Edited by Toby (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

What I'm having trouble understanding, quite aside from the method versus result debate, is the question of what precisely defines the method. As Steve Klc said prophetically, isn't it a bit like the distinction between natural and artificial -- easy to say but difficult to establish?

I think it’s easier than that. It’s perfectly clear that General Mills is not an artisanal producer and the farmer's wife churning butter by hand in her dairy is. There may be grey areas between (like Poilane) but that doesn’t mean that the distinction does not exist (Would Wilfrid like to summarize the Sorites paradox?)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Although I haven't read all four pages of this thread, it's clear that it's not clear yet.

Please let me add to the muddle.

To me, an artisan is someone who practices a trade. The guy who put in my kitchen cupboards is considered an artisan in France-especially if he's self employed. If he works for another company, he doesn't consider himself as an artisan. My neighbor is such a person.

The guy who did the tile work in my house was an artisan. Likewise the electrician, plumber, etc..

The word Artisanal can have a negative connotation. In French they say "Cette exploitation est restée artisanale" which means "this exploitation has stayed too artisanale" meaning it's not organized enough or not industrialized.

Bakers in France now have a standard when they hang out a sign saying that their bread is artisanal. This was introduced about two years ago. I can't remember the exact details but supermarkets can no longer claim to have artisanal bread. It's meant to protect the smaller bakeries and give them a reason to charge a bit more for their products.

My dictionary also lists another related word. It's "Artisanalement" and would mean "In a manner artisanale, without machines or organization complex".

How these words are evolving in the US can be completely different than here in France and this doesn't mean that the new meaning is wrong. It's just different.

Obviously this will not be the last word on this subject.

BlackDuff

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...