Moonshine and Edible Authenticity

What Women Really Think
July 21 2010 3:27 PM

Moonshine and Edible Authenticity

Another day, another article about the revival of authentic foodstuffs to go along with our well-documented (if still relatively fringe) love affairs with canning and pickling , charcuterie, " butcher parties " and artisan drink mixers . This time, according to the BBC, the latest trend is moonshine .

The reporter quotes an anonymous woman who makes moonshine in her kitchen-in Brooklyn , of course. Apparently moonshine has come a long way since days of yore. These days you can make corn liquor taste "as good as any apple martini you’ll find in New York. " (This makes the moonshine revival seem ripe for a Sex and the City angle; I await the story line when movie No. 3 inevitably emerges.) Women are apparently big into artisanal cheese-making , as well as making their own cake pops and kimchi empanadas, if this Times article on the Greenpoint Food Market is any gauge. More broadly, they're a major force driving changes in how we think about food -not just the big names but ordinary " Farmer Janes " as well.

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Despite the potential appeal to Manhattan cocktailers, the real draw of moonshine at this moment in time may be its links to "the elemental rural libertarianism that shaped American politics." (Tea Party moonshine, anyone?) The big story in moonshine last year was the suicide of Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton, the 62-year-old wild-bearded Appalachian bootlegger and author of Me and My Likker . Sutton had been sentenced to 18 months after the feds busted him with more than 850 gallons of moonshine, and days before he was due to report to prison he asphyxiated himself with car exhaust . He had, his daughter has said, a " death-before-dishonor " mindset.

I find myself wondering what's next for this renaissance of edible authenticity. We human beings are notoriously bad at seeing around corners, but I would really like to see pruno given its due . If you can make liquor crafted from ketchup actually taste good, you are truly an artisan.

Libby Copeland is a writer in New York and a regular Slate contributor. She was previously a Washington Post reporter and editor for 11 years. She can be reached at libbycopeland@gmail.com.

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