In Search of the Authentic Authentic

Over at the Gurgling Cod, there is yet another evaluation of the Philly cheesesteak. But this isn’t the same tedious back-and-forth between Pat’s and Geno’s Steaks that you’ve heard a million times before; nor is it the zillionth attempt to codify what makes a “real” Philly cheesesteak sandwich.

Instead, it’s a comparison of the classic cheesesteak shack with a Grub Street write-up of the Degustation “take” on a cheesesteak. The upscale version features a single square of pain de mie, a thinly sliced rib-eye that’s been cooked sous vide, and (of course) a foamy raclette-ricotta emulsion.

And rather than simply teeing off on the cuteness of the NYC haute cuisine version of the workingman’s sandwich, the author takes a step back and recognizes a common pitfall for many foodies: a rabid preference for authentic as opposed to delicious.

If you have read this far, you probably avoid the Olive Garden and its ilk, but if the pursuit of the authentic, (a common small-c chowhound preoccupation), becomes an end in itself, it can come at the expense of good eating.

This may be one of the finest lines between good taste and snobbery: a willingness to get past the fact that a place looks crummy and “local,” and accept that bad food can be found anywhere. Or that good food sometimes inhabits even the most middlebrow and accessible of establishments.

Cinnabon, anybody?

UPDATE: There’s a great thread on Chowhound that meticulously deconstructs the concept of “food snob” —it also digs into the question of authenticity.

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