Artisan Files

Notional Vs Real Food

We’re starting a GET REAL campaign. Why? Because Artisan House would like to create awareness of the differences between notional and real food, empowering people to be more discerning with their food choices.


Are all Granny Smith apples the same? Are all porterhouse steaks the same? No, of course not! Yet the sad reality is that many people treat food as a commodity. How has this come about? Why we are so easy to confuse and deceive? Because we’ve distanced ourselves from the origin of our food. Habit, convenience, and lack of awareness has left many of us vulnerable to deceptive and cleverly worded marketing.

Nutritionism (explained in the book by Gyorgy Scrinis, 2013) has a lot to answer for. Over the past few decades a whole raft of needs has been thrust upon us, including so-called “healthy” alternatives such as low fat, low sugar and vitamin rich. More recent jargon includes low carb, “all natural”, functional food and superfood. These labels are used to focus attention on isolated attributes, whilst diverting our attention away from the true quality of the whole product.

Food Production

It’s obvious that all businesses need to make a profit in order to remain viable. But it’s how they choose to go about this that makes a world of difference. To explain this in the context of food production I am introducing two high level paradigms: volume-driven and quality-driven.

Volume-Driven Food Production

The key objectives are high yield and efficiency, standardisation and low cost.

Common attributes include:

-Factory farming – a system of rearing livestock using highly intensive methods and unnatural conditions in order to maximise output as cheaply as possible.

-Use of synthetic chemicals (pesticides / artificial fertilisers) and genetically modified (GM) seeds.

-Over-processing, often motivated by time efficiency, resulting in the destruction of the wholesomeness and goodness of the food. This is also done for the purpose of standardisation so that products meet tight specifications.

-Use of imported goods which often undergo treatment to mitigate the risk of diseases. These include irradiation, fumigation and gassing.

These production methods will often result in what I call “Notional Food”.

Quality-Driven Food Production

The key objective is to maintain the integrity of the product by utilising methods that do not compromise its quality.

Common attributes include:

-Sustainable & ethical farming, balancing short term profits with long term impacts on the environment and local communities, e.g. livestock is offered conditions that are suited to them.

-Primary produce and ingredients are grown and produced free from the use of synthetic chemicals, irradiation and GM.

-Traditional processing techniques, which are time-honoured methods of producing food which pay respect to each component and work with nature rather than against it.

-Use of seasonal local ingredients to maximise freshness and minimise processing and handling.

-Non-standardised, small batch production to allow scope for natural variance between production runs, minimising the need for further intervention to modify food.

Quality-driven businesses balance financial rewards with the integrity of their operation. This enables them to offer us the purest and most wholesome product, i.e. “Real Food”.

So how does this translate into the food we consume?

Let me illustrate with the most common staple food purchased – bread.


Anyone for some baked and sliced cotton wool? Notional Bread is a substance often made from flour of multiple origins (cheapest available), quickly leavened with baker’s yeast (to achieve efficiency and standardisation), then baked, packaged and distributed as a matter of urgency. The use of artificial additives to add flavour, improve texture and rising properties, as well as prolonging shelf-life are common with this kind of product. Every loaf is the same as the one before it and the one after it – no natural variance tolerated.

In contrast, we offer a piece of artisan sourdough with a golden chewy crust and soft-textured interior. Each loaf is a unique hand-crafted masterpiece that will always be reflective of the flour and methods utilised.

Let’s Get Real!

We hope that this introduction to our GET REAL campaign has whet your appetite. Please help us to spread the word by sharing this with your loved ones.

CommentsNo Comments
By sitemanager in Notional Food

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

6 + 2 =