The Fresh Loaf

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Artisan bread is so over

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varda's picture
varda

Artisan bread is so over

I saw two commercials back to back the other night advertising artisan bread of some sort.   One was Dunkin bagels, the other I can't remember.   Time to move on folks.   What's needed is another word, as this one has now officially lost its meaning.

fermento's picture
fermento

Agree, it's a complete joke what's labelled "artisan", or even "sourdough" in the commercial world.

The only consolation to me is that I never much liked the term "artisan" anyway - seems quite pretentious, despite its good intentions. It's certainly not a term I would ever presume to apply to myself.

And though I hate what's been allowed under the "sourdough" description, I also find the extreme views of some of the purists just as off-putting.

Not that any of it really affects me - I'm free to set my own standards with bread, because I make nearly all of it myself.

 : ))

lazybaker's picture
lazybaker

Someone wrote a blog about it in the blog section of this board:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/28300/davidovich-bakery-files-federal-complaints-halt-deceptive-artisan-claims-asserted-dunkin-

Maybe the companies could get away by saying "artisan-style". 

davidg618's picture
davidg618

I'm sorry, Varda et al, but I can't get excited or self-righteous about who or how others use the word artisan. I bake. I bake at home. I do other things too. That's enough for me.

I also visited the Davidovich Bakery's only blog entry--the one posted above--it seems to me that this single posting on TFL is merely self-serving, and no different than Dunkin Doughnuts advertising.  Furthermore, I consider this single posting in the same category as SPAM, or self-serving advertising usually quickly removed from TFL. Words like artisan and organic, in today's culture, seem to evoke a sense of the "higher ground".  They're just words.

David G

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

Taking the David v. Goliath approach, but instead of a slingshot, lawyers.

It's a marketing campaign.

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

The other commercial I saw was Domino's Pizza.  What got me about that one is they state that you can't change their artisan pizza not even the toppings.  My first thought on that one is a frozen from the factory product.

On the other hand I don't think most people know what artisan is.  If asked I'll bet they will come up with an answer like; Artisan stuff is made by those Artisanian people in one of those foreign countries like Bulgaria or Italy or some place like that.  You know like the Amish....

varda's picture
varda

I had my "purge commercial messages from brain" filter on, so I couldn't remember this one until you jogged my memory.   I think it was the fact they were back to back that pushed me over the edge and got me to make this decidedly ill-advised post.  -Varda

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

I've never been a fan of artisan. Coming up with a descriptive word should be fun.

Now what is it we should call this activity so that no corporate entity can steal our activity identity? Something that comes close to encapsulating what it is "we think we do" or at the very least "attempt to do"...,

Wild-Yeast

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

that word for me would be 'Butcher' but that word is already taken and others may not see their bread making that way :-)

G-man's picture
G-man

As a would-be butcher, I take offense at your use of the term to describe what you do. For one, your work has nothing to do with meat except in the loosest sense, in that your finished product may or may not be used with meat. This would be akin to saying someone who mines iron is a car manufacturer.

For two, if you mean the derogatory definition, you're casting aspersions on a noble profession. To use the word "butcher" as anything other than an honorific for a person who has spent years acquiring the knowledge and ability to provide a smooth and even cut of meat to everyone with the desire and ability to pay for it...it's unconscionable, and you should be ashamed.

I demand you cease and desist immediately.

(psst...not serious)

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

my take on isand66's bacon/cheese bread that has smoked pork jowls in it have you?  I think yo would appreciate it being a real wanna be butcher and all.

It required some butchering on several levels besides mine and at least they were pofessional butchers :-)

Salilah's picture
Salilah

<grin>

I think mine might be more like "brick-maker"!!  The Faux Faux Poilane didn't quite....

:-)

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Dough fondlers? :-)   Corporate would run from that one.

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

You'd have to come up with a slogan that corporations won't touch.

I think Peter Reinhart came closest at the TED Taste 3 conference: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/peter_reinhart_on_bread.html

On bread: "Essentially it's burping and sweating, which is what bread is: yeast, burps, and sweat."

-

Or maybe an allusion to controlled demolition, which is what making bread really is.

freerk's picture
freerk

I hear you Varda.

Here in the Low Countries there is one term none of the "buzz word-throwers" have managed to kidnap (yet?), probably because it was the people itself that came up with it; it settled deep in the language, and seems not all that susceptible to "buzzing". When I tell my better half I'm going to "de warme bakker" (lit: the warm baker), I'm actually saying: "I'm NOT going to get super market bread  that has travelled further than me that day (be it on a conveyor belt and/or half baked in the back of a truck).

Maybe the only thing we can do is throw "buzz words" right back at the corporate world, and call Dunkin's "artisan bagels" (and the likes) something like "cold bread" :-). That should keep them busy for a while, trying to shake off a bad label is so much harder than kidnapping one that works for you :-)

wishing you many warm breads

Freerk

 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

call it 'embalmed bread'.

mcs's picture
mcs

Friends, family and customers will like high quality bread without any fancy schmancy label on it. 
I had a discussion a couple of years ago with a customer who happens to be an old timer from Germany.  He was telling me about the breads he used to get as a youngster growing up and said, "They made great bread back then, and they never called themselves 'Artisans' ".   He commented on how I don't call my breads artisan or artisnal either.  I replied, "Hey, I'm just a baker making bread."  He thought that was kind of funny and nodded his head. 

-Mark

proth5's picture
proth5

but to disagree just slightly...

There was a not too long ago time when job titles for people who actually made things had some weight behind them.  My father, for example, did not feel entitled to call himself a printing pressman until he has passed through his apprenticeship and his journeyman work and got his own set of lables to put on his work.  "Printing Pressman" actually meant something then and printing presses (although they were machines) in the newspaper business took skill to run.  Computerized printing made the title meaningless.  You press a button and the machine does the rest.  Hardly a skilled trade, but they are called "printers" nonetheless.  A world away from the person who still wrangles with an offset press.  And so, in a way, we feel a need to have a word to differentiate the two.

And so, I think, it is with "baker."  There once was a time when it was self evident that a baker was someone who had served an apprenticeship and was skilled in the handing of dough.  Now, there are machines that can make bread without a human touch - or make par baked bread which a human being loads into an oven to finish.  We call the person who loads that par baked bread a baker and I think we look for a word to differentiate between the person who loads par baked breads and the person who actually fabricates them.

The French, bless 'em, with their propensity to regulate anything concerning bread do have a separate title for the person who fabricates bread (and it slips my mind just now) and the one who loads.  Someone enforces that.  Ah, the French!

In your case, your clientelle knows that you are doing the whole process - they know you and can see the care in the breads you make.  They can see the bloodshot eyes and the weary interns (kidding!!!!) and know what you are doing.  It shows in the freshness of your products. 

"Artisan" does, of course, refer to the baker.  Would that it be otherwise, but we cannot wish away progress. I think the term is used - when it is properly used - to put meaning back into the simple title of baker.

Peace.

Pat

lazybaker's picture
lazybaker

The local news last night had a segment on the McBaguette from McDonald's. It's a burger with a baguette bread instead of the bun. The McBaguette is available in France. I wonder if the French are appalled by the McBaguette. 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

they claim they are made by an artisan and are artisanal as a result :-)  The French are fairly good today at keeping the meanings of their words consistent over time - at least they have tried since they recognized that folks were tying to change the meaning to suit their needs.  Sadly, they were only 150 years too late in starting to do this. 

The problem with changing meaning to words, to suit a situation or time in history, is that soon we can no longer communicate with each other since we can't even agree on what any word means anymore.  That is what is really sad. 

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

"The French, bless 'em, with their propensity to regulate anything concerning bread do have a separate title for the person who fabricates bread (and it slips my mind just now) and the one who loads.  Someone enforces that.  Ah, the French!"

