Monday, February 18, 2008

Ed Levine (and commenters) on Authenticity

This morning's Serious Eats newsletter brought my attention to an Ed Levine post I'd missed last week (there's so much content at SE that I often miss things). Levine parses a Fred Feretti NYT Op-Ed lamenting the lack of "authentic" Chinese food in America.

Levine makes two general points:
1. There's plenty of authentic Chinese food in America, if you just know where to look.
2. Don't knock "inauthentic" (aka Chinese-American) food. It can be perfectly delicious. And after all, isn't delicious why we eat?

Actually, I think it's that second question that I find most interesting. Isn't delicious why we eat?

The answer, according to the commenters (and I think they're right) is: sometimes. Mostly, even. But sometimes we want the "authentic" experience because sometimes we eat for our brains, not just our stomachs. Eating authentically opens us up to a new world of understanding other cultures and it even helps us understand and appreciate culinary adaptations more.

It's a good discussion, thought-provoking and rational. I occasionally take issue with the authenticity nazis and with people who trade in authenticity for the wrong reasons (namely, to one-up other foodies around them). Those undesirables don't seem to make too much of a splash in this discussion, which is nice.

I'll close with Levine quoting commenter Mongoose, who sums up the way I feel pretty nicely:
Authentic ingredients are wonderful things, but when this becomes THE central focus, it's easy to lose track of what makes food deeply enjoyable, and it instead becomes a museum piece.

Well said.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails