Artisanal food. Those two words have been joined at the verbal hip for the last few years. The definition was always fuzzy—Traditional? High-quality? Hand-crafted? Locally sourced? Socially conscious?—but it's even murkier now as small-scale "artisanal" food makers find success and the appeal of mass production.
As Hanna Raskin writes in SF Weekly:
...the term is being stretched like saltwater taffy, and its limits are being closely monitored by food producers who have to make immediate decisions about if, when, and how to grow their endeavors without dishonoring the principles that first led them to the kitchen. Few artisans are vocally doctrinaire; none of the dozens interviewed for this story were willing to attach their names to the questions they raised about the legitimacy of mechanized equipment, co-packing arrangements, and corporate backing... But the field remains unsettled. When determining the size and scope of their businesses, artisans must place such unwieldy concepts as beauty, social justice, heritage, sustainability, and taste on opposite sides of the same scale. The process has exposed a gamut of intellectual, geographic, and economic tensions in a community reluctant to acknowledge conflict.
Do you consider yourself an artisan? Do you buy artisanal products? How do you define it, and how do you think the term evolves as the "artisanal" brand, whatever it may be, gets bigger?
Read More: The Artisanal Irony: The Mass-Produced Hand-Crafted Food Dilemma at SF Weekly