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Authentic Immigrant Recipes?

post #1 of 49
Thread Starter 
A point was brought up in another thread about meatballs, and it was mentioned that spaghetti and meatballs is considered an Italian dish but it is not made in Italy and Italians there view it as an American dish. So how did this dish come about?

Being Greek myself I see this often with many dishes that are misconceived, and I see it in other cultures too. I have Chinese friends who have never heard of a General named Tso! Along the same lines Greek salad doesn't exist in Greece in the manner it does here.

I have also always wondered how immigrants have changed authentic cuisines? Has anyone noticed that some Italians who have never been to Italy and don't speak a word of Italian call their marinara sauce gravy (which has been simmering for up to 10hrs)? I was once scolded by an American Italian friend for using oregano in my dish stating that oregano is never used in Italy. :confused:

Likewise I live in a predominantly greek community with lots of people here who immigrated from greece in the 1950's. Their idea of greek cuisine seems so foreign to what I know is being cooked and served in present day greece. I often hear that certain ingredients are NEVER used in greek cuisine which baffles me because those ingredients are most certainly used now. This leads me to believe that 50 yrs ago certain ingredients were simply not available, and greeks in greece are using them and the cuisine is evolving while greek immigrants here are holding on to the old country as they left it and hanging on to traditions that no longer exist. Is there a right way and a wrong way? Who knows, but the fact is that Greece has always had regional cuisines just like Italy, and now the regions expand outside of Greece.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."


"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

post #2 of 49
Jeff Smith (The Frugal Gourmet) did a cookbook in this vein: The Frugal Gourmet on our Immigrant Ancestors. You can pick it up cheaply through most of the used book congregators online. bn.com, amazon.com, alibris.com, abebooks.com

He doesn't go back to the home countries much for information, but to the immigrant communities in America.

There are of course American influences in these cuisines. What was available to cook with here that was similar to what was available back home. But also what was cheap here that was expensive back home. Meat being the prime culprit there.

Further, there were social programs of the time to improve the health of these immigrants. In their view, how could a plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce be healthy? It needs protein. And so meatballs in spaghetti, heavy meat lasagne, milk based sauces. and such were born.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #3 of 49
Here's one book that discusses that question from an Italian American perspective: The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken.

The short answers are:
  1. Immigrants used what they could find, which differed from what they had in the "old country."
  2. They changed recipes according to the prevailing "majority" ethos, to make others more comfortable with the foods they love.

But of course it's much more complicated than that. And it's a question that can never be answered definitively (imo). The world is constantly changing.

Among my Indian friends are two cookbook writers. One believes in complete "authenticity" and only preparing foods as they were prepared for generations. The other believes in "accessibility" and adapts recipes according to the time and ingredients available to her readers. Which of them offers the truest dishes? Both! :D
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
post #4 of 49
Hi Koukouvagia,
This is a really interesting thread for me, combining cooking and anthropology!
I think another thread was about Navajo fry bread, again a derivative recipe from what was available.

Phatch, i think you made a good point i hadn;t thought of. The american school system taught nutrition to many of the immigrant or first generation families, and they added lots of stuff to their traditional dishes, as well as a different way of eating.

I think often of the submarine sandwich (as it's called in boston, possibly grinder or poor boy in other places?) - which is, at least ijn boston, exquisitely "Italian" - four kinds of cold cuts, cheese, pickles, tomatoes, onions, hot pepper.... wherever in italy would anyone have made such a sandwich??!! I remember going for a hike with my husband from my inlaw's house, and my mother in law insisted on making the sandwiches - "what would you like, ham or cheese?" I said both, and she was quite taken aback! Never mind submarine sandwich! Certainly this is the product of hungry immigrants who finally had abundance of foods, and they enjoyed them.

