Looking through the kitchen cabinets yesterday for that bag of cookies I knew had to be there somewhere, I spied a box of bread mix, the kind one uses with an automatic bread machine. It's made by Pillsbury, a former rival to General Mills until they were bought out and then spun off. Pillsbury baking products are now sold under license to Smuckers. I point this out to make it clear that we are not talking about some 19th century, brick-oven and portly bakers in white apron bakery, but giant factories processing raw ingredients in giant stainless steel, computer controlled and antiseptic machinery.
I think that 20 years ago or more, the readers' eyes would have tripped over the word "artisinal" and to old times like me, an artisan still seems to be the description of a craftsman of a superior sort, the kind of carpenter, for instance who makes elegant furniture rather than the one who frames out houses or installs windows. At the behest of our friends in marketing, the world now only exists as ornamentation, to provide something manufactured by soulless machines in vast and shiny metal machines run by computer without human interference or oversight.
Marketing of marketing, all is marketing. We speak no word and have no thought without it being the product of some marketing effort and so a box of bread mix, produced and packaged by machines to be used by another machine becomes artisinal. Hence we have Pillsbury Artisan Bread Mix sold, one imagines, with a straight face. The handy home artisan does, after all, have to open the box, add water and push the button on the bread machine. Place the machine on some bricks for added authenticity.
Words today are here mostly to cover, adorn, spruce up and make things from the banal to the shoddy seem appetizing. We so long for the sense of authenticity and reality our world has stripped us of. We hate to think that it's true that we're only here to consume and die and make money for someone else in the process and so we snap at the pathetic and tawdry simulations of the way we wish it still was. I've noticed that in any town of recent vintage here in coastal Florida, the use of subdivision names containing words like cove, sound, harbor or bay seem to increase with the distance from the coast. There's nothing to spruce up the image of any strip mall like calling them "shoppes" so we can pretend we're in 1740 London down here in the tropics. Nothing to improve the obviously raw newness of a development built on newly drained alligator swamp like naming it something "upscale:" Kensington or worse Billingsgate or Dartmoor -- names that would only appear posh to a striving arriviste from the Heartland.
Hell, providing simulated authenticity is an artisinal industry in itself, from amusement parks to trailer parks full of "estate homes." Soulless economy cars and ponderous trucks are sold as racers, pudgy middle-aged men sport backwards hats and wear sneakers with suits to their cubicle jobs and patronize fake European cafes where they pretend to be speaking some foreign language ( and paying a hefty price for the privilege. ) Are we immune to the pathos of modern pretense? Apparently, and Ye Olde Renaissance Faire awaits you and the less you know about the real artisinal past, the better.