Had to laugh when I read this ...(my apologies to those whom I may be offending) but you could replace "French" with "labor unions" and the sentence would still make perfect sense:

"The labor unions, bless 'em, with their propensity to regulate anything concerning bread do have a separate title for the person who fabricates bread (and it slips my mind just now) and the one who loads.  Someone enforces that.  Ah, the labor unions!"

If I had a nickel for each time a union member said, "Yes, I'd like to work only 5 or 10 minutes longer and the job would then be done ...but I'd have to file a grievence if you ask me to since the contract does not allow overtime" and other such things ...I remember back in the '80s when The Boeing Company set a record for the production of aircraft during one particular month ...why?  Unions were on strike and the engineers entered the factories and learned how to build airplanes and then built them ...doing whatever they had to do when they had to do it ...no scheduling of the "right guy" who had the "right job title" and all that.

Sorry to the union members out there!  I know that unions bring a lot to the table, e.g. skilled and certified workers who truly do great work, but the efficiency factor in how things work really hurts sometimes... (And yes, I've personally been a union member, always a Teamster, several times over).

Brian (hides his head in shame...)

 

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

I love the word and what it implies.  Hard enough to bake a decent loaf of bread the old-fashioned way, so why not consider ourselves artisans.

 

G-man's picture
G-man

I like both your posts, freerk and Mark. You make excellent points.

For my part, when I need to distinguish, I either say store-bought or homemade. If further distinction is needed, I'll name the store, brand, or the person making it.

Works easy enough for my friends and family.

bnom's picture
bnom

if you're baking at home, but where does that leaves commercial bakers?  "Handmade" might work (less pretentious than hand crafted). 

How about "primitive"?  

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

'Hand Crafted Bread Made by Real Artisans'  That gets rid of the machines and those that use them to make mass produced bread while still calling themselves  - Artisan.  Real Artisans can't make bread for the masses commercially.  They have to be small scale because you can only craft so much bread by hand - unless you have an army of bakers.

It doesn't bother me that these folks bake commercially using machines, I use machines too.   I am sure they make some fine bread using them - I do.  The masses have to eat well at an affordable price. But it doen't fit the definition of artisan and they should not claim it is Artisan bread no matter how good it looks or tastes.

Today, I am making baggies without machines because txfarmers 36 hour baggies don't say to use any, except an electric oven........ ooopppssss!!!  So no artisan label for me today;-)

G-man's picture
G-man

So we're at the point now where we have to rub the dough in our hands really fast to cook it, if we want to call our product 'artisan'?

Well, it's a good way to relieve stress, I suppose.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

wood fired ovens, stoked by an oven artisan who cut down the tree in a sustainable way:-)  No hand wringing involved but the stress remains.

Mukoseev's picture
Mukoseev

How about "Simple Bread" ?  Eventhough the steps, techniques and procedures are anything but.... the ingredients for the most part are.  That makes it kind of an inside joke for those of us who know how complicated it can be.

varda's picture
varda

Ok.   I'll answer my own question.   Postmodern Bread solves just about every labeling problem noted above.   I think I'm going to go with it.   -Varda

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

Is that what you mean by postmodern?  Because I thought we were living in the modern age now.  Probably most people at any time think they are.  Isn't that the meaning of modern?  *smiling*

Salilah's picture
Salilah

Bad memories of my MSc in Organisational Psychology and trying to remember which was post-modern, and what the difference was between ontology and epistomology (and what's worse, I had to ask the OH to remind me what the words were!!)

"Ontology - there is a truth out there" and "Epistomology - you can discover it" - "I think that's the right way round" he says...

How about Ontological Bread?

<grin>

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

Oh hey!  Ontological Bread ... I like it.  The truth is left conveniently blank, thus encompassing all possible breads. 

Epistomological Bread would presume an ability in consumers to discern truth, which may or may not be the case.  Thus this entire thread.  *wicked grin*

louie brown's picture
louie brown

I never bake more than a few pounds of bread in a week. Each bake gets the best attention I can give it. As a very small home baker, my bread is custom made by definition. I would call it bespoke.

The peasants who did and still do carry their loaves to the community oven would have no idea what an artisan is, but the adopters of the term would like you to picture them when you hear the word. If instead they would like you to picture a bread artist, at work by him or herself in an atelier somewhere, that's just silly. The word has been coopted and really has no useful meaning in this context.

proth5's picture
proth5

I will disagree just a bit (Me? Disagree?)

There is a very long tradition of trade guilds.  I think that at least some of the peasants carrying their loaves to the community oven would be familiar with those who had gone through an apprenticeship to become a recognized tradesperson - or - indeed - an artisan.  Having perhaps limited education and vocabulary they may not have used the word, but the recognition of the difference between say, a farmer and a silversmith would have been there.

And bakers and millers as recognized skilled trades goes back quite a ways also.  Historically baking carried some heavy regulations and again, while the title was only "Baker" one can equate a skilled manual trade with artisan.

Which is why calling a bread "artisan" is quite odd (as you said).  The bread has no skills...

louie brown's picture
louie brown

But as you know, that's not the point. Yes, the closely regulated guilds would have been expressive of training and quality control and yes, they could well have been regarded as artisans, although they would have been called "baker," as you say, which is a term of respect as well as a description.

I think the point here is that the word artisanal or artisan has been overused in the service of commerce to the point where it has no meaning. This is not the same as aying that there is no such thing as an artisan. There is. But when it gets to Dunkin' Donuts, even the radio ads say "what's an artisan?'" or words to that specific effect.

Both my wife and I lived at different points in our lives among people who carried bread to the community oven. Believe me, these people wouldn't have known an artisan from a hole in the ground, but they would indeed have known that the "baker" was a skilled tradesman. Now, it is the word itself that is being traded upon. 

eta: I will stay with bespoke for what I do at home, a couple of loaves at a time. I'm proud of the quality and I think the word suits the individualized approach to baking, which itself is a function of certain modern freedoms that gove me the time to do what I do with the dough. Others may feel otherwise.

proth5's picture
proth5

that "artisanal" is overused and often inaccurate is one with which I will agree.  Like "professional" in front of every piece of kitchen equipment ever produced...  Let's not start that.

I belong to an organization whose "serves the needs of the artisan baking community" so I have a little personal agenda around the proper use of the word "artisan."  And in the context that I defend it, the "artisan" is really there to distinguish those who fabricate the bread from those who may just load a par baked product in an oven.

Again, in my tiny mind, the baker must be the artisan, and the bread (cheese/butter/yogurt) is just bread.

But I like "bespoke" - although I pretty much bake what I want and then other people seem to eat it up - so baking to order is hardly what I do...

I think we are in violent agreement...

Peace.

Pat

louie brown's picture
louie brown

I like that, Pat, and I appreciate your distinction between makers and loaders, under which circumstances "artisan" would apply usefully.

My bespoke baking is much like yours, what I want. It's just that the scale on which I bake both allows and forces me to concentrate on detail and "custom construction," as it were.

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

I'll raise Varda's "Post Modern" to include "Primitive" yielding "Primitive Post Modern" or "Primitive Post Modernist Baker". This places it squarely into the "art" realm - psychologically indicating works by an individual thus denying a moniker from the corporate clutch. 

Slow Bread [after the slow food movement and freerk's comment] also comes to mind - matching that with Primitive [the opposite of "Post Modern"] yields "Primitive Slow Bread Baker". Come to think of it that explains how I learned to make the stuff [with the use of appropriately placed commas of course]...,

Wild-Yeast 

louie brown's picture
louie brown

"primitive" as an almost atavistic approach to the naming convention, but I never warmed up to the slow food thing. Again, the people, the cultures, the impetuses behind slow food would have no idea what slow food is.

 

I don't care for "post modern," which implies that "modern" had an end. After more than thirty years in the arts, I still don't know what it means, except as a term of convenience.

eta: this is one of the most interesting discussions here since I've been participating, more than two years. (I know, I'm still a newbie.)

