If there’s a running theme in my life, it’s that I find myself migrating towards food products with strong artisinal base. Beer certainly has this, as does whiskey to some extent (some of it above the board, some of it below). I have admitted my passion for cheese, and lord knows that my snobbery for chocolate has grown by leaps and bounds in the past decade or so.
What makes these products so compelling is that, quite often, you can look at one person and say “They make a great version of x!” Corporations, institutional by nature, remove this connection to food. When people thing of institutional food, they often show loyalty to something more abstract, such as a brand or a company.
To me, this is why artisinal foods are far more compelling. While corporations seek to eek out the most profit from a product, balancing cost of production with some shifting defintion of quality, artisans seem to work toward a different ethic. Their goal is to make something of highest quality, regardless of cost. If they can make some money off of it, that’s great, if not, they’re often more than willing to be happy knowing that they’ve made a better loaf of bread, keg of beer, or wheel of cheese than can be found in their local supermarket.
This manifests itself in many ways. Home cooks due this every time they enter the kitchen when they make dinner, where they (perhaps unknowingly) seek to make something better than a Lean Cuisine or Stouffer’s frozen dinner. Today, somewhere in the United States, someone is striving to make a vanilla ice cream better than Ben & Jerry’s. Every weekend, hordes of home brewers look to invest the time to make a beer that impresses them more than Budweiser.
In all of these instances, it’s an individual at work, someone who has thought to themselves “I can do better than that!” While I rant and rave about corporations, the larger point here is that on a kitchen by kitchen basis, we all have the ability to create something greater than what is available in the grocery store or on the menu at the local Olive Garden. Whether we act upon that ability is a different question (which does require some scrutiny). But for the most part, we all have the skills to learn how to make a better loaf of bread, a tastier batch of cookies, or a more delicious dinner than what is being offered to us by companies seeking see regular amounts of increased profits .