Small Batch: Pickles, Cheese, Chocolate, Spirits, and the Return of Artisanal Foods

Suzanne Cope. Rowman & Littlefield, $35 (237p) ISBN 978-1-4422-2734-7
Earnest and anecdotal yet scientific, this exploration of revived forms of artisanal entrepreneurialism tries to capture the sense of value and nostalgia that accompanies the creation of handmade foods. Now residing in Brooklyn, the heart of the artisanal food “incubator,” writing teacher and scholarly journalist Cope tracks down numerous examples of the new artisan class to elicit their take on the virtues of craft as they rigorously define themselves in contrast to what is mass-produced and industrial-scale. For each product, such as the humble pickle beloved of Dutch, German, and Jewish immigrants, Cope offers a brief history of its apotheosis in America. She also explores how the introduction of the Mason jar in 1858 invited home picklers to preserve food in smaller portions and with more consistent results. According to her research, these new artisans are fairly well educated, youngish urbanites across the country, most of whom were faced with job uncertainty in the mid-2000s and inspired—usually by family knowledge or a passion for personal or environmental health—to make a go at homemade production as a way to make a living. Indeed, the value of each product is increased by its story—a narrative about provenance and terroir, a sense that the farmer knows the goats that make her chèvre or the anthropologist turned chocolate maker who employs Oaxacans in Mexico to grow his cacao beans for sustainable, fair sourcing. Cope offers much that is pertinent and thought provoking. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/06/2014
Release date: 10/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 220 pages - 978-1-4422-2735-4
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