Finding the Flavors We Lost: From Bourbon to Bread, How American Artisans Reclaimed Food
(Ecco Press, June 2016)
The multiple-James Beard Award–winning restaurant critic for Los Angeles Magazine delivers an arresting exploration of our cultural demand for “artisanal” foods in a world dominated by corporate agribusiness.
We hear the word “artisanal” all the time—attached to cheese, chocolate, coffee, even fast-food chain sandwiches—but what does it actually mean? We take “farm to table” and “handcrafted food” for granted now but how did we get here? In Finding the Flavors We Lost, acclaimed food writer Patric Kuh profiles major figures in the so-called “artisanal” food movement who brought exceptional taste back to food and inspired chefs and restaurateurs to redefine and rethink the way we eat.
Kuh begins by narrating the entertaining stories of countercultural “radicals” who taught themselves the forgotten crafts of bread, cheese, and beer-making in reaction to the ever-present marketing of bland, mass-produced food, and how these people became the inspiration for today’s crop of young chefs and artisans. Finding the Flavors We Lost also analyzes how population growth, speedier transportation, and the societal shifts and economic progress of the twentieth century led to the rise of supermarkets and giant food corporations, which encouraged the general desire to swap effort and quality for convenience and quantity.
Kuh examines how a rediscovery of the value of craft and individual effort has fueled today’s popularity and appreciation for artisanal food and the transformations this has effected on both the restaurant menu and the dinner table. Throughout the book, he raises a host of critical questions. How big of an operation is too big for a food company to still call themselves “artisanal”? Does the high cost of handcrafted goods unintentionally make them unaffordable for many Americans? Does technological progress have to quash flavor? Eye-opening, informative, and entertaining, Finding the Flavors We Lost is a fresh look into the culture of artisan food as we know it today—and what its future may be.
Praise for Finding the Flavors We Lost
“A thoughtful, informative journey into the transforming—and transformative—world of food.”
“Patric Kuh artfully tells a food tale that takes buzz words like “artisanal” and “handcrafted” and defines them “from scratch.” Through stories of new American artisans and chefs, Kuh finds inspiration in the “lost” art behind tasty bread, domestic cheeses and micro brewing. After all, isn’t every restaurant and every menu “farm to table” at its core? As a chef, I am inspired by Kuh’s desire to give convenience and mass production a run for the money with a tasty vision for the American table. It’s these ingredients and these artisans that take us there. This book made me hungry!”
Patric Kuh is a Paris-trained chef who has worked in preeminent restaurants in France, New York, and California. He has written for Gourmet, Esquire, and Salon.com and is the author of a novel, An Available Man.