Salilah's picture
Salilah

I quite like the Slow Food idea - as opposed to packaged, pre-prepared, convenience etc etc - it does sort of make sense to me... 

varda's picture
varda

and further postmodern in the sense of no rules, no arbiters, no guild, fragmentation of practice and meaning.  In fact the opportunity for a huge outpouring of creativity such as you see on this site, a blending and cross fermentation of categories, etc.     To step back a moment, DA is correct to look back at definitions, but I would assert that the word artisan as applied to bread was meant strictly to make a distinction between industrial and non-industrial bread.    However that is not even a bright line.   And we as home/small/medium-but-getting-larger bakers are hugely dependent on industrial production if only for our flour or our wheat or its transportation thereof.   So maybe we should just be crystal clear - we - most of us are making non-industrial bread for effectively the last mile only, which is why the Dunkin Donuts nonsense is so hugely irritating - they are even trying to take that last mile away from us.   But that's a negative.   Something very positive is taking place here.   And something that could only happen at this time, in this era, and never at any time in the halcyon past however rosy it may look.   -Varda

gerhard's picture
gerhard

I like the word artisanal, and the German fellow that said when he was a kid they never called them artisans and that because they called them Handwerker which essentially has the same meaning.  To me artisans are the polar opposite of mass production.

Gerhard

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

I would have to agree.  When I tried to explain to my husband what the term "artisan bread" meant to me, I came up with mass-produced being the opposite.  This was after I chuckled at some of the posts and he wanted to know what was funny.  I  particularly enjoyed the one about rubbing the dough with the hands quickly enough to cook it without an oven.  *laugh*  But as I have most often seen the term used, artisan breads are the ones made from only flour, water, and salt, and baked without pans to be crusty and full of holes.  I prefer a loaf that I can slice to make ordinary sandwiches so I add a bit of oil and dairy to mine, and I use a pan.  It is definitely not mass-produced, however, in that it is leavened with a home-grown sourdough culture and made with freshly stone-ground whole wheat and whole rye.  I am not ashamed of it.  I call it ... My Own Bread.  *grin*

Salilah's picture
Salilah

ROFL!!!

(tried to explain to OH, which sort of worked - but honestly, I was giggling massively here!!)

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

I've reversed my opinion.

I support the use of the word 'artisanal' by any and all, including Dunkin' Donuts.

Why?

Exposure.

There are people who seek out artisanal goods now: (a) those who know good food and seek it out and (b) those who can afford it. Real artisanal is expensive. You buy it because you can afford it and/or you because you value it.

What happens when the term 'artisanal' is democratized?

The concern: If any product can be labeled 'artisanal', then every product can be labeled 'artisanal'. (i.e. If the fake artisanal bagel costs $2 and the real artisanal bagel costs $4, price pressure will force the real artisanal down. Oh no!)

But will it?

The reality: Those who previously bought the real artisanal will continue to buy the real artisanal. Nothing changes. (They might try fake artisanal, but the lack of quality won't sway any significant number of them from the real.) Those that bought the real artisanal because they could afford it will continue to buy it because they can. Again, nothing changes. Neither group will suddenly flock from real artisnal to fake artisnal.

So what does change?

The masses cometh! 

Of the masses, the majority will not be able to afford the real artisanal, so will opt for the fake artisanal (see Panera Bread), but a percentage of the masses will be able to afford it, and that percentage will be a tremendous benefit to the real artisanal movement (AND to the fake).

Ex. before:

  • 1,000 customers real artisanal.
  • 0 customers fake artisanal.

Ex. after:

  • 8,000 customers real artisanal.
  • 200,000 customers fake artisanal.

Those artisans who try to compete with fake, who succumb to the price pressure, will fail.

Those artisans who maintain their standards will thrive, but they won't call themselves artisans.

(I rather suspect the increased patronage of real artisanal will counteract the price pressure from fake artisanal. It could even inflate the market. Increase in customers = increase in demand = increase in price!)

ddarathorn's picture
ddarathorn

To make Artisan bread (or bagels,pizzas, etc.) wouldn't you first have to catch and grind up a bunch of Artisans?

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

I'm sure you can buy an adapter for a mill to grind up artisans. I'm imagine it would look something like on of those wood chippers in Fargo, MN. Wouldn't it just be easier to preferment them? Let the yeasts and bacteria make goodness from the surplus of their value?

leslie c's picture
leslie c

I'm pretty sure this is why people flock to Starbucks and Whole Foods. Not because of artisanal foods, but because people want the better quality and will pay more for it. In fact, they assume that expensive is better and will pay more for expensive goods assuming that it is more expensive for a good reason. This is why they've attached the word "artisanal" to breads sold at Dunks and Panera--sure, lots of people would pay more money for artisanal bread, if you could convince them that it was expensive for a good reason.

 

But do you really want to make it into a commercial venture? I'm just baking in my kitchen. I give loaves of bread away, many times several in a week. bread=love. 

lazybaker's picture
lazybaker

We were given some bread from Trader Joe's. I just noticed the bag said,"Artisan Bread". 

I find that customers are pretty loyal to their local or favorite bakeries. My father bought the baguette from the local bakery here. The price increased a bit (thanks to inflation), but it was totally worth it. 

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

about artisan  :)    If artisan doesn't work,  let's call our home-made, hand-kneaded breads,  "made the old-fashioned way", using only hands and a hot steamy oven.

;)

anna

 

varda's picture
varda

Here's what I have to say about it - oy vey.   This is almost as bad as my "bread machine attribution irritation" post but in that case most of the anger was directed against me.  But I apologize to the community for having unwittingly triggered some very unfortunate and unwarranted remarks.    (I guess I can take credit for the really insightful comments as well, of which there have been many.)  The following quotation (Abraham Lincoln?) keeps jumping into my mind - don't know why:  "Sometimes it is better to keep silent and be thought a fool, than to speak up and leave no doubt."  

louie brown's picture
louie brown

was to start a good conversation, Varda. In a room as big as TFL, a discussion like this one is bound to have some argumentation and some rough edges. On balance, I found it interesting and worthwhile.

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

I was embroiled in that thread too, wasn't I?  *chuckling*  I don't know you very well but we often seem to think alike.

One of my favorite quotes from my late father-in-law: "If you argue with a fool, there are two fools arguing."

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

Controversy.  The phrase - "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." has also been attributed to Mark Twain.  The Mutating Quote attributed at least four variations of the same phrase to the eminently quotable Twain. But, a number of other authors also get attributed for the saying, including: Abraham Lincoln, George Eliot, Groucho Marx, Albert Einstein, and a mysterious figure named Silvan Engel.  Sometimes it's attributed to "Lincoln, quoting Silvan Engel." It also gets attributed to Oscar Wilde and Woodrow Wilson.

But the earliest known reference, at least partially,  goes to Proverbs 17:28 in the Míshlê Shlomoh in the Tanakh that says "Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding." 

 It is assumed by many that either Twain or Lincoln used this as a basis to add the last part of the saying since bothe were keen Bible readers.  Twain seems to hold the edge among scholars though, even though none can be sure, since the twist humor was his hallmark and  forte.  It seems a classic Twain line but.......it came from Proverbs as its base most can agree.

 

 

Salilah's picture
Salilah

I love this thread!

I don't read "anger" or "unfortunate or unwarranted remarks" - though perhaps they have been removed?

This is just a great subject, and fun to join in!

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

Some have been removed, which is unfortunate because there were some good points made in a couple of the removed posts.  So it goes.  *shrug*

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

person "Baker" got elevated to "Artist."  (When did that happen?)   And now the "Artist" gets upset when the meaning threatens to return to "Baker?" 

Or is this lawsuit the case of a "Baker" who has been giving off airs of being an "Artist" and is offended when another "Baker" also wants to give off airs.   ...interesting.   

 

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

A hipster, if I dare define it (how dare you!), is a subculture of people that reject all things mainstream: if it's mainstream, it has neither value nor merit.

