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21 October 2006

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I agree that words like artisinal are slowly eroding into organic territory. My husband and I are about to open a corner mid-sized grocery store in San Francisco and hope to be able to sell Kraft cheese along with Pt. Reyes. Terms like "artisanal" and "local" have become so vague that it is ultimately up to the individual store to define how the term is used. We hope to showcase many local products, especially if they can be hand-delivered by the maker or company, and not through a distributor. It gives us a chance to form a relationship with the product and the person behind it. I think the 100-mile rule can safely apply to the term "local."

Great question, great answer. Thank you.

Tana,
You are so right that there are SO many things to think about when we decide to think about our food. So much simpler to look for the KRAFT label and try not to think how it's made.
I've had Fiscalini cheddars as well as their Horsefeathers horseradish cheddar spread. I was surprised to learn their dairy has grown to 1500 cows, but like you I will continue to savor their cheeses. If flavor and quality and uniqueness identify artisanal - then I think they qualify.
When you make your visit to the valley do also look up Nicolau Farms, a farmstead producer of several chevres and a couple of hard goat cheeses. They are located nearby to Fiscalinis and since the "farmer's wife" told me yesterday they will carry only 28 goats in milk through the winter to supply their fresh cheese market, they would certainly be classified as artisanal as well.
Thanks for a thoughtful opinion
Bill

"I do know that loving fabulous cheese puts me in pretty good company. Loving mediocre cheese puts you in the company of most of America."

I am so glad to be in your company, Tana. :)
Here's to fabulous cheese!

I posted a piece on my blog (www.cheesebyhand.com) in response to this post. There are also posts on our site about Carr Valley, Andante, and Fiscalini Farm. This is an important conversation in the cheese industry. Thank you for bringing it up, hope what I've offered is helpful.

From the OED:
Artisanal, a.
2. Of a product: handmade (esp. with care and skill) using traditional techniques; having qualities associated with small-scale, pre-industrial production.

So there are two criteria here. One is the moral and emotional commitment of the crafter - by which standards Dane's cheese would clearly count. The second is technique. I think issues of scale arise from the legitimate concern that traditional or small-scale techniques are by definition capable only of producing so many pounds a day.

I don't think I can name a bakery today that is artisanal on both counts - who kneads only by hand anymore? But the bakers I respect are all certainly artisans.

Do you want your cheeses to meet one or both criteria?

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