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How valuable is authenticity?


Not About Food 40

How valuable is authenticity?

PaulF | Nov 2, 2005 12:14 PM

First some context:

I usually post on the Los Angeles board, but this topic won't fly there. So, I'm bringing it here.

The value and the desire of authenticity comes up somewhere between quite a lot and once in a while on the LA board. Mostly it concerns ethnic cooking.

I don't want to be simplistic or disrespectful by stating the obvious, but just so we're all on the same page, let me create some examples.

Person A will tout a Mexican restaurant. Someone else will say, it's good, but not "authentic" - meaning it's not the food that one would find if they actually went to Mexico -- or a region of Mexico.

It's common when discussing Chinese food, too. Los Angeles has many fine chinese restaurants, but it seems they are all in two neighborhoods. Every other neighborhood has the non-authentic Chinese food that's been popular all over the United States for my entire life.

It doesn't have to be international, either. We see requests for authentic New York Pizza. Or Chicago Pizza. Or Philly cheesesteak. "I need a recommendation for a Mexican restaurant in Santa Monica - the only thing is, it has to be authentic ..."

You get the idea ...

But I've been thinking about what that means.

Personally, I sometimes eat hard shell tacos, or shrimp in lobster sauce or whatever. My tastebuds don't know authentic from non-authentic. They only know what they like.

But, I'm not immune to the desire for authentic. When I travel to Cabo, I only eat in the restaurants the locas frequent - I would never go to touristy places. At home, I only go to the Mexican restaurants in my neighborhood that are family-owned, no Acapulcos or El Torito for me.

I hope this doesn't read like gibberish. I'm really trying to suss out my own feelngs on the value of authentic cooking versus good cooking.

Can non-authentic food be enjoyable? Can certain sushi rolls be great, even if real, live Japanese people don't eat them in Japan? Is authentic cooking by definition great? Do I need to apologize for the extent my tastebuds and food-desires are Americanized?

LOL at me ...

Anyway ... I'm curious as to what it all means. I know I'm writing goofy here - feel free to laugh at me if you choose to respond.

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