“Once, long ago, we would spend our evenings sitting around the fire, eating together, and sharing stories. Rather than epic sagas filled with heroes and villains, victory and defeat, love and tragedy, we suspect that, more often than not, these were tales of life’s little labors...”
— to cure: A Food Anthology
On a breezy spring evening in Cambridge, MA, Brad Jones sits across from me and lists off the basic to cure: facts: “Three and a half months, 15,000 miles, one 19-foot 15 passenger van with the back seats taken out, and one hell of an adventure.” Chris Maggiolo, his partner in crime and classmate at Boston University’s Gastronomy program describes their plan to travel across the country, visiting artisanal food producers everywhere: “We’ve got dates set up until June 23rd, and then we have a rough plan. We want to leave room for producers to say, ‘you really should go check them out,’ or ‘we get grains from these people…go visit them!’” Leaving in mid-May, these two extra-curious guys are headed into a jam-packed summer of working and talking with artisanal food producers — everyone from farmers to butchers, bakers to beekeepers, and more!
What makes our country’s craftsmen tick? What motivates their labors of love? What does artisanal mean to the folks pouring their time and passion into food, and what are their stories? These are only a handful of the questions that interest Maggiolo and Jones.
By spending a day or so with a producer, sinking into conversation, and creating a multi-media (visual/audio/text) account of the producer’s story, Maggiolo and Jones aim to create a food anthology — “a place for telling and sharing stories, for preserving knowledge.” “Part of this trip is talking to individuals and letting them speak for themselves,” says Maggiolo. “In a lot of ways, I’m hoping not to define ‘artisanship.’ I’m hoping to let them define what it is means for them.”
Jones outlines the plan: “We go visit these producers, spend time with them, and participate in the things that they’re doing. These are not just quick wam-bam interviews. We want to try to do what we can in the short time that we’re there to be part of what they’re doing. Then, we’ll be able to share producers’ stories with the people who read our site and who are potential consumers of their products.”
In this way, Maggiolo and Jones hope their stories will attach faces to artisanal food products and encourage more consumers to participate in the artisanal food economy. “We know how important story telling is,” states Jones, “It’s a real value adding process. One of the reasons something artisanal is worth more than something at Shaws is because you associate it with an individual or you actually got it from that individual — you saw them at a farmers’ market, you had a face-to-face interaction with them.”
With two army cots set up in the back of their van, a water cooler, and some gifts for the purveyors they meet along the way, these two are ready to hit the road. When moving from producer to producer, they hope to encourage collaboration by bringing products from one region to the next, helping these ultra-local producers gain exposure in other areas of the country.
The more I talk to them, the more their combined passion for their project — and for storytelling in particular — shines through: “We’re not activists,” says Jones, “We just want to tell stories, and we think that telling these stories will make a difference. We think it will help these producers and we think it will connect producers to consumers which is something that we believe in strongly.”
Want to help support these innovative gastronomers? Donate here and play a direct role in making their trip a huge success!