The Taste of Artisan Food Products

Chichicastenango Market (photo by Willie Posadas)

by Shannon McCullough

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Personally, I would prefer a fresh lemon tart or a jar of artisan lemon curd. I long for baskets of delicious lemons in markets that are so plentiful in other parts of the world. In the Highlands of San Martin large yellow lemons, with sweet citrus flavors, are grown on farm land.

Bodegona, if you are reading, please send someone up the hill to fetch them, as I am longing for an aromatic lemon bar.

When visiting my friend Joan’s garden, I always head for her Meyer lemon tree, searching for signs of newly sprouted buds. I crave its distinctive taste of lemon, mandarin orange and aromas of honey and thyme. When the tree bears fruit I have promised her a batch of Meyer lemon ice cream with a hint of Guatemalan cardamom. In the meantime, will someone please toss me a damn lemon?

I am also inspired as I walk through Caoba Farms’ lush rows of organic produce. Small growers in Guatemala need to be embraced to preserve this culture of local artisan food production. Food grown in these environments is healthy, tastes delicious and is good for the land. I choose not to eat produce that has been waxed to perfection with petrolatum, a byproduct of petroleum. I would rather keep petroleum in the tank of my car, thank you. This is why I purchase local organic produce rather than the large agribusiness and food processors that manifest the greater food- safety risks.

In Guatemala we have access to many varieties of artisan food. Artisan food is defined simply as not being processed en masse on factory lines with only quantity in mind. It is instead local bakery products fresh out of the oven, piping hot tortillas made by hand, or delicious brews of coffee that comes from small nearby fincas. In Guatemala we are surrounded with lush fruits of the land. In the markets we are surrounded with healthy food choices. I have learned to pay more attention to what nature has to offer from the fields of Guatemala.

As I sit at the Valhalla Farm eating macadamia pancakes with organically grown blueberries from a nearby field, my cup of roasted Guatemalan coffee awakens my senses and reminds me to appreciate the artisan food we sometimes take for granted here in Guatemala.

In North America the healthy, artisan food renaissance has grown to the point of corporate food makers gleefully adding the world “artisan” to their labels. Did they not receive the memo of the definition of artisan?

Whether it is artisan food or organic farming, it all comes down to what we choose to put into our bodies. It is simple. Eat well and you shall live well.

Oh and if anyone can point me in the direction of artisan Sea Salt Honey Caramels, I will walk your dog for a week.

Shannon McCullough is a writer living in La Antigua Guatemala. He is currently writing a book on cooking and entertaining in Guatemala.

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