Authentic Cuisine

Photo by Monika Stawowy on Unsplash

Certain people are really concerned with authenticity. For them, it’s a point of pride. When they eat Italian or Chinese or French food, they don’t want the Americanized versions. They want the “real” thing. Only, as my brother pointed out to me recently, it’s hard to say what the real thing is.

Take Italian and Irish cuisines as examples. Both tomatoes and potatoes are native to the Americas. That means no European had any knowledge of them before Columbus. How can a food be authentic to a place where it was imported? Is it an age thing? If the tomato has been in Italy since the Renaissance, is that enough time to make it authentic? If that’s the case, what is the cutoff? Does it need to be 400-500 years? Is 100 years long enough? 50?

These are questions that are not easily answered. If there is a cutoff, then new dishes are becoming authentic all the time. If there isn’t a cutoff, is it just arbitrary or do we have to go back to the earliest dietary records of each region? It’s hard to say.

Personally, I think there are only two right ways to look at it. One, if you’re into authenticity, is that virtually everything is authentic. If Italian people cook it, it’s authentically Italian. If Americans cook it, it’s authentically American. And so on. The second is that virtually nothing is authentic. Humans have done so much trading and borrowing and stealing over the millennia that every cuisine bears the hallmarks of another country or region. There’s no way to separate authentic from inauthentic.

So, I say when it comes to food, don’t worry about authenticity. If it tastes good, eat it. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.

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