Oh, Brie. Once you were the epitome of gastronomic chic, and now you’re so … banal. But food is much like fashion in that culinary trends are fleeting and fickle, and what’s cool today will be so uncool the next. The New York Times has a great article today explaining why.
This paragraph pinpoints Harry & David’s (everyone’s favorite mid-1990s catalog retailer for pears and the default Christmas present for all those people you didn’t quite know well enough to get a more personal gift) current dilemma:
Harry & David’s orchard cam illustrates a different sort of peril for anyone who makes or sells a food product that has long been viewed as an established emblem of luxury. When there is a profusion of new choices, the allure of earlier choices can begin to dim. Sometimes it’s hard to stay smitten with a care package shipped from the Pacific Northwest in the belly of a jet when you can pick your own heirloom fruit right off the branches at a nearby orchard that supposedly provided sustenance to soldiers during the Revolutionary War.
Yes, we’re now so entrenched in the story of local-sustainable-organic that the pears no longer have culinary cachet. And so the company was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week. Harry & David didn’t adapt with the times, and now people’s tastes have shifted toward a more sophisticated option. Godiva, on the other hand, quickly whipped up some bark, called it artisanal, and is doing just fine.
Which is really the other subtle takeaway from the article, besides Americans being food snobs now. Just because we’re living in a time when artisanal foods are supposedly the best you can get, consider how authentic the artisanship really is. You might find out that it’s just another label with no substance behind it, ready to be gussied up for the next big trend.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 6, 2011