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Having trouble defining "gourmet"? How about "artisanal"?


Although the description of Domino's "artisanal" pizza sounds more like what lazy cooks like me call "rustic".

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  1. "Artisan" means it costs an extra $1.50

    1. "Having trouble defining "gourmet"? How about "artisanal"? "

      It was on this board within the last few months that there was a long thread "How do you define gourmet?" There were many responses most beginning 'I define it as...'

      Thing is, it's not up to various indiviiduals. You don't get to choose how to define words. Words have one or more accepted definitions. You gotta run with those, kids.

      3 Replies
      1. re: FrankJBN

        Right, my title was meant to be a reference to the gourmet thread. Sorry if that didn't come across.

        1. re: FrankJBN

          Definitions can change over time. A static language is a sickly language.

          1. re: FrankJBN

            This isn't really about language change as a linguistic phenomenon. It's about rhetoric, the use of language to influence and manipulate people's attitudes and actions. Marketers with a product to sell try to deck it out in feel-good language, staying just this side of outright false advertising. It's essentially the same tactic, and much the same motivation, lambasted by Orwell in "Politics and the English Language." You can try to sell the mass killing of innocent civilians by calling it "pacification," and you can try to sell mass-produced pizza by calling it "artisanal." Behind the rhetoric is the reality, and when there's too much distance between them, we're right to object.

          2. For me, artisinal is pretty clear most of the time: it's when time and purity of ingredient and techiniques for the sake of quality take pride of place ahead of speed and shortcuts in production.

            An artisinal sourdought loaf uses natural starter and several stages of proofing and rising over two days or so at moderate temperatures to give strength to the most desirable lactobacilli, whereas a commercial sourdough uses vinegar in combination with commercial yeasts and high-temp rises to crank out a wannabee version of the artisinal thing in less than half the time.

            Nothing that I know about the Domino's artisan pies makes the grade in that way, although I do appreciate their effort to step outside the usual middle-American flavor doldrums by using things like goat cheese and Euro-charcuterie. (That's really more like "gourmet.")

            2 Replies
            1. re: Bada Bing

              in other words, "artisinal" = regular. something that is not processed from a high volume factory.
              might other descriptions be: old-fashioned? home made? my gramma's recipe?

              1. re: ritabwh

                Yes, if the gramma or "home-made" works with an eye for quality. Some grammas and home cooks don't give a hoot...

            2. Mercifully, this meaningless term has not yet caught on in the UK.

              But, seeing as we seem to find it impossible to resist all things American, I'm sure the marketing departments of food companies up and down the country will be using it soon. And, no, we still won't have a clue what it means.

              1. I disagree with others here that "artisan(al)" is as meaningless a word as "gourmet" is. On the contrary, it has a specific definition: something that is handcrafted. It implies that a food is made by a single person (or small group of people) who use the best ingredients, avoid automation and control every step of the process to ensure the best possible end product. The term applies to breads, cheeses and other foodstuffs made with great care by small, local producers. Used this way, I do not find it devoid of meaning. It only becomes so when corporations like Domino's Pizza ("artisan pizza") or Dunkin' Donuts ("artisan bagels") misappropriate it.

                1 Reply
                1. If nothing else, "artisanal" means made by artisans, by hand. Much of what's advertised and sold as artisanal or artisanal-style, is nothing of the kind; the skill and care of individual artisans has nothing to do with it.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: John Francis

                    is my homemade bread an artisinal bread?

                    1. re: ritabwh

                      Sure, if you're an artisan! Dictionary definition of an artisan: "A worker in a skilled trade, esp. one that involves making things by hand." Breadmaking at home is skilled, but is it a trade? Only if you sell your bread to others.

                      1. re: John Francis

                        got it! thanks for the clarification. sometimes it all seems like semantics to me.

                        1. re: ritabwh

                          Your sense of it is right. When the question is how to define this word or that, semantics is exactly what it is.

                      2. re: ritabwh

                        Only if you do it all by hand and don't use a mixer?