Other strange recipes, i believe, are local variations, like ricotta in lasagna, which i've never encountered here, but is local to (?) sicily i think. Elsewhere it';s always bechamel.
Someone brings them over and then teaches them to everyone.
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
post #5 of 49
the origin of the submarine sandwich is a debated topic.

one theory holds it originated in the Philadelphia area where immigrant wives "created" and "instant lunch" for their husbands working in the shipyards then known as Hog Island, hence "hoagie" - the area was once an island in the Delaware River, it has since been filled and the area is no longer an island.

aka submarine sandwich, zepp (from zepplin) - all relating to shape.
Philadelphia definition: a "grinder" is a hoagie grilled as a open faced sandwich
post #6 of 49
"...the regions expand..." is exactly right. In this country we seem to stereotype how "authentic" recipes are prepared in other countries and cultures. What would a european writer write about if he came to this country to write about "authentic" barbecue? Every single person he talked to would give him a different "authentic, traditional" recipe. The same is true of food traditions that are brought here from Greece, Italy, anywhere. My family has lived in the same place in the southwest for over 250 years. My great, great, great grandparents lived in the same house I live in. We have many people, relatives, inlaws and friends who show up here from Mexico and New Mexico every year at holiday time, and each time they show up, there are lots of friendly, Negra Modelo and Presidente fueled arguments about the correct way to make the chicharrones, the calabacitas, the cabrito, the birria de borrego, the carne machaca and everything else. Recipes and traditions change with geography, economics and available ingredients. In the purest sense, there's no such thing as "authentic".
post #7 of 49
Well there is some good logic there too.

In the 30's the average male height was 5'7" and now its 6'0". Being that we haven't evolved all that much in the last 70 years, most of the change is due to having more protein in our diets.

Of course we have taken it to an excess the other direction now.
post #8 of 49
The question of "authenticity" is an interesting one, Elchivito (and how wonderful to live in such a historical context!).

My question is, what is "authentic" and is that what we really want.

I find that while there is the "slow food" trend here i n italy that is trying to get back the goodness in food, sometimes it kind of backfires. If we are only going to try to make things as they used to be, then we lose the creativity of the cook. Someone must have invented it at SOME point, it wasn;t handed down from olympus! And each individual that cooked it did it better or worse. I don't like some dishes that are traditional and authentic anyway, even if others seem just perfect. So while i think you shouldn't CALL a dish with a traditional name if it isn;t that dish, there is no reason you have to make the traditional dish. Make food that is good, that's the real point.

Near us is a restaurant that specializes in researching old recipes and producing them exactly as they used to be done. I ate there once and was not impressed. One dish tasted like grass. The fact is, most peasants ate poorly, and had to make do, and yeah, maybe they made this poor food well, but as soon as they emigrated to lands of more abundance, changed their eating habits very quickly. In any case much of what i ate there was not, in my opinion, worth the high price tag for authenticity. (And it has a long waiting list for reservations).

I guess i'm frustrated by the Italian tendency to want to eat only what your mother cooked, exactly as she cooked it, so that for many years every restaurant I went to had exactly the same menu. I like to experiment, and particularly when i do get to eat out, i like to get something i would never do at home. Pasta e fagioli is easy, why should i pay a restaurant to do it? Even today, unless you have a lot of money, eating an original dish is not easy here. So i'm not so interested in authenticity.

On the other hand i'm very much in favor of the old fashioned way in terms of raw ingredients. I've witnessed a decline over the 35 years i'm here in the quality of produce, due to longer transport, more hothouse growing, more demand for stuff out of season, and importation from other european countries. Moreover, don;t expect to get great bread here any more. The bakeries in the city produce a product that is quickly risen and dry and too light, and the only reasonable bread to be bought comes from out of town. Even then, it's not like it used to be. A baker once told me that to do bread the old way, you have to work all night. Nobody wants to do the night shift any more, so they do shortcuts. There i do lament the old ways.
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
post #9 of 49
It's also interesting that you can eat the same food - made by the same company but in a different part of the world - and they taste absolutely different.!

My sister lives in Australia. I visit her on a fairly regular basis. Chocolate. Made in Australia by Cadbury - but tasting totally different from British made Cadbury chocolates, bearing the same name.