I guess that makes today's artisans the hipsters of the bread world.

I am the counterculture! Get thee behind me, mainstream! This right before the realize, "Mein gott! I have become my parents!"

gmabaking's picture
gmabaking

And all this time I thought that described someone who baked and ate a lot of wonderful bread!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Artisans are hands-on craft folk who (started out) got left in flour dust during the moderization of bakeries because they could not meet demand economically for the growing population, esp if the bread was considered mediocre.  Here come the masses again...  There came a divide... production bread for the masses and artisanal bread for the soul which cost more.   Weather you're on the giving end or the receiving end, a handmade loaf has different "vibes." 

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Ok, call it "artisan", charge an outrageous markup for it, make your customer think they know the difference through their social networking friends who are tweeting and facebooking their "very in" buzzed out experiences at your venue creation - a sure bet to raise a billion dollars going public....,

Sounds vaguely familiar.

Wild-Yeast

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

Sounds like someone didn't get in on the ground floor of FB   (kidding)  :)

anna

 

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

I am a part of another community that is big about labeling people and people needing labels for themselves. That leads to definitions of labels.  That leads to arguments of definitions.  That leads to that's my label and you can't use it because I'm special and your not.

I think you can all see this trend in this thread.  Perhaps it's a human nature thing or a society trend but in the end nobody wins and everyone loses and the losses can be great.  I know this from personal experience.

After many years of dealing with my personal labels I have realized I'm better off without them.  In turn I think bread needs the same respect and remove all the labels and stick with names that have no arguing points. 

I suggest this thread stops here, before someone gets their feelings hurt or losses respect.

Sincerely, Faith

 

 

wmtimm627's picture
wmtimm627

Most of what people call "artisan" bread is what I would rather call "rustic" bread. Then again, people that see rustic usually think of something that doesn't follow a specific formula or recipe. I'm happy just making my own bread at home occasionally.

Billybob

gerhard's picture
gerhard

This discussion of what constitutes an artisan is really pointless since there is no legal definition no matter what we agree upon the result is pointless.  However there are legal definitions for products such as chocolate, butter, cream etc and lots of items skirt the definition by referring to products as chocolatey, buttery or something similar resulting in people being sold an inferior quality product than the name may imply.

Gerhard

G-man's picture
G-man

What it boils right down to is what you do and do not want to think about. I am absolutely convinced of this simple fact.

You see certain buzz words and you attach meaning to those words. Depending on your interest in the subject and level of knowledge regarding the subject, you may attach different levels of significance to those words.

I see this a lot when I talk to my friends. They're into a lot of the same things I am, which is why we're friends, but when they get going on subjects I'm not interested in I completely zone out. They attach descriptors and everything that I recognize, but since I'm not into those things I have no grounds for comparison and can't argue the merits or flaws behind their thoughts. I listen, because I like how they think and listening to them argue is interesting to me (again, that's why we're friends), but ultimately they're speaking a foreign language. If/when I want to get into that thing they were talking about, I'll consult them and start to pick up on the terms and I'll buy what they use the best terms to describe based on what I've heard from them.

They turn around and do the same thing. They LOVE Panera bread. I don't get it, I can buy better bread at the store and of course I can make stuff better than both. But they don't care to think about it. It isn't their thing. So they go with what they know of good.

When I bought my last car I did so because I fell in love with it. I treat it well and it treats me well. I can change the oil, change the brakes, change the filters, change the belts, etc. General maintenance work. I couldn't begin to tell you anything about the more complicated inner workings of the thing. I have friends who can, and who have tried to tell me that my car isn't the best car I could get for my money. This is something they're incredibly passionate about. I don't care. I like my car, it gets me where I want to go, and I have fun driving it. I don't care if it isn't an artisan car.

I'll keep making my homemade bread, they'll keep building their custom cars or their custom gaming computers or whatever. When I have a question regarding their areas of expertise, I'll get their input, but ultimately I don't want to think about it. I just don't care enough about it.

Some folks are that way about food. I'd wager a lot of people on this very board feel that way about a lot of things having to do with cooking. I can go on for days about the ins and outs of my meal plan for the rest of the month or what I'm gonna do for the next big event in my life, and while some would be interested, more than a few eyes would glaze over. Some folks feel that same way about bread and baking. They just don't even care to think about it.

There should be internal standards, I feel strongly about that, but I can't fault someone who doesn't. The best we can do is find some kind of internal consistency within our own community.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Okay. I'm convinced. I'll carefully guard against ever using the terms "artisan" and "artisinal" again with reference to bread or bakers. I enjoy a productive argument, but I'm concluding this subject is not conducive to such.

These terms clearly refer to a process of production, even if we cannot agree on the exact characteristics of an artisanal process. But what matters to me is not the process but the outcome: Good bread or not good bread. And the ultimate criterion is what the bread is like to eat.

I've had TFL member's label some of my breads "atisinal," as a compliment (I think), based on their appearance. I've never had anyone compliment me on a loaf  after eating it by saying it it tasted "artisinal." "Good" - yes. "Wonderful" - yes. "Delicious" - yes. "Fantastic" - occasionally. "This bread really tastes artisinal!" - Not once.

I do think that breads baked with individualized attention to each batch of dough and each loaf of bread are more likely to be delicious than those produced "untouched by human hands." But how much mechanical aids are used by the baker isn't what matters. It's the result the baker gets when using the machines, and a lot of this relies on attention, attitude, knowledge and skill acquired through education, training and experience. 

I regret the degraded usefulness of words. I am happy and optimistic about the increased value placed on good bread. And I'm grateful to the growing community of both professionals and serious home bakers who are committed to producing it and generous in helping others learn to do so.

David

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Well said, David

Elagins's picture
Elagins

And that's the general dumbing down of what passes for culture in the good ol' US of A. For example, it's become stylish to deplore GMOs and their  growing share of America's diet, but (a) few, if any, of us can tell whether our foods contain GMOs, or, more to the point are (b) unwilling to do anything beyond *deplore.* In much of the rest of the world, and especially in Europe, the adulteration of food is taken seriously - not just by consumers, but by governments, which hasten to place strict limits on the use of substances and techniques that are SOP for Big Food.

We live in an age where individual producers are either forced out because they can't compete economically or are coopted into invisibility, as in the case of "artisan," etc.

A couple of thousand years ago, Confucius articulated a principle called "correct naming," which reflected his recognition that words shape reality (in my own paraphrasing, "if there's no word for a thing, it doesn't exist"). So what we have is fast food outfits imposing a degraded meaning to a word (=the thing itself) in order to piggyback on the ur-meaning, which conveys a richer, more positive reality. Think about it as Gresham's Law of Food, i.e., debased currency drives good currency out of circulation (just think about what happened when the US replaced silver coinage with alloy, if you can remember back that far).

So although the TFL community recognizes both the original value of the word "artisan/artisanal" and has access to the things those words represent, the issue is less significant than it is for the average consumer who goes to Einstein Bros./Noah's and calls the things they sell "bagels," or goes to Jack in the Box and gets a gut bomb on an "artisanal ciabatta roll" - which, of course, is neither artisanal nor ciabatta, but it sounds like more than it turns out to be.

So I would argue that we're in a race with the language degraders to preserve not just the things our words represent, but the broader public awareness of how Big F00d and the other Bigs manipulate us into blind consumption of the crap they produce. Great for shareholders and senior management; lousy and exploitative for everyone else.

Stan Ginsberg
www.nybakers.com
www.insidethejewishbakery.com

davidg618's picture
davidg618

but what's a GMO?

David G

 

leslie c's picture
leslie c

think he's talking about genetically modified foods: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_food

Elagins's picture
Elagins

aka Frankenstein Food (I just made that up, I think)

Stan

wmtimm627's picture
wmtimm627

People want to sound like they know something spectacular, so they use acronyms that most people kon't know, nor would they care to. I could look it up right here on the web if I wanted to, but why?

