Earlier this month, the winners of the third annual Good Food Awards were announced at a ceremony in the Ferry Building in San Francisco. 114 winners were selected from 1,350 applicants from across the country, representing nine categories of Good Food, including beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, confections, pickles, preserves and spirits.
For a long time, certifications for responsible food production and awards for superior taste have remained distinct… The Good Food Awards recognize that truly good food — the kind that brings people together and builds strong, healthy communities — contains all of these ingredients. We take a comprehensive view, honoring people who make food that is delicious, respectful of the environment, and connected to communities and cultural traditions.
In order to be eligible for a Good Food Award, producers in every category must abide by criteria that are strict but realistic. The main ingredients used in Good Preserves, for example, must be foraged or grown locally, with respect for seasonality and without any synthetic inputs. Sugar, fruit and other ingredients used in small quantities, however, are not required to be sourced locally or grown organically.
This year, the raspberry chambord jam from HeathGlen Organic Farm and Kitchen in Minnesota was among the winners in the preserves category. What sets their product apart from, say, a Smucker’s is that they
work with small batches (6-10 jars), do not use any artificial preservatives, fillers, artificial coloring and the only water in our products comes from the fruit. Comparatively, large-scale jam companies often process jams in cavernous batches where the flavor is boiled out, with less expensive sweeteners (i.e., corn syrup) and far less fruit. In many cases, the fruit that is used is often seconds that are “good enough for jam.”
In the category of chocolate, winners make the product from bean to bar, or from liquor to bar, without artificial ingredients and without genetically modified soy lecithin, which is an ingredient found in the vast majority of chocolates sold in stores, including higher-end brands like Lindt and Godiva. Good Chocolate producers should also know their cacao farmers and understand and be vested in their growing practices.
The owners of Askinosie Chocolate in Missouri, which was recognized at the Good Food Awards for its Dark Milk Chocolate Bar + Fleur de Sel, argue that “farmers are more important to us than beans.”
Sure, we want high quality rare beans; more importantly though, we want farmers that we can work with on issues that are important to us… So, the first step is finding the right farmers through existing relationships. This is the hardest part of the process. It would be much easier to call a commodities broker in the U.S. If we did that then we would not know the name of every single farmer that grew the beans that make our chocolate.
The standards for Good Charcuterie include being crafted by hand with meat from animals that were fed organic feed and raised using good animal husbandry, as defined by Animal Welfare Approved.
The Surry Farms Surryano Ham from S. Wallace Edwards & Sons in Virginia, a dry cured product, was a winner at this year’s Good Food Awards. These hams are produced only from 100% pasture-raised, rare Heritage Breed hogs, smoked over hickory for seven days and aged for 400 days. As described on the company’s website, it takes patience and care to produce ham of this quality and honors a tradition of meat-crafting that early settlers had adopted from Native Americans.
Unfortunately, Good Food in any category is a far cry from most of the food available to and consumed by Americans around the country. It should be the exception rather than the rule that we eat heavily processed foods manufactured by multinational corporations. On so many levels, good food is better — for the producer, for the consumer, for the environment. Is good food also more expensive? In most cases it is. But for good reason, judging by the degree of care, knowledge and quality ingredients required to make it. Many of us may not be able to afford the same volume of good food that we can of industrially processed products, but neither are we supposed to be drinking and eating things by the pallet-loads anyway.
Take some time to find good food producers near you — you could start by reviewing this year’s list of Good Food Award winners — and support them in any way you can.
Photo from Thinkstock
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