I recall the first time I saw the word “charcuterie.” I asked the server how to pronounce it. Then, I happily dug in.
Jessica Machen can relate, having seen eager customers embrace the culinary trend since she opened Agape Graze in 2020. Her specialized catering business curates customized traditional charcuterie boards by request and their very American spin-off, graze boards.
Machen offers private party classes to encourage the craft and always begins her DIY lessons with one rule: “There are no rules.” That said, she recognizes traditional charcuterie boards from France/Italy as a pairing of cured meat selections, cheese varieties, pickled items, and sometimes grapes. Over time, items like baguettes, crackers, and oils or condiments were introduced.
Machen says “modern charcuterie” boards consist of the above items, plus starch options, fresh fruits or vegetables, dried fruits, and even some dessert items, which has led these boards to be called graze boards or graze tables.
Grazing boards look like charcuterie boards but usually offer bite-sized fruits or vegetables, complemented with sauces, dips, honey, and/or jams. Flavored butters or favorite cheeses may be added. A grazing board’s potential for expression is endless, Machen says. A breakfast-themed board may offer mini waffles. A Mexican theme lends itself to tortillas and dips.
As for the boards, Machen encourages people to choose the “canvas” they desire, whether wood, stone, or recyclable bamboo. Then, “I typically start my presentation by first placing a center point, and work around that,” she shares.
The free-expression proponent follows this guideline with her no-rules approach. After all, she says, “It’s your art.”