(De)sign for Homemade



A recent law aiming to protect the quality of French food requires restaurants to identify dishes that are cooked to order (not frozen or pre-made). Philosophically, the question of what makes something “homemade” is worth considering as is the new logo (a casserole dish with a house roof) that will alert consumers.

The basic claim was that “homemade” supports local produce and labor needed to cut, chop and peel the local produce in addition to supporting the culinary craft. The negotiated law however, allows frozen and packaged produce and according to critics undermines the initial intent. The law differentiates and requires restauranteurs to identify industrially produced from locally crafted food. But the differentiation itself is proving difficult. Hence, the controversy.

How do we personally identify a home-made dish? Last night we had grilled salmon with lemon, garlic butter, salad and bread sticks. The salad was prepackaged, as was the bread sticks, we grilled the salmon and the mixed the butter with lemon zest, lemon juice and a clove a garlic. We also had brownies and ice-cream for desert made from a prepackaged mix. Was that a homemade meal? I don’t know. Our tolerance for industrial food products, perhaps particularly in the U.S. has risen to an almost naturalized level. When we go out, do we expect a custom made dinner? When so many of our favorite restaurants are represented in the freezer section of the local grocery stores, the myth of a local customized dinner is not only shattered but celebrated. What is the line between convenience and craft? Shouldn’t there be a line? The battle over standardization and industrialization against craft and localization takes place on our dinner plate every night. Who are we as 21st century consumers?

What is at stake in the “homemade” logo is the responsibility of thoughtful, aware and discerning consumption. I wonder if someone is planning to study consumer behavior related to the new logo. Will customers choose the identified “homemade” more? Would you or I?