Kid just loves him some cows (komos) wrote,
Kid just loves him some cows

On Proper Chocolate

I've never been one for hyper-enthusiastic flag waving, or for shouting "USA!USA!USA!" at inappropriate times - like when my government decides to deploy troops in response to something other than clear and present danger. I'm not exactly jingoistic, and frankly, you would not be entirely off-base to accuse me of being "just another east-coast liberal who wishes he were European." On the other hand, I also don't have any real disdain for the home country, and actually think there's a lot to recommend it. For argument's sake, let's just say I have a measured opinion. There's good and bad everywhere.

There are things that I am passionate about, to be sure, and I think that my pursuit of those passions has given me sufficient experience to call shenanigans when I come across come across a statement like this:

"The last time I was in the US I made Father buy me proper chocolate from the embasy[sic] shop so I didn't have to go near the American kind."

Yeah... because Gods of Hades forbid that the European palate be tainted by the likes of Theo Chocolates of Seattle, Vosges of Chicago, Mast Brothers of Brooklyn, or even Taza of Somerville, MA.

The first thing that came to mind when I saw this was a Whole Foods tasting I went to which ostensibly showcased American cheeses. The host was the buyer for the chain in the northeast, a Brit ex-pat who, to be fair, does a very good job of selecting and handling English cheeses. On the other hand, given that (in these parts) the chain tends to tightly wrap Loire Valley goat cheeses in plastic in an attempt to prevent them from blooming (and if they don't die in the process and do start to show signs of characteristic mold, sells them at cut-rate prices), I'm less than convinced that he has as firm a grasp on other offerings. This point was driven home as he spent the entire evening talking less about the featured cheeses than about how the featured cheeses would fall flat when compared to similar English products.

I'll be the first to say that a lot of American artisanal cheesemakers are still feeling out their craft, but if you're unable to appreciate the work being done at places like Jasper Hill Farm or the magic that is Vella Dry Jack, I am far more likely to comment on the inexperience reflected in your bias than I am to agree that All Things EuropeanTM are inherently superior. I'll also get my ruffles up if you stand in front of a class and attempt to instill that kind of narrow bias in people who are hoping for guidance from you.

Ok, so the States has nothing that quite compares to jamón serrano, the restrictions on raw milk cheese are crazy making, and our system of industrialized food production often sacrifices seasonality and regional distinctiveness for efficiency and faddishness. I get that. But if you think that American charcuterie is best represented by spiral-cut ham, American cheese is measured by vacuum-packed blocks sold under the "Helluva Good" label, or American chocolate is limited to Hershey's products (though there are even some high points there), I'm going to assume that you just don't know any better. For what it's worth, this is far better than assuming that you've got a chip on your shoulder.

In trying to wrap my mind around all of this, I'm feeling more and more that this is what it comes down to. The dismissive nature in this statement of "proper chocolate" v. "the American kind" rankles not for being a dig to some kind of latent foodie nationalism, but because there is a willful ignorance that's implied. It makes me feel like pointing out that you're never going to find proper American chocolate if you don't bother trying. And really? Since it's just not that hard, you're really doing yourself a disservice.

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