My sister puts it down to the different quality of milk - but I'm not sure what it is that causes the same product to taste absolutely unlike the 'home' variety. I thought she was exaggerating, but having eaten the stuff, I have to agree.
post #10 of 49
I traveled through Italy many years ago and have longed to go back. Your perspective, while not surprising, is pretty sad.
post #11 of 49
interesting thread.

The products where ever you immigrate to may not be the same....ie, chanterelles from the NW USA do not taste like the small Scottish ones, or the large MO. ones.
Truffles from Burgundy are different than Oregan and Tuscan....

Soil or terrier (sp) makes a difference. I can tell a sungold tomato grown on a specific farm in Illinois from sungolds grown by other farmers within a 200 mile circumference. Same with meats, there is a difference between not only the breeds but whomever is raising and feeding them....well and cutting them.

So, if you took a recipe and made it using these products it would be similar to the others but they'd all be different and that's just using products from this area grown on different land. One of the culinary camps I taught was, "Not every tomato is the same".
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #12 of 49
In Chicago a grinder is a sandwich using two pieces of garlic bread.

Its also awesome :lol:
post #13 of 49
This story is probably not true, but I read it once a long time ago.

The "hero" sandwich, aka as hoagie, submarine, etc., was when a Greek was describing to an American a "gyro sandwich" as sliced meat in pita bread.

The way "gyro" is pronounced the story said, sounded like "hero" to the American. Hence that is how sliced meat in bread became a "hero sandwich".

post #14 of 49
I'm not able to identify which perspective is so sad, but I would not agree that any specific perspective can be considered sad.

I have spent (collectively) a fair amount of time in Italy and traveled to many regions. for example, I have not encountered anything in Italy I would define as a USA hoagie/zep/sub anywhere in Italy. that said, I would not presume my experience is 100% "accurate, the truth, the whole truth, without exception."

aside: Doc - fascinating Hero sandwich story - true or not, it has a proper "ring" to the story!

who was the first person to put the first "cold cuts" in an "oblong roll" is certainly lost to history.

same for pizza - who first put anchovy on "tomato pie?"
or pepperoni?
or sausage?
or green pepper?

growing up the the Philadelphia area, I had my favorite sub shops - some were "better" (in my opinion, only) than others - question of cold cut mix, cheeses, seasonings, etc.
there was one shop that made a knock'em dead tuna hoagie - only place I would buy one.... is that a tuna hoagie or just a tuna fish salad sandwich....?

grinders were an entirely different story - some shops put the lettuce & tomato on before grilling, some after. I personally liked the lettuce and tomato applied after grilling - that provided a nice hot/cold/crisp contrast in the sandwich. your tastes may vary! have it your way - I'll support your assertion / preference!

there are hundreds - if not thousands - of "dishes" that have evolved from a basic concept. getting to "authentic" is a tall task - first the historical "accuracy" bit - if even known / documented - and then the regional (considering all the world is just a compiled heap of regions) differences. the Earl of Sandwich is credited for the "invention" - but I bet he just said "bring me something to eat" and it is an unknown cook that slapped a slice of meat between the slices of bread . . .

example: Hawaiian pizza - ham & pineapple toppings. was it really "invented" in Hawaii? I doubt it; hawaiian pizza is largely unknown in Hawaii. more likely a pizza shop looking for a new&different menu item (a frequent question around here....) and since pineapples came from Hawaii, bingo - a "name"

example 2: french fries - appeared first in Spain. popularized in Belgium. the cooking term "frenched" refers to (semi) thin strips. I'd put money on the Inca's having deep fried cut up potatoes centuries before the potato even got to Europe.

so what is "authentic?"
post #15 of 49
What's sad is that Siduri is seeing a gradual shift from old ways to quicker, yet more generic new ways, even in Italy. The WalMartization of the world. Sad is a personal term. Siduri "laments" it. So do I. Sad.
post #16 of 49
elchivito - ah, I get'um your point.

the newer quicker Walmart ways - at least as I observe them - from the shopping carts of others in the store - is premade frozen nuke'em everything. yuck.

