Cuisine, Cultural Relevance and the Problem of Authenticity

  February 09, 2021   Read time 1 min
Cuisine, Cultural Relevance and the Problem of Authenticity
Experience informs us that cuisines are in most cases "product-based" and convey a specific sense of taste which is in its essence "local". Some critics cast doubts of the authenticity of a product-based cuisine due to the lack of possibility of its preparation in other corners of the world. Of course, culture is a significant part of the cuisine.

At one end of the cooking-cuisine continuum, individual or community styles of cooking work off local products and associated dishes; at the other, a highly formalized and typically normative culinary system sustains a cohesive and coherent cuisine. The pertinent distinctions are more geographical than intellectual or social: the more local or idiosyncratic a style of cooking and the more dependent upon strictly local produce, the less likely that cooking will “travel.” In addition to means of transporting products, culinary diffusion needs texts to translate styles of cooking into a general cultural medium. Then, too, there is the vexatious question of authenticity. Is a localized, productbased cuisine “authentic” when reproduced elsewhere? Since at least the nineteenth century, when increasingly rapid transportation began to allow defiance of local strictures, culinary conservatives and progressives have been at a perpetual standoff. Conservatives argue that, transportation of foodstuffs notwithstanding, local cuisines should not travel because they have neither culinary nor cultural logic away from their point of origin. These localists assume the indissolubility of a cultural configuration, of foodstuffs, producers, and consumers, and they conclude that, although food can travel, the community cannot. On the other side, whether considering an immigrant group’s recreation of a familiar culinary pattern or a traveler’s importation of exotic tastes, culinary progressives tend to make use of every new opportunity in their search for culinary creativity and/or “authenticity.”

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