Arts & Crafts

Arts & Crafts

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Today, food and fine spirits are all the rage.  You see it everywhere, hell, even McDonald’s claims to be making hand-crafted burgers.  But any idiot knows that its a pre-packaged, frozen and formulated food product which is made the same way in New York as it is in Denver, Los Angeles, or even Japan.  Otherwise, they could not bare the name McDonald’s, and certainly, they would have their franchise license revoked.

I think most of us, actually all of us, except for a select few who are brainwashed or stupid, know this is just a marketing ploy.  Adults know its an assembly line food product, and children don’t know any better and can care less how its described.  All they know is, they want their hamburger and fries and you can call it whatever you like, as long as you don’t raise the price from .99 cents because its made “by hand”.

The term, “Arts & Crafts” is from about a century ago.  It was a term to describe and encourage the use of local people making something beautiful out of simple, common products and materials and presenting them at a very fair price to people who also did not have a lot of money to spend.  So today, an elbow macaroni portrait or piece of wood cut from a tree with someone’s names burned into it with a soldering iron would still qualify as a handcrafted item.   Whether or not its art, or tasteful, that is another story, but clearly it is “hand-crafted”.

My dear friend Victor, rest in peace, made wine, by hand, every October.  Watch this video if there is any doubt: vimeo.com/40702633 – this is the same way he and his father have been making it for 100 years or more.  He lived until age 77, however, he got the knowledge from his father, and I know that he brought the wine press over from Calabria and was over 100 years old.

Homemade Dried Sausage

And, what you see hanging above his shoulder are hand made is Charcuterie, or, quite simply, was and is the art of curing meat before refrigeration.  This can be pepperoni, sopressatta, hard dry salami, whatever, and depending on what it is made of and what it contains.

Now, let me be clear, and I take full responsibility for everything I post here, the definition of craft, hand-crafted or home-made clearly should mean to represent something made by hand in small batches by a select few, perhaps as many as a dozen, but certainly not several dozen in a factory, warehouse or massive amounts of machinery.  Now, if someone has a great recipe from their mother or grandmother and they try to replicate and mass produce it, it should be labelled as “from a homemade recipe” not “hand-crafted”.  Unfortunately way too many people, companies, and marketers are classifying it as something else in effort to make a sale and take your money over the more authentic, local merchant.

This all comes up because I saw a Twitter post today in which one company claimed  “not all small distilleries are craft, and not all craft distilleries are small” – in fact, I would argue the vice-verse is true.  Its more likely the small distilleries are craft, but the larger ones are not.

Here is the actual post:  www.thespiritsbusiness.com/2014/07/diageo-defends-its-craft-bourbon-credentials – but here are the facts:  When you make something fresh, from scratch and served immediately, it will NEVER taste the same as something that is made in massive batches, bottled, pasteurized, canned and/or shipped and sitting on a shelf until you buy it a 6-12 months year later. This is not to say it will be a bad product, however, its not hand-crafted, and using that term is mis-use, abuse and mis-representation.

As Victor got older and more ill, we stopped crushing the grapes by hand and started buying them fresh-squeezed and handed to us in a bucket which we took back to our cellar and tried to process from that point on.  It never tasted the same, it was flat and had “no body” as his own son had pointed out.  And no dis-respect to those of us still trying to carry on tradition, the fact is, its just not the same.

What we need is more honesty in marketing.  Made by hand is not a factory worker assembling it.  Hand-crafted  is something that a few single artisans have created.  What you see below is a 4th generation of American-Italians making wine.  They only went a few turns and churns, however, the wine was still made by hand.  They mostly watched, but in the end, it was still homemade wine. While some might argue they personally did not make the wine since their participation was less than 5 minutes.  So why then, would you allow major corporations to sell you nonsense that their product was any more authentic when they’ve only been working there less than a month?

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