compare the shelf footage of frozen chicken preparations with the shelf footage of fresh chicken in the market. you're right, frozen wins. there might be twenty 'fresh' chickens in the bin, gotta be enough frozen chicken entrees to feed several hundred people.

is it sad? perhaps, not a good trend in your? or my opinion. but it is fact.
nor is it "new" - thirty years ago the neighbor kids came visiting my garen and when I
picked a pea pod and opened it up,,,,
reached into the leaf mold and pulled out a new potato,,,
yanked a carrot out of the ground,,,,
you'd thought I had six heads and four feet.
our society has come a long way from "agra"

but going back to the ole ways "that taste like grass" ain't in my practice <g>

for example, tomato / pasta sauces: quite frankly when I want to make spaghetti, I'm very pleased not to start with: take twenty pounds of tomato, quarter and cook down.

otoh, I do not _always_ buy the same pasta sauce. frankly, my dear, I'd rather it taste different from last time.....

perhaps it can be summed up as:
Do you cook?
Do you reheat?

and that sentiment runs right through the portion control / prepared approach of chain eateries. a Chain X entree tastes identical in any and every Chain X location you visit because it's all premade&frozen under rigidly controlled "quality" standards in some kitchen fourteen truck days away. they do not cook; they reheat.
(ah,,, nationally. McD's for example _does_ make regional/national differences.... a QuarterPounder has way more salt in Sweden than in New Jersey)

once upon a time I avoided the greasy spoons because I figured the "chains" would deliver a better product. now-a-days I avoid the chains and take my chances on the greasy spoons because they may actually have something _good_!
of course, I do keep a jug of Tums in the glove box ......
post #17 of 49
I think the way the question is phrased leads to lots of confusion. There is no such thing as "authentic immigrant." Authentic recipes are authentic recipes, whether or not they come via Mayflower or through the internet.
post #18 of 49
true - but my point would be:

define authentic, Mayflower or sonst

the definition implies from a source of authority.
so many recipes / dish concepts are so old there is no chain of authority.

see: Shepard's pie - 13th century
see: Delmonico steak - 20th century
see: hamburger - even this esteemed group cannot decide if it is a sandwich or something else...

what is _the_ authentic "beef stew"? - ?zeroeth century(?)

there are questions which have no "authentic" answer
opinions - yes; authority - no

similar question: "What is the best way to cook xxxxxxx?"
like, okay, best according to who?
post #19 of 49
And many young dishes also don't fit well into authenticity debates. Viz. sushi, which was invented in the 19th century as quick street food. Think of your basic nigiri-zushi as the equivalent of a pushcart hot dog in New York.

Now tell me which restaurant serves the most "authentic" sushi.

While we're at it, try this one on for size: all non-American foods that have chilies, potatoes, corn, or tomatoes in them anywhere are inauthentic. Those are New World plants, so they're not authentic to the cuisines of other parts of the world.

Do you buy that argument? I don't either. So how come? Do we set some sort of arbitrary time-lag: an authentic, traditional recipe must be at least 100 years old, but it's okay if it's only 125 years old? This is silly.
post #20 of 49
Saint Patrick's Day is coming up in a few weeks. What connection does corned beef have to the Irish?

Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
post #21 of 49
I don't think the question of this thread is about what is authentic, but rather, how dishes changed when they hit the states, so that they are almost always made that way in the states, and yet are not known in their country of origin.

Spaghetti and meatballs are very american, as far as i can see, though italians do make meatballs, and sometimes make them in sauce but usually for a baked pasta dish for very special occasions. But i never saw it with spaghetti.

So how could this come about.

It's pretty well known that immigrants are more purist than their cousins in the country of origin about most traditions. So something must have happened, since they were invented b y immigrants.

I imagine that with the spaghetti and meatballs, either

1. this is a dish local to a small area, whose immigrants brought it to the states. Being a nice dish, it caught and took hold. Maybe they still make it in some village in Abbruzzo or something.

2. That they got to the states and found the only pasta available was spaghetti, back in the 1800s when the first wave of italians hit ellis island. Couldn't make their timballo with meatballs because it needed short pasta like rigatoni.