Like Floyd has already stated, this thread has become a very large waste of time for all (or should I say. MOST) of us!

Billybob

leslie c's picture
leslie c

David foster Wallace (or, should I say DFW?;) used acronyms as a part of his artistic expression, and to be ironic and funny:)

Salilah's picture
Salilah

I didn't get the feeling in any of the posts that "people" were trying to show off - sorry, but honestly I didn't!

It is too easy I think sometimes for internet discussions (or emails etc) to come over with the wrong intent, or that we read different things into them as the visual cues are not there (smiles, winks, serious expressions, anger etc etc)... 

I'm enjoying this thread so far - though as I'm reading it from top down and replying as I go, it does feel a bit as if it is turning a bit negative - which is OK.  The easiest solution - don't read it, I guess? 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

for simply making the TFL community aware that the traditional and historic (for thousands of years) meaning of artisan was much different than what people think it is today.  I am gun shy about expressing other opinions based on facts that may be contrary in thought to such a TFL luminary as yourself.   But, I have found you to be a fair, decent and honest man who is thoughtful and willing enough to listen to other opinions without attacking them personally.  So I will give it one more chance and hope for the best.  I hope that you may change your mind and help us in our humanitarian work around the world.  Folks like you are desperately needed to work with us rather than against us.  your words mean much to many and we struggle enough with ignorance in the world as it is.  I will pick just one of your topics but the one that is most hurtful to our cause.  Here goes.

Money, as debased as it is now, with the Treasury printing presses running 24 hours a day every day to eventualy pay for the 5 trillion in debt we just borrowed over the past 3 years, more than we borrowed the first 225 years of our existence as a country, the dollar, as money, is what makes the world go round.  A lack of money by billions of people makes them poor and forces them to live in abject poverty.  They would all likely be dead if it were not for genetic engineering of food stocks by great men and women scientists around the world - especially in America.  People have been genetically engineering foodstocks for centuries and we could all be dead , or never born otherwise.

46 million people live on what used to be called food stamps in the most prosperous country in the world and they are 100 to 1,000 times richer than the poor in the rest of the world.  But, our own American poor, could not exist without genetically engineered food stocks that supplies them with cheap and abundant food called crap bread by some.  But they also, as poor as they are,  can afford to eat Frankenfood, a word coined many many years ago by the way, at McDonalds or any number of other crappy fast food places.  I donlt eat there but I'm not poor either.

Some of the greatest humanitarians in the entire history of the world were plant and animal geneticists and just one alone, a now passed friend of mine that I had the pleasure to work with in South America, Africa and Asia through Unesco and USAID to feed the poor was instrumental in saving poor peoples lives.   They say he personally saved a billion lives with his genetically modified food stocks which he created for the express  purpose of feeding the poor of the world. Even if you think the numbers saved are inflated by 100% a half billion saved is astounding and exemplary.  He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work, as have other geneticist, and no one ever deserved a Nobel more in my book.

His wikipedia bio follows.  I hope that you will take some time to ponder what I have written and understand that I wish you no personal ill nor am I trying to make you look bad in any way.  I too fealt the same way as you once.  I was ignorant and oh so wrong.   But I didn't know it until I went out to what I call the 'real world', where there is no fantasy world of American and Disnyland, to see real poor folks trying to feed themselves and failing and to try to get their corrupt governments to help feed them and to get the local farmers to plant genetically modified plants that were disease resistant, drought tolerant and 2 to 4 times more productive.

Without the genetic modification successes produced by these great scientists, I believe these  poor people would be dead.  They deserve better even if it is crap bread and Frankenfood  - becsuen that is all we are willing to allow them to eat or can afford to pay for.  But you are right in so many other ways.  Americans do not know that nearly 100% of the rice grown in the world is genetically engineered as is the field corn used to feed livestock - to keep meat prices low enough for poor people not to starve to death because they cannot afford it.  Thanks for your time Stan and best wishes.

Norman Ernest Borlaug (March 25, 1914 – September 12, 2009[1]) was an American agronomist, humanitarian, and Nobel laureate who has been called "the father of the Green Revolution".[2] Borlaug was one of six people to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.[3] He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian honor.

Borlaug received his Ph.D. in plant pathology and genetics from the University of Minnesota in 1942. He took up an agricultural research position in Mexico, where he developed semi-dwarf, high-yield, disease-resistant wheat varieties.

During the mid-20th century, Borlaug led the introduction of these high-yielding varieties combined with modern agricultural production techniques to Mexico, Pakistan, and India. As a result, Mexico became a net exporter of wheat by 1963. Between 1965 and 1970, wheat yields nearly doubled in Pakistan and India, greatly improving the food security in those nations.[4] These collective increases in yield have been labeled the Green Revolution, and Borlaug is often credited with saving over a billion people worldwide from starvation.[5] He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 in recognition of his contributions to world peace through increasing food supply.

Later in his life, he helped apply these methods of increasing food production to Asia and Africa.[6]

EvaB's picture
EvaB

since we as humans have been genetically modifying food since agriculture started, by slecting seed and planting it, because it was larger, or more drought resitant etc, but there is another side to GMO foods, which isn't selecting for better yeild or growth in poor soil etc, that is the Dow Chemical modified foods that are seeded with a gene that isn't of food value but of value to the farmer (or he is led to beleive its valuable) which is that the food grain etc, is resistant to Dow and other chemical producers of  pestisides, a particular pesticide, herbicide etc! Hence the poor Saskachewan farmer who saves seeds from his non GMO seeded feild and is hit with a suit from Dow for STEALING their patented GMO SEED! Because in their tests (and who knows how they tested this) the GMO seed wasn't supposed to cross with non GMO seed and allow the resistance to be passed along, because then they can't sell their patented seed at premium prices (maye its Artisan seeds???)  because any Tom,  Dick  or Kim Chong can grow the pestiside resistant seeds and not pay the price!

Modifying seeds for larger seeds, or growth is one thing, but putting apple genes in wheat to grow wheat grains the size of apples is another, same with chemical resistances and other genetic modifications its sort of like putting tiger DNA into embroyos, to give the resulting children super speed and tiger stripes, is it really necessary and what happens if one of those resulting children goes rouge tiger?

 

leslie c's picture
leslie c

But do you think that just by calling it artisanal that jack in the box is actually fooling the public into believing that they're eating artisanal bread? I assumed that most people believed if they were going to a fast food chain they had accepted that they were eating crap, regardless of the label, picture, advertising. One cannot eat food in a plastic booth beneath flourescent lighting and still convince themselves they're eating good food in a good restaurant--yes? Am I naive?

Elagins's picture
Elagins

The "artisan" fallacy may be patent to sophisticates like the TFL community and other committed foodies, but I believe the distinction is lost on a lot of other folks whose idea of Sunday dinner is Denny's or CoCo's after church.  I may be too deeply cynical (and arrogant) here, but I believe that for a lot of those folks, JitB's "artisan ciabatta" is the closest they'll ever come to hand-crafted bread.

Stan

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

I used to believe that everyone wanted to feel that they had earned their good fortune.  It came as a distinct disappointment to me to discover that a fair number of people in the world get a thrill out of feeling that they got something good that they didn't really deserve, especially if it is at someone else's expense.  They enjoy feeling more clever than those who worked for their rewards.  I confess not to understand it.  I can understand feeling lucky, but not this other thing.

Likewise, there may be a fair number of people who are willing to believe that they are getting high quality nosh for a low price, served in a dump, because they are in on some secret.  And to be fair, there are those exceptions where good quality food for a fair price is served on plastic tables under poor lighting.  Those places don't mass advertise, though.

The lowest common denominator is probably lower than any of us here can fully comprehend.

 

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

By commandment of popular [and not so popular opinion] it is proclaimed that the word "Artisan" and "Artisnal" be stricken from every book and tablet, stricken from all pylons and obelisks, stricken from every monument of the Land. Let the names "Artisan" and "Artisnal" be unheard and unspoken, erased from the memory of men for all time [Lexical borrowing's from Cecil B. DeMille].

