Having trouble defining "gourmet"? How about "artisanal"?
- ennuisans Aug 16, 2012 12:09 PM
Although the description of Domino's "artisanal" pizza sounds more like what lazy cooks like me call "rustic".
"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.
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.
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.")
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.
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.