Artisan this and handmade that and homemade the other. Ugly vegetables fighting for their right to be displayed. Food crying out to be cooked slowly, growing numbers of vegans, vegetarians, the world of food has certainly seen some shifts of perception over the past years. Values and tastes have been redefined. The scandal at Mast Bros. the artisanal chocolate company whose bars sell for $10 a pop in the aisles of Whole Foods and other high end retailers, shows us that sometimes, what is not in the ingredients list can sometimes be more telling than what is. Often the packaging is enough to distract us from the real burning question when it comes to food of any sort. Does it taste good? I won’t go into the complete Mast Bros. story it has been widely reported on, but there does seem to be something in it which is deeply disturbing. Chocolate experts have been expressing their concerns about Mast Bros chocolate for quite a while. First they agreed it tasted like big production chocolate when it was claiming to be artisanal small production chocolate. Then they agreed it tasted really awful when it was handmade to more artisanal small production standards. What I find difficult to understand is how this whole deception went on for so long, was more or less alluded to and yet the bars with their American Psycho font packaging stayed on the shelves of top stores all that time.Producing and providing food with a traceable history, transparent information – that still tastes good – is undoubtedly a worthy vision. In Ireland alone the amount of new food producers producing unadulterated top quality, tasty food has exploded in recent years. That’s all good. It’s when the lifestyle element becomes more important than truth and transparency that the rot sets in. This can indeed happen when for some strange reason (or reasons), a product embodies the moment and appeals to the young upwardly mobile consumer ( in the case of Mast Bros. – the hipster community) The growth potential is enormous, but how does one capitalise on it using hand made methods and small production tools? One thing is sure, if it doesn’t taste good no amount of hip packaging will make me buy it again and if the story it tells doesn’t ring true it may be well worth it to check it out. If something is truly artisanal then the artisan will have no problem putting a full list of ingredients and values on the packaging without sacrificing the aesthetic mood created by his/her designer.