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The unseen side of the artisanal food movement

May 25, 2010 |  9:51 am

Ben We know we're supposed to eat locally, and we're supposed to support artisanal food makers. But a new book, "The Town That Food Saved," takes a long hard look at that approach. From this week's Food section story by Susan Salter Reynolds:

The artisanal food movement has added delicious, high-quality food to the national palate, but how does it affect the communities in which it is produced? What happens when artisanal products become too expensive for regular folks, the people who have always enjoyed them?

Here's another: What does it mean when much of the food is shipped far away to New York, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles? Artisanal food is regional, local food. How big can an artisanal company get before it is too big, expanding beyond the ability of the region to sustain it?

Ben Hewitt set out to answer those questions in his new book, "The Town That Food Saved," using his hometown of Hardwick, Vt., population 3,200, as his petri dish. Hardwick is home to several artisanal companies, one of the oldest food co-ops in Vermont and one of the region's finest gourmet organic restaurants, Claire's.

But where there is good food there is discussion, often argument. By asking these questions, Hewitt put himself, with little forethought and no malice, into the center of his community's -- and the nation's -- raging food debates.

Click here to read the rest of Reynold's story.

Photo: Ben Hewitt. Credit: The Hewitt family