Artisanal Erasure
August 19, 2017 1:16 PM   Subscribe

"A lie by omission may be a small one, but for a movement so vocally concerned with where things come from, the proprietors of craft culture often seem strangely uninterested in learning or conveying the stories of the people who first mastered those crafts." Lauren Michele Jackson examines The White Lies of Craft Culture. (slEater)
posted by Fish, fish, are you doing your duty? (21 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
The whole beardy, aproned, retired banker thing reminds me of Jack London's The Valley of the Moon, in which two labor agitator (white) Oaklanders travel up and down California and finally settle into being subsidized truck-farmers to the rich: the true California success story. It's a lot more interesting as a prefigurement of California generally than as a novel.

Somewhere in it the protagonist comments that Italian and Chinese and other non-Anglo farmers don't exhaust their land, while Anglo farmers do, and gets from there to... the need to continue subsidizing Anglo farmers. Because they're really good-looking, I guess.

I kept hoping that London was going to damn his protagonists, perhaps to the sound of Snowball's hooves against the gate; but no.
posted by clew at 1:42 PM on August 19, 2017 [7 favorites]

I am not a fan of Jack Daniels, but I may have to buy a bottle to support stuff like this:
Because of Weaver’s research and advocacy, this past May, Brown-Forman, Jack Daniels’ parent company, named Green [the slave who taught Daniels how to make whiskey] its first master distiller, ahead of Daniel himself. (The company told the Times that it intended to more formally recognize Green’s contributions last year, but didn’t want to look like it was profiting from the political climate that surrounded the election.)
posted by notyou at 1:45 PM on August 19, 2017 [30 favorites]

But craft coffee readily displays the black and brown bodies of the people who farm it only because it doesn’t have much of a story to sell without them. ... The sociologist Nicki Lisa Cole has found, as a result, that the movement towards a socially conscious cup of coffee is heavily invested in making “interaction with racialized bodies safe for white consumers.”

Oh, boy, is that one true. Can't swing a stick at a "funky" coffee shop without seeing stock photos of black and brown people harvesting crops. I understand what they think they're doing by posting these things, but it does comes off a bit like a clothing store adorning its wall with photos of cotton pickers.
posted by tobascodagama at 1:55 PM on August 19, 2017 [20 favorites]

This hits rather close to home. I recently left my last job, which was pretty much just being a craft beer expert, which is basically a title you get when you know just slightly more than the people around you. I had worked for both a brewery and a distillery before my entry into the retail side of things, and knew my way around a glass pretty well. One thing I noticed and that became impossible to ignore, was the overarching whiteness and maleness of beer in America. (Nota bene: I am a white dude myself.) The people who buy and make the stuff are all white dudes. Which is fine, but the culture was rapidly becoming toxic, in the way that things that are full of inebriated white dudes often are. The stupid competition of the hardcore clique of craft beer buyers to score as much as possible of whatever rare beer as they possibly could led to my having to institute limits as on whatever came into the shop, which in turn led to whining and rending of garments and incessant phone calls and lengthy lists and lots of stress and unhappiness on my part. And lest you think this was limited to younger white millennials, let me tell you the boomers who are the core of the whiskey nerdery were just as bad. So: bad behavior. Fine.

The real problem was the massive lack of respect when anyone female or of color even tried to get into the club. All the racist, sexist shit that got tossed around genuinely befuddled me. For instance: Highland Brewery in Asheville recently got a new head brewer, she had previously worked at Stone Brewing in San Diego, and if you come from there, you know your stuff. I saw sooo many people mansplain or assume she didn't know things because: woman and beer. Whatever. She gave me some great tips on making my own beer, and was super nice in spite all all the shit, so hats off to her.

And so now, I'm unemployed again (don't weep for me, I'm fine) but I took a look around me one day and thought of the Lew Welch poem, "You can't fix it, you can't change it, but maybe a small part of it will die if I'm not around feeding it anymore..." I left that world and its macho self-congratulation, and I wish I had a silver bullet, but it's just shitty place to be and pretty much ruined a thing I once enjoyed....
posted by 1f2frfbf at 2:03 PM on August 19, 2017 [57 favorites]

I have always had the impression that the Jack Daniels people have a more informed idea of their place in the universe than most businesses have. Might be that running a distillery in a dry county causes you to think about things most folks take for granted.
posted by Bringer Tom at 2:16 PM on August 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

