Culture

What Is an 'Artisanal Mantry' and Does Your Man Need One?

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I like Martha Stewart, always have, even when her ideas were off the charts for difficulty of execution. She is willing to engage in self-mockery on that point, so it lessens the sting that I can’t do most of her projects myself. I can just enjoy her domestic artistry. Her branding, however, sometimes is just…odd.

I get MS emails of various sorts. Today, two weeks before Father’s Day, the first item in her “American Made” email states:

THE FAMILY CHEF: Since the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, give him a “Mantry” stocked with artisanal snacks.

First, I’m pretty sure most men roll their eyes at words formed by “man” replacing the first syllable. Man as adjective, as in “man cave,” is okay. “Man” as syllable is just too precious.

Second, “artisanal” should not appear anywhere near Father’s Day anything, especially food. Artisanal is a hipster thing, and hipsters by stereotype aren’t dads.

My husband is a chef. Such a great chef, in fact, that one of our friends nicknamed him Marty Stewart after one bite of his pumpkin cookies. He is currently in the kitchen homebrewing some hard dry cider for me, since Strongbow’s U.S. formula tastes like Jolly Rancher in a can. He’s a Mantry dad target if there was one. Yet, there’s no way I would buy him a crate full of artisanal snacks. My husband and 11-year-old son confirmed my gut reaction when they read this draft over my shoulder and started snickering. I might buy a Girls Night In basket of artisanal snacks, but not a Mantry. It seems like something women assume men would like because the women themselves like it.

So, the PR team at Martha Stewart missed the mark, I thought, by not lining up the product with the recipient. Ah, but then I realized that I am PR naive. Perhaps, in a display of Martha Stewart savvy, they lined up the product with the buyer — the women who assume men would like such things. After a little digging, I found that Mantry is one of those box subscription services in that currently trendy market. Women do buy Mantry boxes for bachelors and husbands. I did, however, find a lukewarm recommendation for the Mantry on The Art of Manliness blog, complete with a reservation about artisanal food.

This was another subscription service I was initially skeptical of, but ended up really enjoying. I’m simply not much of a foodie myself, and not into the “artisanal” food movement (unless it’s jerky!). But you don’t need to be an edibles connoisseur to appreciate the grub that Mantry delivers to your door each month. Each box is curated around a certain theme, and offers a selection of interesting, top-quality, American-made foods from around the country. One box that I received was entitled “Salty Dog,” and it contained albacore from Washington state, sea salt caramels from New York, and clam chowder from Maine, among other things. It all comes boxed in a handsomely rugged wooden crate. This is a great gift for anyone who likes to open a box and immediately start eating its contents. I can’t give a 100% endorsement, though, as I’ve found Mantry’s customer service to be unforgivably slow, and they sent me the same box twice for some reason. Hopefully, they’re just working out the quirks of being in biz. –Brett

$75 per box

I not only feel vindicated about my artisanal hunch, but also about not using subscription services! Seventy-five bucks for things I know I need and use, maybe. Seventy-five bucks for pantry surprises seems a little dear.