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How do you define "authenticity"?


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#1 Chris Amirault

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Posted 13 November 2005 - 08:41 PM

I have a simple question that you cannot possibly answer definitively in a forum like this -- but given the role you play in our appreciation of authenticity, I can't help but ask!

Whenever I make a dish from one of your cookbooks, I am struck by something -- flavor, balance, aroma, composition, who knows -- that I can only describe as the authentic quality of the recipe. Authenticity seems both your foundational goal and yet something that may be ineffable, ultimately, with most dishes.

How do you define "authenticity"? Does it even have a place in your lexicon? If so, what role does it play in your conceptualization of a dish, cuisine, or tradition?
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#2 Wolfert

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Posted 14 November 2005 - 03:05 PM

The integrity of a traditional dish is very important to me, but I'll happily alter a recipe to make it work for my North American readers. Integrity means using the correct ingredients from the region to make a regional specialty. But then the question arises: "Whose recipe should I use?" This can present a quandry as there are often many variations, as many as there are fine regional cooks.

I once wrote that "authenticity is always my guide, but I try not to let it become my straightjacket." I just select the rendition I like the best and that I think can be made successfully in an American home kitchen.
“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

#3 Suzanne Podhaizer

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Posted 14 November 2005 - 03:18 PM

For some other thoughts on authenticity, you may want to take a look at the site for the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery. Authenticity was the symposium topic for 2005. On their website they have a "report on the proceedings" that includes some of the main points from a couple of key talks. They also have a listing of the proposals they received, although I haven't yet discovered a way to read the papers that were actually presented.

Although I read their write-up a couple of weeks ago, some of the comments there struck me as very similar to what Paula said above.
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#4 Abra

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Posted 18 November 2005 - 06:56 AM

What I really appreciate about your recipes in terms of authenticity is that you always explain any deviations from the original technique or ingredients. For me, authenticity of flavor is paramount, and I don't mind adaptations to achieve that, but I do like to know when I'm making them!