Wild-Yeast

 

Breadandwine's picture
Breadandwine

I'm running a 5 week course in the Autumn, offering a range of different breads.

I'm planning to include 'Artisan breads' along with fruited, sweetened, savoury breads, etc.

Seems to me, ATM, here in the UK, the term does distinguish between mass-produced breads and bread made with some craft input. 

(Although I do like 'Warm bread' versus 'Cold bread', some explanation would be needed since these terms are not part of our culture.)

So, in the absence of the Dunkin Doughnut phenomenon, I guess I'll still use the phrase 'Artisan bread'! :-D

Cheers, Paul 

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

...but only when I want to have a conversation about the topic–which is not often, as "bread" in America is something you put sandwich fixins' on.

"You're just going to eat a baguette like that? Just the bread?"

(Nods and then walks away.)

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

of today's baguettes right now with ripe double cream brie and another quarter waiting with tomato / basil feta and apple slices.  Already ate a quarter plain, your favorite way and another quarter toasted with butter my favorite way ;-)   A simple yet delicious dinner - and healthy too since these baggies had hemp seeds in them!  Nothing like fresh baggies anyway you like em - and then some other way too if you have enough bread to get there :-)

Have to admit I love to partially use all the bread baked around here into sandwiches one way or another - it's a must.  Just grew up that way and still love sabdwiches.  But, the sandwiches are way better today because of the quality of the bread we bake and all the great sandwich stuff we can put on on good bread today.  5o years ago, high quality ingredients and the knowledge to make good bread just weren't available in the Ozark Mountains or about probably 80% of the USA for that matter.  Not even sure they are available today in the Ozarks :-)

fermento's picture
fermento

I'm glad some of the more heated posts have been deleted from this "lively" thread.

Just shows the futility of trying to sum up a whole world with one term like "artisan" or anything else. Because you will be opening up that world to the participants of your course, they will begin to understand the benefits of that world, and will then be free to explore and expand that world, which becomes their own. And that's what's important, not arriving at a rigid definition of one word. Words are highly overrated anyway...  : ))

sam's picture
sam

Probably I am sounding like a dork but...

Turn on your love-light -- let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.   :)

(Words do have meaning, but all artists use tools too.  it is what makes us human.  both thought, mind, and physical capability.)

 Edited:

And *soul*.    Isn't that what we're talking about really?    Gar.  I will go back to lurking.

sam's picture
sam

Let it shine upon your soul, God willing.


 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

a big producer couldn't also use.    "quality controlled bread"  "ingredient aware bread"  "home baked"  (could be the home town of the factory) or "self made" (yes, the factory made it themselves)  "formulated with love" so I don't think there is a correct name without it being taken over by someone else.  It all comes down to advertising ideas, propaganda and popular words that sell.  If you sell your bread, this is not new and it is worth the time and effort to outsell your competition with display, names, wrappings, location, or offering an unusual product or something no one else has dared to bake or to make it look that way.  

I do think it interesting that many of us try to stay away from production type sandwich bread but actually it has just as much a place in hand made bread as all the others.  I am aware that some breads are just too time consuming and contain expensive ingredients or handling that make planning a headache for mass production.  The beauty is that we can also achieve a simple white bread at a reasonable cost and yet have much better taste than most breads at a supermarket.  We are also blessed with the baking aromas and have the advantage of flexible planning.

Armed with the Internet, there is such a large variety of bread recipes available that the home baker is overwhelmed. ("Where do I begin?")  Variety of ingredients and availability has so expanded in the last 10 years!    Ideas, different methods, creativity...  home baking is just not the same anymore.  It is more available and it comes with possible social contact.  It is even fun!

I just hope these posts result in some quality improvements in cold mass-production bread.  

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

and was on its forum with the Motley Fool on AOL.  The customary amount of messages per day on Iomega, whether to buy, sell or whatever, was 4000 !!  TFL with its artisanal breads is not far behind, grin grin

anna

Bee18's picture
Bee18

Allow me to add few more words along this very funny and instructing "dialogue"...

In French those two words are complementary or better said they come from the same root. They both describe the opposite of mass production of anything made by machines pre formated, where the use of the men's hand is very little. In France you can see Boulangeries with the title "Boulanger Artisan", or "Boulangerie Artisanale".  One talk about the man and owner, making the bread all hands made, the other talk about the Bread/product which is made in an artisanal manner. The other important thing is that the word artisan is used only by or for people who are working independently in their artisanat, and are not workers paid by a boss or an institution. 

For sure the ads want to appeal to people to eat a better bread....made in an artisanal manner. The flour don't need to be superior the water and the levain can be very ordinary, it's the fact that it have been done by hand without instant yeast and by keeping the times of rising and fermentation necessary (for the baguette..). I suppose that the bread is not artisanal and they use the word if it is not a protected label ( in France the law of the 27/12/1923 had made legal the use of the terms artisan and artisanat) and of course it is then a lie altogether.

But, pardon me if I don't really understand why some people wrote here that they never have been fan of the word artisan, or artisanal, or would not call themselves artisan even when they are making their bread at home. Don't you think that you mix up professional artisan ( an artisan-baker working into his own boulangerie and producing for more than 4 to 6 living at home ?) with just artisan? I believe that producing bread in very small quantity for few followers in an artisanal manner, at home, for my own benefit, I don't think that I'm using a wrong definition. Although here in OZ we call it "Home made Bread." or sometime Artisanal Bread, and by doing that, every body understand what is all about.

A part of this, this discussion has reached incredible levels, that only TFL community is able to develop without falling into wrong paths and attitudes. One can pass hours reading this ping-pong going on and on...

Bea

 

 

 

Aideuis's picture
Aideuis

The words are clarifying terms to describe a product, who cares how pure the word is.  They have been recognized in the main stream, they have public appeal, they tell you what style of bread product is for sale.  Those that like good bread already understand the difference, but then again does it really matter, bake, eat, and enjoy what you want.  I have never tasted the word Artisan, but I have eaten some great Artisan Bread.  HA hahaha 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

Confucius say  "if there's no word for a thing, it doesn't exist".   Confucius would also be comfortable with " if there is no meaning in a word that word does not exist."

maylieQ's picture
maylieQ

there is an actual 'decree' in france regarding what can be called 'pain ordinaire', or "pain au levain", or other names denoting 'artisan' style bread.... it seems like thats the kind of thing we need here! ;)

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

calling home made breads "rustic".  I like that word.  Rustic, to me denotes old-fashioned, hand-made, made simply with basic ingredients by virtuous folk.  Love it :)

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

One popular usage of the world rustic has equated it with primitive.  Visions of cow-flop-shaped loaves with hand prints in the top come to my mind.

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

look like  (sans the handprints)  ;)

 

 

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

I have seen ciabatta actually described more or less that way.  They say to press your fingers into it just before you bake it, to give it a rustic appearance.  Either that, or the appearance of a loaf made by someone who is somewhat unsteady on their feet and almost fell into the oven.  *giggle*

 

louie brown's picture
louie brown

of what many here are saying. I used to have a boss, many years ago, who said, "If you say something is so with authority, people will believe it is so." 

I would pay something to have an explanation from Kitchen Aid of their terminology. Are their other mixers not...artisanal.

hanseata's picture
hanseata

Stan has made a good point. If a term or label is associated with a superior product, it will soon be adopted by big corporations, too. Like Walmart advertising as "local business" to jump on the "Buy Local" bandwagon.

Whether "artisan", "organic" or "real" - once more consumers develop a preference for foods with those labels, they will show up on mass produced goods, too.

Karin

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

I guess if you are a believer in a fully global economy, China is local to the USA.  I happen not to believe that, myself.  *slight smile*

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Most people in the United States have no idea of what "artisan' means let alone "artisnal". I once used "artisnal" in a conversation about bread and one individal replied, "you mean the thing they use to baptize a baby".

