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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Wendy's Artisan Bread: Please Give Us a Break

Wendy's is offering a Frescata Club sandwich using its freshly baked "artisan" bread on TV, where I first learned of this magnificent achievement in fast food, and on the web.
"Your favorite deli cuts of turkey and black forest ham mounded high on our freshly baked artisan bread, topped with 2 bacon strips, lettuce, tomato and mayo. This club is fit for a king."
Given the sizes of the stores, Wendy's must keep its imported Italian bakers underground pumping out their hand made bread as fast as we require it.

We must applaud Wendy's for training its bakers to make artisan Italian bread. The French Culinary Institute in New York City offers a "Total ImmersionSM method can fully train you to bake a range of international artisan breads in eight exhilarating weeks." The full course takes 240 hours but the section on Italian bread would be shorter.

If you have seen the Wendy's ad on TV you know the tray of "artisan" bread they display doesn't look like any bread I've seen in Italy or Germany or anywhere else I've been other than a fast food resterarunt . If you haven't just go to the Wendy's link in the first paragraph and check out the bun (uh, well, maybe bread) pictured there and then imagine a tray of these odd looking pieces of bread (buns) arrayed in rows and columns. Though you know how I feel about what dictionaries do -- they don't define words but give guides to usage -- but the essential element in artisan bread or cheese or wine or beer is that a craftsman (or woman, of course) is doing the work. The online Webster's gives the etymology of the word as:
Middle French, ultimately from Old Italian artigiano, from arte art, from Latin art-, ars
The fact is that Wendy's is acting like it can use language in any way it wants no matter how false the resulting claims are. If we all felt free to do that in our own ads -- say in a personal we might write to attract someone to go out with us, then the words of our language would cease to have a conventional meaning and not just personal ads, but language itself would cease to be of any use since no one could rely on what anyone says. Of course, we aren't going to do that. Just greedy manufacturers of foods who must think we are idiots or that we just don't care about the truth and politicians and other liars.

Perhaps we need as part of Homeland Security a unit of Forensic Language Police that strike down the enemies of honest advertising and politicking who employ linguistic distortions of the sort Wendy's is doing. The security of our nation depends on a secure and reliable language so that our fighting men and women can communicate with each other in an effective manner and Wendy's is threatening the very foundations of our language, and therefore our nation. I suppose Bush would appoint a General to run the unit.


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11 Comments:

Blogger L>T said...

Realisticly, not many people are going to look up the word 'artisan'
(I thot it was some kinda water that made good beer. Remember that clever 1970's beer commercial? I think it was Budweiser)
Instead of special linguistic Police, we just need to reconize bullshit when we see it.

As the saying goes, "There's a sucker born every minute."

And, as far as linguistics goes; Those of us that read your blog don't need linguistic police, we have you. :)

12:28 PM

 
Anonymous pf said...

That was Artesian water, LT. Water that supposedly comes from Artesian wells. What about that Rocky Mountain spring water in Coors. If it comes from about the same place as those Rocky Mountain oysters, they can keep it.

5:58 PM

 
Blogger L>T said...

Oh yeah, that's right, Artesian.
Some bottled water is pretty amazing stuff, too.

7:24 PM

 
Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

When it comes to artisans the rule of thumb is the same as for Mexico: Don't drink the water.

(My verification word is "ppfhteh"! That probably sums up response to the above pretty well, eh?)

10:31 AM

 
Blogger two bits said...

I won't argue that Wendy's bread is handmade, but it does look like something you can get in Italy. When I was in Rome, I had a wonderful fast-food sandwich on bread that looked just like that. It was cooked in something that looked like an American "sandwich maker", flattened out and squished like grilled cheese. After almost 24 hours of flights, sitting around airports, and train travel... it was the most delicious thing I could imagine. I loved every drippy ham'n'cheese brushed with olive oil bite. Two days later I bought another one near the Colosseum but it wasn't as satisfying. I think these grilled sandwiches are the equivalent of 2 am cheese-fries or gyros. It is something to be appreciated by drunk (or jet-lagged) people only.

6:52 PM

 
Blogger Language Guy said...

two bits, your examples don't count as artisan bread. Artisan cheese or bread results typically from a one man/woman or, at least, a small local operation. Any small, quality bakery anywhere could be a candidate. The small brewerys that popped up in the US to amke beer in small quantity are also candidates. No fast food or coorporate operation could be artisan. The key with artisan is "genuinely home made" and "made with great skill." Get a good French cheese book and you will see the difference -- some cheeses are sold only locally and others are the result of a big operation.

The idea that Wendys is making artisan bread is a joke.

8:30 AM

 
Blogger gimminy_this said...

I debated for quite some time before posting this comment. I thought my comment bordered on the overly specific, but then I realized this site is totally based on an exact understanding of what is said or written and realized that this implies there is no such thing as using language that is too precise...

In any case, none of the ads I've seen actually says that Wendy's is manufacturing (and like Lionel Poillane, I believe bread is best when manufactured, not just baked...) its own bread.

In other words, all your comments and complaints and sarcastic references to "...Wendy's must keep its imported Italian bakers underground pumping out their hand made bread as fast as we require it." seem rather, well, stupid really. Wendy's no more bakes its own bread than it shapes its own hamburgers or cuts its own French fries. To suggest that their bread doesn't fit the definition of "artisan" that you've chosen simply because it isn't made on site seems to miss the point.

Another fine point -- I believe "artisan" refers to the person and "artisanal" to the product they create... doesn't that bother you?

Let me also state I agree with anyone who wants to assert that the bread isn't artisanal bread because it is pumped out by the thousand piece lot in large commercial bakeries. I would go one step further, of course, to also point out that even tough mass produced, the bread in question is much better tasting, and perhaps even better for one, than those crappy yellow buns they server their greasy meat squares on.

2:49 PM

 
Blogger Language Guy said...

Uh, I was having a little fun. Of course Wendy's doesn't bake its own bread nor does it cut its own fries. I think it probably cuts the tomatoes and onions and tears the lettuce. Doesnb't matter. There is no sense in which this bread is artisan in the way that certain French cheeses are artisan or certain beers or wines are artisan. It is just advertisgin bullshit.

6:08 PM

 
Blogger Lada said...

I would like to insert my "five cents" to the topic! :) There is a wonderful article I recently read about French cheeses. I just loved it, check for yourself!

8:39 PM

 
Blogger copywriter said...

Subway seems to be baking their own bread. Maybe they should co-opt the word.

6:30 PM

 
Blogger The Language Guy said...

They are probably calling it "home made" bread. Though no home is involved, it would be better than calling it artisan bread. The latter always has "flaws" that mark it as non-manufactured. Of course the latter can be quite good.

3:17 AM

 

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