Brooklyn is the East Coast epicenter of the “artisanal” food store trend, a movement that takes regular, dull food and spices it up with delicious elitism. The latest establishment to advance the forefront of snooty eating, according to a report from Eater, is an artisanal porridge shop in Brooklyn. New Yorkers can now enjoy the upscale gruel they never knew they craved. Perhaps they fancy the “Fruit & Cream” number with local Brooklyn Culture low-fat Greek yogurt, or the gluten-free, dairy-free, non-GMO savory “Truffled Heart” with artichoke hearts and white truffle oil. Add an agave drizzle for an extra quarter!
These are all actual menu items at Brooklyn Porridge Co., even if they seem like jokes. Unwitting self-parody is an essential part of the Brooklyn artisanal experience. If you’re unfamiliar with the artisanal food business, I’ve outlined a few simple steps to show you how it works. So start your own shop, and catch the tail end of the holiday shopping rush.
Step one: Go to Brooklyn, preferably in the Park Slope neighborhood or thereabouts. If you do not live in the New York metro region, simply find the urban area near you that has the highest concentration of gullible, wealthy white people.
Step two: Choose the food item you will artisanal-ize. It should be as lowbrow and boring as possible; this will make it all the more exciting for the clientele when you turn it into an edible status symbol. Grilled cheese is good. Mayonnaise is even better.
Step three: Add a bunch of expensive ingredients to the formerly low-status food you have chosen. Truffles, dates, organic pesto—it’s all about justifying your markup here. If your customers are going to spend 12 bucks on an artisanal English muffin, there had better be some mascarpone in there. Fennel is a good one, too. Fennel makes anything artisanal. Look, here’s a shortcut: Just go to Whole Foods and stock up on anything that costs more than $8 a pound. And if you’re forced to use a normal-people ingredient, be sure not to call it what it actually is. For instance, your artisanal corn dogs don’t come with “pickles”—they come with cornichon gherkins.
Step four: Publicize. Get your blogger friend to write your menu and your website marketing copy. (If you have multiple blogger friends, which of course you do, screen the candidates with a writing test. Ask them to spell “charcuterie,” for instance.) Open an Instagram account. Photograph all of your food using the “Polaroid that has been sitting on your aunt’s porch for the last 30 years” filter. NO EXCEPTIONS. Finally, launch a Facebook page. Nobody is going to visit you on Facebook, but having a page will allow you to write “Like us on Facebook!” on the chalkboard sign out front. (You have a chalkboard sign—multiple chalkboard signs—right?) Your Web 2.0-savvy message will make your customers aware that you like computers, and since they also like computers, they will trust you.
Congratulations, you are now an artisanal! Your hands will be full managing your lightly trafficked storefront, but many artisanals also like to attend urban farmer’s markets. This allows you to commune with your customers in the open air, where you can tell them that you’re sorry, but you ran out of the compote three hours ago. Perhaps they’d like the fennel?