Generally speaking, people are just not that aware outside of their own immediate zone of things.  I have taught more people what "Pain au Levain" means than any other bread term.  The French term for sourdough bread is very precise in its meaning [maylieQ mentioned this earlier in the thread]. Those who I've sampled seem to not only remember what "pain au levain" is, but are very forward and downright eager in requesting another "sample" loaf. This is the sign of a lesson well learned...,

Wild-Yeast

louie brown's picture
louie brown

might like to check out the April 23rd issue of New York Magazine, with the cover story, "Artisanal Brooklyn," which describes the phenomenon - on the cover - as "easily mocked."

G-man's picture
G-man

Maybe the whole thing will just vanish, anyway, once the ridicule passes a certain point. It may take a few years, but simply by spreading the general attitude that the word is utterly ridiculous and meaningless when used in an industrial food context I think the word will go away. Maybe I'm just overly hopeful, but as louie (and new york magazine) said, it's very easily mocked. That means, to me, that lots and lots of folks understand exactly how absurd it is. Shouldn't take long for that to spread.

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

One hopes 'gluten-free' attaches itself to this passing phase.

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

New York Magazine story, "The Twee Party" is online here.

For ease of reading go down and click on print - it will take you to a printer and reader friendly page.

"The store itself is a kind of walk-through diorama, a snow-globe fantasy of New Brooklyn in miniature—the boroughwide artisan arms race stuffed into a storefront." - A good read.

Wild-Yeast

MNBäcker's picture
MNBäcker

Not to pile onto this, but Lewis Black just had a hilarious take on the "artisan" discussion on the Daily Show.

Apparently, the only thing left in this country handcrafted in small batches and deserving to be called "artisanal"  is "Lenny's Artisanal Meth"...:)

Stephan

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-may-1-2012/back-in-black---artisanal-foods

Rated R for really true restricted.

(That wood-fired brick oven is really a propane-fired BBQ pit, isn't it Stephan?)

hanseata's picture
hanseata

Thanks for the link, Thomas! I loved that.

Karin

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

http://bites.today.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/05/02/11503731-does-artisanal-even-mean-anything-anymore?lite

Yes, I realize this thread has reached the 'beating a dead horse' stage.

Judge Jackson, from the 2000 Microsoft anti-trust trial, yelling at the Microsoft lawyer to stop trying to make a stupid point:

 "The code of tribal wisdom says that when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount," Jackson said. But lawyers "often try other strategies with dead horses, including the following: buying a stronger whip; changing riders; saying things like, 'This is the way we've always ridden this horse'; appointing a committee to study the horse; ... declaring the horse is better, faster, and cheaper dead; and, finally, harnessing several dead horses together for increased speed." Jackson smiled and then turned to Boies. "That said, the witness is yours."

Bakeation's picture
Bakeation

Okay your right this has been done to death but if I could add my two penneth I deal in antiques specifically the "Arts and Crafts" period, the whole point of this era was to make items by hand, well made, honest items using the best materials and taking their time in getting the product right. This is the description I found for artisan bread,http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-artisan-bread.htm

I feel we do need to have a word that describes breads that have been developed over a period of time, to distinguish them for breads that are baked in a fast and commercial way. So they misrepresent artisan what ever word you use can be misrepresented its only a word!

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

"http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-artisan-bread.htm" is indeed a good definition of artisan bread, but although it's implied, I'd like to see a statement near the top that says "the primary goals of producing artisan breads are quality, authenticity to original product (including ingredients), flavor, and visual beauty; and little to no regard is given to business related needs such as production volume, marketability, shelf life, profit margin, or shipability."

Just my 2-bits at the end of a very long conversation that probably all says the same thing anyway... :)

 ...I realize that the necessities of running a bakery that must stay in business (operate in the black) that the statement above may not be quite entirely accurate for those that make artisan breads commercially.

Brian

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

It's definitions like this one that cause me to say that my bread is not artisan.

  • quality - I think we can all agree on this one.
  • authenticity to original product (including ingredients) - This one implies that only certain recipes are artisan bread.
  • flavor - Another one we can probably all agree on.
  • visual beauty -  All bread is beautiful in the fashion of its type.  I suspect what this is really getting back to is the issue of authenticity.
  • the rest - I suspect that this one is the one that caused the thread to be created.  However, point #2 aces everything else in the list, so that it would not be possible to change any business-related properties and still be artisan, even if points #1, #3, and #4 were fulfilled.

My bread fails to be artisan because it is not made by a recipe which has come down to bakers from whatever timeframe it is that is considered artisan bread recipes come from.  It is also not formed into an odd shape and slashed to form a bumpy top, because I want bread to slice for sandwiches and not bread to eat in torn-off chunks.  Don't get me wrong, I don't despise eating bread in torn-off chunks.  It's just serving a different purpose than the one we for which we use bread in my household.  *smile*

gerhard's picture
gerhard

When it comes right down to it all of it is marketing talk used to deceive (maybe that is a little strong, would persuade be better) potential customers.  Quality means something to me but it may mean something else to the guy next to me and the same can be said for all the other adjectives used to describe products.  I think it is probably best to bake the best product possible and leave the defining of words to others.

Gerhard

G-man's picture
G-man

It is intended to deceive, absolutely. I wouldn't say the word is too strong at all. They're using a word that means "hand-made" to describe something that is certainly not, implying a quality that doesn't exist. They're not stumbling blindly looking for a way to sell something and happening on these terms by accident, they're investing millions of dollars into research that tells them precisely which words to use to generate which effect. It's cynical, exploitative, and more than a little gross. But that's marketing, and it's used to sell absolutely everything to you, tangible or intangible, from bread to butter to the type of car you drive and the clothes you wear, even ideas.

That's the nature of the beast, and it's as good a reason as any to make whatever you can yourself, in my opinion.

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

Quality:  Can't be defined exactly but we all know when we make changes in order to reach other goals (faster process, etc).  And whether quality means something different to different individuals or not really doesn't matter.  It's the attitude towards the process that counts (IMHO).

Marketing:  Can be good or bad ...sometimes intended to deceive, or at least make something sound better than it is, but sometimes is just a "public awareness campaign" to let you know of a good product as well.  What comes to mind for me would be the "artisan" bread aisle at my local grocery which has lots of nice looking breads that all taste just like a standard store-brand sandwich loaf and have the same crumb... nothing artisan about it, versus one of our local smaller bakeries whos only business is the selling of the special breads that they make ...all of which are wonderful and definitely artisan.  If I see their ad on TV, it doesn't bother me ...or take away from their breads.

Brian

 

gerhard's picture
gerhard

Quality is also used describe products of lesser goodness (?), for instance frozen pizza or processed cheese or any number of daily consumer goods that I would describe as inferior but that word "quality" is associated with them.  And it may not be a totally false claim maybe brand x of a frozen dinner has a little less salt, preservatives or other nasty stuff than brand y but to me you still would not associate the word quality with it but it is done.  To me words out of context are just words and I don't worry about them but draw my conclusions by looking at the whole picture.  These things are easy to convey to like minded people, which I assume most of us are here, but when using words to market to the masses they lose their meaning and most folks don't care so why get worked up over it.

Gerhard

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

I'm not sure that 'keeping with original ingredients' means that a recipe has to have a history and what not?  If you invent a recipe, then why wouldn't it be "artisan" if you were trying to reach the other goals as well?  With all formulae, someone somewhere chose the ingredients ...I don't think there's a time relationship here, e.g. only breads from the 19th century and earlier count?  There are new formulae that we'd all agree are "artisan" and they don't necessarily come in a particular shape (etc).  Like the laminated dough loaf (in a bread loaf pan) that was recently featured on the home page, for example.  Would anyone here claim it is not an artisan recipe?  I wouldn't, that's for sure.  I dunno... I doubt there is a way to define "artisan" that doesn't disappoint someone, somewhere.  I think we all understand the general concepts though and probably don't really need to define it exactly...

