Fish caught in hand-carved, traditional canoe.
  • Fish caught in hand-carved, traditional canoe.
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Dear Hipster:

I enjoy reading your column. I thought of you recently whilst purchasing frozen precooked Baja shrimp at a strip-mall grocery store. The package boasted that the shrimp were “wild-caught by artisanal fishermen.” What exactly is an artisanal fisherman? The word “artisanal” certainly seems like hipster bait to me. As a member of Generation X, I fear that overexposed hipster code words are being used by marketers to lure Millennials into buying products; much like how the word “lite” charmed my generation when we were young and terrified of fats. Would a hipster actually purchase such an item, or is the hipster hook baited in vain?

— Kathleen

What does artisanal fishermen even mean in this case? Did they capture the shrimps with trained cormorants? Perhaps they constructed Algonquin fishweirs to entrap the wayward molluscs through artful deception. Maybe, like grizzly bears, they swat their prey from the air as the shrimp swim upstream to spawn.

I don’t know, but, yeah, you are totes right that vague words and catchphrases lure Millennials into buying, in the words of a Tijuana peddler who tried to sell me an El Chapo T-shirt, “some shit they don’t need.” But, since when was that any different? In the early 2000s, mayo companies killed it because people were terrified of carbs. More recently, the all-powerful, global rice cracker cartel capitalized on a collective fear of gluten. Thanks, Obama.

Cynical hipsters (who like to say punk died the moment punk became a thing) think that “artisanal” loses its meaning the moment it appears on a mass-marketed package. The more charitable ones think the demands of an emergent, more socially conscious market have pushed producers toward better business practices. Whether or not the Millennial/Hipster buys the shrimp might have more to do with how optimistic he is than how easily fooled by cunning marketeers.

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Comments

Visduh Oct. 26, 2016 @ 5:10 p.m.

You mean that the great whole-grain "artisanal" bread I buy at Costco (and made by Costco) is mislabeled? No little old bread-maker toiling in the back of the bakery, up to his elbows in dough he lovingly rolls in seeds, raises, and then bakes? Oh, I am crushed.

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DJ Stevens Oct. 26, 2016 @ 8:30 p.m.

How ironic would it be if it was actually the case that Costco, of all places, was the spot where folksy old French bakers labored over perfect loaves all day?

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