Monday, August 5, 2013

You're Not Special

There are certain things that bother me in the world. People who don't practice the virtue of kindness when taking apart other people's arguments. People who whine. And people who pretend to be things that they aren't. Which brings me to something that is really bothering me these days, and that is artisan bread.

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there were three basic kinds of breads. There was store bought bread (which was about as limp and unappetizing, as, well, you fill in the blank). There was banana bread (a word which here means cake because of the amount of sugar and baking soda involved). And there was homemade bread (bread made at home which was warm, chewy, and had a crust that meant what it said). There were other kinds of bread which fell into one of those categories, like potato bread, French bread, wheat bread, and sourdough. But one thing remained true. The homemade version of the bread was always better than the store bought. And so homemade bread was a thing to be excited about as a kid, because you knew it was just begging to be slathered with butter and homemade strawberry jam. 

There's a myth which has been perpetuated about bread. Everyone thinks it's really hard to bake their own bread, but it isn't. Making your own bread from scratch is the easiest thing in the world. If you can read a recipe and follow directions, you can bake bread. It's not a magical gift you either have or you don't have. It's not something that the fairies give you upon birth. It's just a matter of following directions and using common sense. Of course it could be argued that if you lack common sense then you can't bake bread. But I know lots of people who have no common sense who haven't been caught for tax fraud yet so I would argue that if they can file their taxes successfully, they too can bake bread.

A few weeks ago I was scrolling through my favorite recipe site and noticed that every single bread post had the word "artisan" tacked in the name of the bread. Artisan foccaccia. Artisan brioche. Artisan asiago basil bread. You get the idea. For a split second I confused it with rustic bread which generally looks rougher and is a round loaf with a thick crust. But after looking at several of these recipes for artisan breads involving different crusts, different shapes, and different tastes, I have decided that artisan is just a fancy word tacked on in order to sell something, much like the word extra used to sell newspapers. You can find recipes for artisan breads, artisan pizzas, artisan sodas, artisan oreos, artisan cheeses, artisan beers, artisan beef jerky, and artisan chocolates. And I agree that there is a certain amount of attention that goes into the making of all those things.

But doesn't that mean I should attach artisan to my morning bowl of oatmeal? Is my peanut butter and jelly sandwich an artisanal creation? Where does the madness end? I adore buying fancy cheeses from little cheese shops. But they don't need to sell it to me with the word artisan when I already know I'm not buying generic Kraft shredded sharp cheddar in a resealable bag. It's a matter of common sense. But perhaps that is where the problem lies. We pretend to be people we aren't to fit in, and so call the things we bake by fancy monikers like artisan to make them sound more enticing, when the truth is that homemade bread needs no other explanation.

1 comment:

Ken Row said...

http://thatisnotartisan.blogspot.com/