Brian

 

G-man's picture
G-man

I like seeing where people stand on this.

I really agree that it will escape any consensus. I'll go ahead and try, though, just because I enjoy banging my head against walls.

I say it's something that can't be packaged and sold, but isn't necessarily excluded from the commercial arena. It does have a ton of meaning, and capturing a word's meaning without pegging it to a specific definition is something English just isn't that great at, as a language. Perhaps something like:

"That quality with which an item is imbued when its creator uses that item as a means of expressing their love, passion for, and expertise in the work being performed."

There's a definite difference in quality (however you may define it) between a product made with care by crafters who have devoted their life to the craft and the same type of product made by a worker whose job it is to mind this part of the industrial machine. It isn't a universal truth, but I'd be willing to bet that a blacksmith will pound out a better knife over a number of days than a factory that pounds out a few thousand knives a day. To draw another analogy, Dunkin Donuts is attempting to claim that their bagels are of Rolls Royce quality (which is to say made by hand in small batches), when they're closer to Hyundai (which is the opposite). You'll always have those who say "They both have four wheels, engine, steering wheel? They're both cars."

EvaB's picture
EvaB

this is the reason for reading ingredient lables, and if you can't get a list of all the ingredients in the food served at the places (I live in Canada and McD's has a listing off all the calories etc in their products) don't eat it! Educate people on why they need to read lables, push for labeling laws etc.

Did you know that all that nice fruit juice on the store shelves, may be 100% juice but not the juice advertised on the front of the package. I do, I read lables, and almost all juices are blends (at least in Canada if its labled pure it has to be only that juice) and most of the blends are very small amounts of the named on the front juice, and filled with apple, white grape juice and or other juices, for instance a blend that is advertized as berry blend also has red pepper juice, and purple carrot juice, now neither of them are berries in my lexicon.

I am diabetic, and both apple juice and grape juice are very high in sugars that are easily absorbed and converted to high blood sugars, so when looking for a juice that is high in immune boosters and free radical fighters and lower in sugars, you have to read every darn brand on the shelf to make sure it doesn't contain either or both apple and grape juices. I have cruised the shelf in every store in town, for juices that aren't blended, and even the juice blends that say things like cranberry pomegranite are full of apple and grape juices, and are certainly blended with cranberry and pomegranite but maybe not in the amounts the label implys, so deceit is certainly the intent to fool you into thinking you are getting a cranberry pomegranite blend, but in actuallity you are getting cranberry, apple, grape, and finally a bit of pom blend, and half the time sweetened because of course cranberry is not sweet, so you have to sweeten it!

Yes I can get a limited number of juices from the health food store, at greatly higher prices (they can't buy stock like a supermarket) and they are a mom and pop operation so can't afford to stock shelves of juices that might not sell. So the answer is to juice my own, the problem being that where I live a lot of fruit isn't available either. So the juices are limited to the ones that I can find that contain no apple or grape juices.

Even those nice veggie juices are not imune to the apple or grape juice filler, the only juice I can find that doesn't contain either is the V8 brand, and when you read the splash containers they have those with tiny amounts of the veggie and other fruits, now I'm not against you eating any of these things, just saying that truth in labeling and advertizing needs to be persued, because as it stands you can't say a particular food item heals sickness, but you can say its artisan (made with machine) or 100% juice with a label that implys its cranberry blueberry or whatever when yes its 100% juice but most of its apple/grape not the listed blends on the front. And don't be fooled by the single variety labeled juices on the shelf they if you read them are usually partially grape of apple juice as well. Unless it says pure its a blend of juices even if it doesn't say so on the front!

PastryPaul's picture
PastryPaul

For about three years now, a group of us have been trying to get legislation passed defining the terms "artisan," "artisanal", "boulangerie artisanale," "boulanger(e) artisan(e)," "patisserie artisanal" and "patissier(re) artisan(e)."

Here are the issues that have smacked us in the face.

Here, if you get a par-baked baguette and shove it in an oven for a couple of minutes, you can claim "baked on premises," but not "made on premises." To be "made on premises" you have to start from the base ingredients. When we interviewed consumers, they were unaware of the distinction and many were of the opinion that "baked on premises" meant made from scratch. It doesn't help that many grocery store baking departments keep 80qt Hobarts as decorations, making people think that they are actually used for something.

The big issue is where does one draw the line? An early definition was "made entirely by hand." That would knock out the use of mixers, sheeters, and even rolling pins. I'm still not sure how to bake something entirely by hand.... maybe hold a zippo under it? Personnally, the biggest batch I ever mixed and kneaded by hand was 50kg, and I hope never to have to repeat it.

Where does one draw the line? Are rolling pins OK? If so, how about sheeters? Are mixers Ok? How about dividers? Shapers?

My personal line is drawn here: Mixers and sheeters are OK. No dough conditioners that do not have a common name. (I added that part 'cause some people will argue that salt would then be off limits, OY VE). Loaves must be hand scaled, hand shaped, and hand scored. Fermentation of 4 hours (minimum) or more depending on dough type.

I also don't particularly care about Dunkin Donuts use of the word "artisanal." The word denotes a superior quality which therefore should deserve a higher price point. Are they misleading the public? Probably a little, but does anyone really think that every Dunkin Donuts has a guy hand making bagels in the back? Please! The public is just not that stupid.

Rather than law suits, maybe the better course is to just make real bagels and let the public decide which is better. If they prefer the mass-produced ones, sobeit. I rather doubt they will.

Cheers

 

 

gerhard's picture
gerhard

Paul I think we are on the same wave length in that there is  no point beating our selves up over things that most people give little thought to.  I think you might be wrong on consumer preference there are people that think there is something wrong when you actually have to chew a bagel, it must be stale or something?  I have been to high end ice cream places and the thing that always strikes me is how the colours are more subdued and the flavours are more subtle.  You get lemon ice cream near some tourist trap and it is flourecent yellow and has enough citric acid to make your eyes water then go to a gelato shop that makes their own product and the lemon is barely yellow and the flavour develops as it melts in your mouth.  I have overheard people in such a place comment jeez I don't what the fuss is about all they do is charge too much and it has no flavour.  I think the higher end will always be a small part of the market, Walmart will dominate for a while yet.

Gerhard

PastryPaul's picture
PastryPaul

Especially when it comes to bagels. The two Meccas (please pardon the expression my Muslim friends) for bagels are Montreal and New York. Apart from sheer size... the two cities are quite similar. Both were the primary entry points to North America during the Eastern European exodus (please pardon the expression my Hebrew friends) in the late 1800's, early 1900's. Both even have huge parks in their centers that were designed by the same guy.

The Eastern Europeans brought their foods with them to the New World (please pardon the expression my Extra-Terrestrial friends) So we have Montreal Smoked Meat vs. New York Pastrami, Montreal Cheesecake vs. New York Cheesecake, Montreal steak spice vs. New York sirloin, Montreal smoked sausages vs. New York bratts, etc.

Although I freely admit that New York wins hands down in the chesecake comparison, I give Montreal the nod for bagels and smoked meat. In Montreal, we call New York bagels "water bagels." I have been told that New Yorkers call Montreal bagels "egg bagels." Apart from formulation, the two types are actually formed differently as well.

A real New York bagel is chewy, but not as much as a Montreal bagel. Shaping a New York bagel by balling the dough, piercing the center and enlarging the hole by spinning it around two index fingers leaves the crumb more open. A Montreal bagel is rolled into a rope, wrapped around a hand and the two ends rolled into one, making the hole bigger and less uniform. (We actually make Montreal bagel dough and form it New York style for a local restaurant who uses them for sandwiches.. smaller hole = better sandwich bagel)

We sometimes get tourists who ask for their money back because the bagel is "stale." I guess they were expecting a hamburger bun with a hole in the middle.

Cheers