The apex of artisanal food is this: it comes from someone who has made the most of materials birthed by terroir, and techniques refined through time and handed down from older artisan to new – all of which serve to celebrate age-old traditions and relentlessly advance the craft.
The constant evolution of an arbitrary language has changed the meaning of “artisanal”. One popular connotation of the word is that which is made by hand – one of the most significant misconceptions about said term. While it is true that artisans work with their hands, does it follow that all things handmade are artisanal? As the term has no legal definition, anyone can use it to label one’s products. How do we define what is artisanal, and what is not? In the search for quality edibles, it is crucial to find out whether or not the claim is warranted – whether a product is authentically artisanal.
Are both examples artisanal?
Exhibit A: Workers at a downtown pizzeria make their pies by hand, and assemble each pie per order. Only the dough and sauce are pre-made in the shop in small, daily batches. The management sources much of its stock – such as flour, cheese, and cold cuts – from mass producers.
Exhibit B: A winery uses traditional processes to make a thousand bottles per label yearly, employing a number of tenured workers. Age-old methods of winemaking, from growing the crop, identifying crop maturity at harvest, maceration, fermentation, aging, bottling, and storage are supplemented with modern techniques and machinery.
Artisans are made by their appellations. Appellations (usually expressed in labels as AOC/DOC/PDO) are documentations provided to makers that meet the strictest EU regulations. Historically, the appellation concept comes from medieval Europe, when elder artisans set standards for handcrafting and provided certification to members via guilds that imposed stringent rules for entry. The confirmation of skill and passing down of crafting knowledge can very well be the basis of artisanship. In a way, appellation lends the concept of fine artistry to food – the materials and practices employed by the artisan analogous to how a master painter applies brilliant pigment with a masterful brushstroke.
Yet art and artisanry, as a product and process, is never stagnant. Today, the manual nature of the artisan’s vocation is complemented by the use of technology, taking advantage of how traditional methods and materials can be further improved by modern tools. The incorporation of these innovations into traditional processes aims to advance the artisan’s output quality.
The lack of a legal definition for what “artisanal” is leads to misuse. As advocates of the artisan and the artisanal process, we believe that the maker instinctively melds the resources – ones small-scale, locally sourced, and naturally grown – and environs into a superior product through knowledge passed down from one artisan to another. This craftsmanship results in a product that highlights all variables and elements in a single slice of cured pork, mouthful of vino, or morsel of cheese.
Artisanship – in essence – takes its time. Its practitioners painstakingly handcraft foodstuffs in quantities and quality worlds apart from mass-produced food. The apex of artisanal food is this: it comes from someone who has made the most of materials birthed by terroir, and techniques refined through time and handed down from older artisan to new – all of which serve to celebrate age-old traditions and relentlessly advance the craft. It is rapt foodmaking, pure and personal.
While the mechanization of food has not erased the artisan from the industry, it has ruled through sheer rate of production, low cost, and the lack of insight on how the food was made by a large, indifferently trained, and anonymous – sometimes-transient – workforce. These trends in both industrial and faux artisanal food may also concentrate on quality of marketing versus the quality of the food itself. The polar opposite occurs in the artisanal process: there is least possible automation and division of labor among artisans – the number of whom are minute compared to industrial workers. Often, artisans also let their products speak for themselves.
We wish to impart tastes that are unequivocally, definitively artisanal – a coming together of element, environment, and method – in products that push these aspects center-stage. When it comes to artisanship, we suffer no compromise. This is the principle we apply when we travel the world and scour the countrysides seeking artisanal fare – handcrafted from local raw materials and the most favorable terroir – to share with you.
From beginning to end, the creation of exceptional food and drink is nothing short of artistry. Savor the distinction of true artisanal fare from Origine.