I’m a champion for authenticity. Food that means something, that has a history. How Tuscan cuisine differs from Roman, Sicilian, Ligurian cuisines and how they differ from each other and what makes each authentic. Where, why, what and how are all questions that have answers in seeking to determine and define authenticity.
They tell me the word “authenticity” doesn’t mean anything anymore, that it’s been co-opted by marketing, advertising and food professionals seeking to legitimize their products in a society with no cultural roots. The word “authentic” is overused and abused, much as the words organic and natural have been. Like those words, it has ceased to mean anything real.
It certainly means something real to the people of Italy producing their authentic regional dishes. They won’t be surprised to hear “authenticity” is dead in America. They never thought it existed there anyway.
I was cleaning up some old magazines one morning when I saw the ad, there on the back of an old issue of La Cucina Italiana in large type: “Proud to be Authentic”. An ad for cheap supermarket balsamic vinegar, one of the most INAUTHENTIC products available.
My nemisis is inauthenticity passed off as the real thing. Labeling a product “authentic” means nothing anymore, but does it make the real thing any less real?
I’m a champion for authenticity, I guess, and not yet ready to give up the ghost and declare authenticity dead. It’s alive and well. It’s our media-driven, instant-gratification culture that’s the problem.
There was an old cartoon I remember from my childhood called “Crusader Rabbit”, I think it used to play on Captain Kangeroo. It detailed the adventures of a little white rabbit in knight’s armor that went around championing causes.
One day when I was about 4 or 5 years old I was going on about something that bothered me, I don’t remember what, and my mom looked at me and said, “You aren’t Crusader Rabbit!”
But I think I might be.
PS here’s a link to the old Crusader Rabbit cartoons. Youtube is indeed an amazing thing.