Our valley is home to a wide variety of food related businesses. Some are large and geared toward the mainstream market. Others are small and focused on quality rather than quantity. By definition the word artisanal represents a work of beauty, crafted by skilled hands. It is the latter companies which fall into this category. Farmstead cheeses, specialty sauces and Italian pastries are but of the few expertly crafted foods made in our own back yard.
We are fortunate that there are individuals who still care about crafting good food to old time tested recipes. While they may have the benefit of new technologies, they still rely on techniques of our fore fathers. Some are operating businesses that are generations old. Others have started their businesses from scratch based on a love of the product and belief in their abilities to achieve something.
Regardless of the foods they purvey, hard work and sacrifice are requirements to the jobs they fill. They do not live in the biggest houses, their cars are not shiny, new and flashy. Luxuries of coffee breaks, long lunches and personal days are not in their benefits packages. The satisfaction of a job well done and customers eagerly returning for more are the perks to this job.
In her book, The Cheese Chronicles, Liz Thorpe talks about the incredible cheese made by artisans in Wisconsin that are not recognized as being gourmet. The havarti’s and colby’s that are corner stones to classic cuisine but not considered upscale enough be hailed as special. As she explains, these are lovingly made by guild of master cheese makers that are not receiving the respect they deserve. Truly artisanal food is not based on airs.
As with knowing you're your farmer, the transparency that comes in knowing the source of the food you eat is a luxury which should be easily afforded, appreciated and enjoyed. Affording does not equate to a dollar menu, but rather value for price. Appreciating is to savor. Enjoying is part of knowing the food is handmade in clean and safe environments by local crafts people.
While some of the companies may have been recognized with a well penned article in a glossy magazine such as Bon Appetite, they still do not enjoy the budgetary power and name recognition that would put their products on the most coveted and visible of store shelves. Such a feat would open the eyes of the neighbors who have no idea of they bounty produced around the corner. This series will shine a light on the admirable locals who hand craft splendid foods.
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