                    2. However you define it, it's good pizza! I like Domino's "artisan" pizza. It's their only pizza that comes "as is," no substitutions allowed.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: wyogal

                        It may be good pizza to some (personal preferences rule), but isn't that more of a marketing gimmick to Domino's than anything else? I mean, I've seen the tv commercials, & they scream "marketing gimmick" - not that the pizza is actually "artisinal". Frankly, I doubt Domino's even knows what the word "artisinal" really means outside of the fact that it's a hot food term these days. I particularly like the "no substitutions allowed" - like that makes it "artisinal" because any substitutions would ruin the creation - LOL!!!

                        1. re: Bacardi1

                          It actually tastes pretty good, and very different from any of their other pizzas. Or any other delivery pizza. The flavor combinations work.

                      2. Another good word sadly destined to become meaningless as it's hijacked by hucksters, becoming the latest buzzword fed to a public that doesn't care (or doesn't know) enough to be insulted.

                        I agree with FoodPopulist that language can alter over time, and I'll concede that relatively rapid change is particularly true of English. Spanish speakers can read Cervantes easily, while most modern Americans would stumble trying to digest written English from the same period. And anyone literate in Arabic can read a thousand-year-old text as easily as yesterday's newspaper. But I'm happier when I see our language evolving into new dimensions and subtler shades of meaning, for the sake of clearer and more nuanced communication, than I am when I see it devolving, misused, for the sake of profit.

                        The Domino's "artisanal" pizza might even be ok, I don't know. But it has about as much to do with dedicated personal craftsmanship as the "fine Corinthian leather" in Ricardo Montalban's car had to do with skilled Greek leatherworkers. They might as well be calling it "artesian" pizza. And maybe next year, they will.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: eclecticsynergy

                          and then there are the artisan breads.... chewy crust, soft interior. Found in grocery stores everywhere, having arrived as a frozen lump of dough and finished in their ovens.
                          And the word that is used is "artisan" nor "artisanal."

                        2. On Google ngram, word count of their scanned books and articles, 'artisanal' starts to appear in the 1950s, with articles about 'artisanal fisheries' and other third world development issues. It's not until 2000 (esp 2005) that I start seeing references to 'artisanal cooking'.



                          'artisanal food' is virtually unknown in British English.

                          I encourage you to poke around with this ngram tool, testing various phrases. But it sure looks to me that 'artisanal' when applied to food is barely a decade old - in effect trendy.

                          In my 1976 dictionary, 'artisan' - a person manually skilled in making a particular product; craftsman'. There is no entry for 'artisanal'.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: paulj

                            If you want to lock down the meaning of a new term, you had better trademark it first, if possible.

                            1. re: FoodPopulist

                              There was a case in which a corporation actually attempted to trademark the term "fair trade."

                            2. re: paulj

                              and to be honest, Domino's uses the word "artisan." The OP says "artisanal."

                              1. re: wyogal

                                is a 2004 article about 'The rising artisan pizza movement'
                                It attributes the term to Peter Reinhart and his 2003 American Pie book about pizza.

                                But you don't have to be an (old world) artisan to make artisan pizza. The first book my web search turned up was 'Artisan pizza in five minutes a day'.

                                1. re: paulj

                                  I was referring to the lack of finding the word "artisanal" in the dictionary. Just saying that that is not the word that Domino's uses. That's all.

                                  1. re: wyogal

                                    It may be more important that Domino's uses the phrase 'artisan pizza', which has come to be an idiom (more than the simple sum of its 2 words). It appears to be a style of pizza, not just any pizza made by an artisan.

                                    When I did the word search on 'artisanal' I was not focusing on Domino's use, but on the idea that the word has some sort of fixed meaning. And my web search on 'artisan pizza' convinces me that this has been a marketing term for the past decade, with little to no meaning before that.

                                    1. re: paulj

                                      I also think the artisan bread movement added to that. As well as those type of pizzas mentioned in the article.
                                      Yes, words are used as marketing tools, with little or no relation to what it actually means. Take "natural," for instance.

                            3. It means that someone in the marketing department is a word artisan.


                              "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."
                              "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
                              "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - that's all."
                              Through the Looking Glass.

                              1. Like "art," "artisanal" is whatever you can get away with.

                                1. As used by Domino's, it's just an ad gimmick. Other catchwords that get my dander up are 'sustainable' ( everything we eat has been around for many thousands of years and will continue to be) and 'layers of flavor' (does this mean you can taste each ingredient separately?).
                                  They all sound a bit pretentious to me.