General Discussion

Traditional, Authentic, and other bothersome notions


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General Discussion

Traditional, Authentic, and other bothersome notions

Brandon Nelson | | Mar 1, 2001 03:01 AM


I am not a member of the politically correct word police. I believe that you should say what you mean, and mean what you say. I do from time find myself bothered by the use of the use of words like traditional, authentic, get the picture, in their context to food.

Chowhound touches a vast community of food lovers. Often in the discussion of our repast will be mention of some "really great authentic Jamaican jerk pork" or "the best, most genuine, dim sum I have had in years". My problem is not with a Chowhound illustrating that his meal passed muster for ethnic purity. It comes from the fact that we are establishing a level of correctness. I don't see the sense in debating whether vidalia onions or walla walla onions are correct for "South Sioux City onion rings" (please note that the previously mentioned dish does not exist, it is a product of Mr. Nelson's overactive imagination and is used purely as a tool to make a point)

My point is this cuisine, regardless of it's ethnic background, is always in a state of evolution. Regional cuisines are what they are based plants and animals that thrived in an area from day one. As our world shrank these regional cuisines were influenced by new ingrediants as they became available. some stuck, some didn't. I can't fathom Italian food without tomatoes. Italy, however, had never seen a tomato until the mid 1500's. Being a member of the Nightshade family, they were though to be poisinous. It took another century or so for pomodoros to find their way into the Italian kitchen. A similar example can be made of polenta. Corn came to Europe from the Americas. Now dishes with corn and tomates are widely accepted as "traditional" Italian fare.

I'm O.K. with making mention of deviations that are far from the norm. In a past thread on California's Bay Area board there was discussion of an Indian restaraunt that used olive oil, rather than ghee, in the prepartion of it's food. Is this food no longer "genuine" Indian food because of this deviation? Stuff like this is common in California.

What do you think? What makes an ethnic restaraunt genuine? Is it possible for a chinese cook to make "traditional" soul food? Is it right to label a place as bogus? Does anyone know where I put the lid to this can of worms?


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