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Definition of "Handmade"


Andelman
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Wasn't quite sure where to post this query, so feel free to move it if necessary...

What is your definition of 'handmade'? I was thinking about this today when a customer asked "Are these all handmade?" My first reaction, was well, yes! However, at the same time he asked, Marissa was in the back enrobing chocolates with our enrobing/tempering machine--so, technically no, right? I mean we use our hands to pretty make everything here, or at least operate the small machinery. I am under the impression that most folks think that "handmade" (i.e hand dipped, hand rolled chocolates) are somehow superior to everything else. In my opinion, I don't think that is really the case. I used to dip everything by hand, and hand temper the chocolate. However, now we use equipment to help with those tasks. And rest assured, the product produced by the enrobing machine is far superior than anything I used to do by hand. It also holds true with other equipment we use in the shop.

I don't know, it is just something i have been thinking about. Where do you draw the line at 'handmade"?

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Where do you draw the line at 'handmade"?

Well, I suppose some stickler would require you to grow your own cocoa beans, turn them into liquor, and then turn all that chocolate into pieces filled with stuff you also made your very own self--including the nuts you grow on trees in the back of your store. By my standards, your chocolates are "handmade." There's quite a difference between what you do and buying an "original" Thomas Kinkade canvas that the "assistant" can alter to your taste. You choose the ingredients and supervise the entire production from beginning to end, don't you? Close enough for me.

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When I see "handmade" pasta on the menu I sure don't think that someone is back there mixing and rolling the batch out without the help of a mixer and pasta maker. Same goes with bread too.

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Unless a peon is using a knife to whittle down cases of potatoes into slender finger-sized matchsticks, virtually no one is hand-cutting fries in restaurants. Hand-activated-potato-cutting-mechanism-through-a-metal-cutter-frame perhaps, but that energy can just as well be replaced by a brick and length of string. An extension of the “artisan” fraud for those who can’t find a better way to say that they make their own fries from whole potatoes.

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Wasn't quite sure where to post this query, so feel free to move it if necessary...

What is your definition of 'handmade'? I was thinking about this today when a customer asked "Are these all handmade?" My first reaction, was well, yes! However, at the same time he asked, Marissa was in the back enrobing chocolates with our enrobing/tempering machine--so, technically no, right? I mean we use our hands to pretty make everything here, or at least operate the small machinery. I am under the impression that most folks think that "handmade" (i.e hand dipped, hand rolled chocolates) are somehow superior to everything else. In my opinion, I don't think that is really the case. I used to dip everything by hand, and hand temper the chocolate. However, now we use equipment to help with those tasks. And rest assured, the product produced by the enrobing machine is far superior than anything I used to do by hand. It also holds true with other equipment we use in the shop.

I don't know, it is just something i have been thinking about. Where do you draw the line at 'handmade"?

The mere fact that you care enough to ask this question means that in any similar future situation, yes, your chocolates are handmade.

Poivrot, you could argue that the peon with a knife is not hand-cutting his fries! B)

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Looking back at this question, I think the real issue I was getting at is the notion of it being 'better' if it is made by hand. Going back to mdt's comment about the pasta. Is the fresh pasta better if it is kneaded by hand by an 80-year old Sicilian grandmother, or if it is made by monavano in her food processor (I am of course assuming monvano is NOT an 80-year old Sicilian grandmother :) ? Is the ice cream that Joe H is always talking about in his hand-cranked, rock salt ice cream machine, better than ice cream churned by a Taylor machine? And I am not talking about actually tasting or being a better product, but what the customer is led to believe. I keep thinking of this Lindt advertisement on TV, where they show this master chef looking dude hand-dipping a truffle. Really? I think the last time something was hand dipped at Lindt was probably many, many years ago.

I believe many people have a pre-conceived notion of things being intrinsically better if less 'machinery' is involved. (which is often not the case).

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Okay, I've been saving this story, and now's as good a time as any.

A good friend of mine is Jewish, and has an old grandmother who was visiting him in New York from Russia. His wife is as WASPy as you can imagine, with blond hair and blue eyes. Just setting the stage ...

So, his wife was so enchanted by his grandmother's Russian bread that she asked for lessons. The wife and the little old grandmother went shopping, and set the kitchen up to begin making bread, side-by-side, both of them doing it while the grandmother would teach.

During the moment where they were both several minutes into kneading dough, working hard with their hands, the Russian Jewish grandmother leaned over, smacked the wife's wrist, hard, and shouted "NO!"

"What am I doing wrong?" the wife meekly asked.

"You're not SUFFERING enough!" the grandmother replied.

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I believe many people have a pre-conceived notion of things being intrinsically better if less 'machinery' is involved. (which is often not the case).

I think you've answered your own question. Adding onto what Zora said about small batches, total supervision, etc., what's being left unsaid is the addition of preservatives, stabilizers, and other things added to industrial products to give them "shelf life." I'm guessing you aren't too concerned about that, since probably half your products never last beyond the parking lot. I'm also guessing that when folks define "homemade" they mean products made without adding any of that other stuff.

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"Handmade" means "artisinal".

Since only the eldest son may inherit one's land, fathers without means to send their younger boys to school bring them from the countryside to the city to train under a master craftsman where their duties range from sweeping the floor to mixing pigments, grinding flour, fetching water, soldering, boiling down bones, stretching leather on frames or at an advanced stage, painting the trees in the background of a gilt altarpiece. After a certain number of years, with signs of hard work, talent and acquisition of requisite skills, they join the appropriate guild of their trade and start their own workshop as a full-fledged artisan where they might be commissioned to fresco ceilings, design floats for parades or develop a crisp, lightly salted snack chip from the New World's corn.

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