There was a time when we simply described things as they were: carrots, beer, cars, songs. Hot cold, spicy, bland, fizzy, flat, red, blue and green.

Now it feels very different to me. Words like craft, artisan, farmhouse, and custom are bandied about with a carefree nonchalance that the most hardened foodie may find appalling.

And to what end? Are all these words used in context to what we put into our mouth merited? Does it truly matter to you where they came from or is it trendy? Said another way, do you think you need to be aware and care or do we fundamentally and genuinely care? Do we use the words because they really matter or because we’re keeping up with the organic-farm-eating Jones’? Here’s a few food words to consider.

Case in point: Paired.

Paired is a “craft beer + food” event offered to attendees of the Great American Beer Festival, fall every September. What was once titled Farm to Table is now Paired. Why the switch of the name, is my first question. Are we in a day and age where single glib or seemingly gravitational words are how we want to sum up an entire experience? Do we want the feeling of something or do we want to enjoy the literal fruits of someone else’s labor? Farm to Table is straight forward and descriptive.

Paired menu 2016

Paired menu 2016

Don’t get me wrong: the Paired event is quite a show. The host organization, The Brewers Association, has deemed me worthy of a media pass several years, for which I’m grateful. Trappings of that badge include admittance to this event. Any time I get to eat with drink I’m happy. The planning and effort that goes into this one event, for example, looks to be a remarkable undertaking. Kudos.

So let’s look at the menu. Read one way, we can safely say it’s chock full of learning opportunity! An overflow of words that are new to me, so no doubt a collection of new vocab to others as well. Take for instance: rillette, mignonette, tataki, fromage fort, taleggio, membrillo, fish headcheese, chorizo seco, duck pipian, loukaniko...and on it goes. A crash course in Italian and French in many ways. Cool! I love to learn so there’s a build in homework option.

And if we’re looking at keeping it real and every day, this isn’t the event for you. I honestly think that someone looking for everyday food they cook (in a broad general sense) would not fully enjoy or appreciate. Words that are unfamiliar and to some unpronounceable don’t really engender new ideas; they engender fear of mispronunciation and sometimes, due to that, simple avoidance.

I’ve found the best way to navigate this event is to simply wander and ask lots of questions. The crews present are always very knowledgeable and it’s a good way to make new connections. Simply know that the next person in line will likely also ask some of the same questions of the crew. It’s gotta be a long repetitive day, and that’s what this is about: meeting, talking & educating on a redundant soundtrack to help people learn more about what they are eating, beverage paired with food.

To that end it’s a smash. Again, I enjoy it. I also find that by the time I’m ready to go all I want is a plate full of one food I know and recognize and to fill up on with a full glass of beer.

Have we taken the beer & food pairing too far?

Likely it’ll get pushed farther still. So be it. For me it’s about knowing what I’m getting into, embracing it for what it is – Italian lessons beforehand be damned – and then coming out the other side. Enlightened, fuller and perhaps more curious, “Woman overboard!” an infrequent call.

Categories: Beer & Food, Education & Training, Events, Something To Think About
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