1f2frfbf I can honestly say I haven't seen anything like that here in the New Orleans area. Some of the best and most beloved bartenders and crafters I have met are women, and AFAIK nobody gives them shit about it. Maybe it's because here in NOLA we remember that basically everything edible mostly came from women and POC.
posted by Bringer Tom at 2:19 PM on August 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

POC and women and so on could exist in these spaces a lot more easily if investors and financing were anything like equally available. Nobody's giving anybody money to start a coffee shop just because it's a great idea for more authentic coffee--they get that capital because they have an idea and they look and sound like what someone thinks the owner of a coffee shop looks and sounds like. Or a restaurant, or a brewery, or a tech startup.
posted by Sequence at 2:55 PM on August 19, 2017 [35 favorites]

Funny, my wife and I were just discussing the old Folger's coffee ads with "Mrs. Olsen" the knowledgeable Scandinavian woman with a hint of an old world accent that was a supreme expert on coffee.

She was sort of Euro-white washing coffee as a crop or commodity. Americans associated good coffee with Scandinavians back then.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 4:12 PM on August 19, 2017 [6 favorites]

Craft culture tells mostly white stories for mostly white consumers, and they nearly always sound the same: It begins somewhere remote-sounding

Can we blame it on the general disneyfication of the culture? The story is more important than the content, the growth of the food(ie) infrastructure is great in that a formally obscure spice or tea does not require a trip to that one specialty shop, if you lived in a big city. But boy some stuff is silly meaningless.
posted by sammyo at 4:50 PM on August 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

Funny, my wife and I were just discussing the old Folger's coffee ads with "Mrs. Olsen" the knowledgeable Scandinavian woman with a hint of an old world accent that was a supreme expert on coffee.

Those ads were all kinds of wrong.
posted by lagomorphius at 5:00 PM on August 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

Well who can you trust for coffee ads? Not Giles.
posted by thelonius at 5:31 PM on August 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

I love me some pickles, and I've been knitting since I was a teenager, but I've often thought that much of the "artisan" craze has represented a quest for whiteness without guilt.
posted by praemunire at 6:35 PM on August 19, 2017 [16 favorites]

fish, fish, thank you for doing your duty in posting this.
Interesting to acknowledge where all these small regional breweries and every-corner a coffee shops originate.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:27 PM on August 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

On point. Thanks.
posted by perrouno at 2:58 AM on August 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

That turned out to be a really interesting article. Thank you for posting it.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:23 AM on August 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Those ads were all kinds of wrong.

I'm a child of the 70s, so while I saw plenty of sexism in my youth, the Folgers commercials had evidently toned it down considerably by then. This is the first time I've seen their 60s ads. They're freaking outrageous!

I mean there's no subtext at all to the disparagement of women - it's all right in your face, with such a smoothly unrepentant delivery that it speaks volumes about how terrible broader society must have been for women.

In my family, there is a story told about how my Southern grandfather (who passed away in the 1960s before I was born), once intentionally knocked over his coffee cup on the dinner table. My grandmother, aghast and leaping to clean up the spreading spill, asked "What did you do that for?" To which my grandfather replied, "Well, it was so weak it fell over by itself."

The story is recounted by my uncles and aunts as an example of granddad's impish humor. I had always interpreted it differently: as a glimpse into the behavior of a probable asshole. But seeing those Folgers commercials from the 60s, one is left with the impression that the whole (male) society of the time was an asshole.

Something you can know intellectually and still be shocked at every time you see it.

/misogyny derail
posted by darkstar at 8:28 PM on August 20, 2017 [7 favorites]

The label on a pair of my Burton trousers states "Crafted in Burlington Vermont, Made in China", which I think expresses the true meaning imbued in the modern use of the word "craft".
posted by Svejk at 3:54 AM on August 21, 2017 [6 favorites]

/misogyny derail

No. There's this thing called intersectionality. Perhaps you've heard of it. You know, like racism and sexism are often correlated. Cultural appropriation as well.

Anyway, very interesting article. Whiters gonna white.
posted by Philofacts at 7:10 AM on August 21, 2017

a glimpse into the behavior of a probable asshole.

you misspelled "provable"
posted by thelonius at 7:27 AM on August 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

So when they don't show black or brown people, that's a "white lie," but when they do show black or brown people, they're "racialized bodies."
posted by John Cohen at 10:01 AM on September 6, 2017

Object vs. subject.
posted by tobascodagama at 12:31 PM on September 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

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