Larry Olmsted, Forbes Contributor
In Part One I began taking a look at the worst food trends facing diners in America, many of them hyped by the food media itself. These are the final four unfortunate trends.
5. Made in Brooklyn or Made in Fill-in-the-Blank: First there was the desire to eat locally produced foods, like tomatoes grown nearby or beef raised by a neighbor, and it was good. However, this was followed by an idiotic urge to make things in places they don’t belong and pawn them off as local. This is definability not a trend limited to Brooklyn, but the examples of King’s County are so obvious they serve to illustrate what is wrong with this.
New York Magazine recently did a major cover story on Brooklyn’s hot artisanal food production industry. Unfortunately of all the products they covered, honey was about the only one I consider actually “made” in the conventional sense. The rest, from candy bars to grass fed beef jerky to pickles are more assembled than made. After all, you do not see a whole lot of cows grazing in Prospect Park or cucumber farms in Park Slope. Instead, raw materials are imported, finished, and most importantly, deftly packaged and marketed. I’m not saying some of these products are not good or even great, but there is simply no rationale for them – or to expect them to be any good. It was as if I bought a furniture kit from Ikea, took it back to my home in the Green Mountain State, assembled it and pawned it off as a “craft bookcase handmade in Vermont.” Sure there are longstanding food producers, many of them excellent, all around the world that import raw materials. But when it comes to these kinds of artisanal products this is rarely the case – until now and this useless trend. For instance, the cows that provide the milk for Parma’s legendary Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and the pigs that end up as Parma’s legendary prosciutto all live in and around Parma. Likewise, Vermont, where I live, is the hotbed of world-class cheese making in the United States. In almost every case, these cheese makers either produce their own milk, be it goat, cow, or sheep’s milk, or buy it from local farmers. They don’t have tankers shipped from hundreds of miles away so they can parlay Vermont’s purity image into profit. In other words, they make dairy products because it is dairy state. Pretty simple concept. Read More