It’s high time to revitalise and re-energise American food – making better quality, healthier and less processed food available is an urgent priority for our country. To make more real food readily accessible to Americans, we need to support the continued growth of farms practicing sustainable agriculture, we need to demand the production of better food by our country’s large food manufacturers, and – above all – we must support the regrowth of regional food systems with strong connections to our community and culture. Supporting this regrowth means bringing back food ways and food craftsmanship skills that disappeared decades ago and relearning the ancient arts of preparing, processing and conserving our food.
Defining food craft
Food craft is the transformation of raw ingredients into foods with techniques that change and build flavour, make foods last longer and increase the impact of land and place on flavour. Food craft requires entrepreneurial spirit, manual skills, wisdom and a deep understanding of primary ingredients. Many food crafting techniques date back centuries or millennia, others are recent innovations. Food craft is where food and people meet, where human skills make flavour, where better food is born.
We’d like to put the culture back in agriculture. We’d like to plant the seeds of a food-making movement in communities across America. The craft knowledge will grow in the next decades, bringing with it new knowledge around scale, marketing and distribution. Along the way, we’ll discover how much has been lost, how little accumulated traditional wisdom around food craft has been passed along to current generations and move forward to reclaim and relearn. To restart the culture of food crafting, we must relearn and teach the skills of making food and bring dignity and respect back to food professions while supporting the growth of thousands of new businesses.
The American food production system has prioritised productivity above taste and environmental quality for the past five decades for a variety of social and economic factors. Along the way, American consumers have learned to outsource their home food production to agribusinesses, forgetting the food craft knowledge of their parents and grandparents. Some of these changes in the food system have led to healthier, safer food. Some have made our food more dangerous. To make real, good food the standard, not the exception, in America’s cities and rural communities is the great challenge of the upcoming decades.
We think that many of the technically incredible transformations that agribusiness has wrought on food – extraction, manipulation, reconfiguration – are wondrous in theory and disastrous in reality. We openly criticise the degree to which the manipulation of food has consequently manipulated the American palate, helping us lose our perspective on what real food tastes like. This is not a question of scale – big can be fantastic, small can be terrible – but of the degree of technology involved in food making. We believe that food that’s been good for humans for thousands of years is still the best food for humans.
Future radical deliciousness
In the past five decades, there has been a rapid decline in the prestige of the art and craft of making food. We believe that to build a better American food system, we must bring new attention and credibility to food making professions. Chefs have become cultural stars in the past decade, next up are the tofu makers, the noodle pullers, the brewers. Not only will this create a change in our cultural values around food, it will create a new generation of green entrepreneurs, bringing new businesses to American cities. We believe that to make real food America’s everyday food, we need to build the skills that will be necessary to feed the demand for better food.
Start the ferment
Use your food dollar to support food craft in your own community by buying foods made by the food craft businesses in your own community – the butchers, brewers, bakers and coffee roasters. Eat real by choosing smaller-batch less-processed foods when possible and try your own hand at making some craft foods from scratch. Ask your local and regional food-making businesses what they’re up to, tell your friends about what you love to taste, become an agent of change.
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