3. that the kids of the immigrants went to school and learned about those early ideas of nutrition where protein was considered only available in meat, and got the idea of putting meatballs in with the spaghetti

4. That they were overwhelmed by the abundance and cheapness of meat in the US and started putting it in everything.

or maybe none of those but somethign else.

I discovered that the american italian way of making lasagne (which my tuscan mother used, and my friend's neapolitan mother used, and my family friend's emilian mother used) was to put a layer of ricotta in it, while everyone i know here, from naples to tuscany to emilia-romagna makes it with bechamel.
I searched google in italian and found it is done that way in sicily. Probably most immigrants were too poor in the old country to make lasagne at all, and when they got to america, their sicilian neighbors taught them how. I remember my mother getting recipes for other italian dishes from her multi-regional italian friends all the time.

Submarines, at least the kind i know from boston, which were very much italian (italian-american) were made with prosciutto, salame, mortadella and provolone - cheaper versions with ham instead of prosciutto). No one puts that much variety in a sandwich here, and poor construction workers would bring half a giant loaf of bread and an onion to work. If they were well off, some cheese. But most likely their wives would go to the worksite with a basin of soup - vegetables, beans and bread. Certainly not cold cuts! Those were for the rich. And nobody ate sandwiches here as a meal except people who only had bread and onions and no wife to cook the soup.
And the submarine also has pickles, onions, tomatoes and hot pepper. Pickles!!??? They might be eaten with boiled meat in a formal dinner of the 1800s with the boiled meat course, but not in a sandwich, nowhere i've ever been, even today.

Kids did eat bread with a tomato rubbed on it for an after-school snack. But not with other ingredients.

But imagine these immigrants, finding themselves alone, without wives, trying to work in a factory or construction site with such a short lunch break that they had no time to make their soup, even if they wanted to, but could afford cold cuts, i think they would have piled it on like a sub.
All conjecture of course, but would be interesting to find out if anyone has any personal stories of these origins.
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
post #22 of 49
Thread Starter 
How far can one take authenticity? Only back to their own Grandmother I'm afraid. When I was a kid my Mom used to make pasticcio as a side dish at every holiday gathering. Once in a bout of rebelliousness I exclaimed that when I grown I'm going to put pepperoni in my pasticcio. My Mother replied "one day you will make pasticcio just like I've taught you to." Fair enough, I have never put pepperoni in it to this day. I have however experimented with it as my Mother did.

First, when we came to this country my Mother spoke no english. My Father always bought 2% milk and that's what my Mother used to make bechamel for pasticcio. She learned to work with it eventhough she wasn't aware of "not having enough fat content in milk in order to make a bechamel work." She experimented with how many eggs to use, how much flour, etc. She makes a fine low fat version. She never consulted a french cookbook, never saw tv chefs, she just did it. She made creme caramel with 2% milk too God bless her.

I now continue experimenting, I have researched, I keep trying to make it better. I'm evolving, and now I'm teaching my mother better ways to make bechamel. But she and I are creatures that embrace change. Other immigrants that I know here are rock solid in not changing what they know. "we NEVER make it like this, we ALWAYS do it like that," and so on. While it is important to uphold tradition, I also find it suffocating. I never try to make my dishes the same same same. I'm always looking to make them better better better and if that means adding pepperoni then I will do it.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."


"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

post #23 of 49
Been following this discussion with a bit of amusement. Why? Because there is no such thing as "authentic." Not in the way it's being used here.

All cuisines are in a constant state of evolution, as outside influences leave their mark. For instance, I come from a part of the world where invaders raped their way through every twenty years or so. In addition to contributing to the gene pool, they contributed to the cuisine, each, in turn, leaving a permanent mark on the cuisine of the region.

Much of this thread has dealt with "Italian" food. I challange anyone to tell me what, exactly, that is. The fact is, even if we ignore the historical influences, every region in what is modern Italy has its own slant on things. How they prepare a dish in, say, Sicily, has little resemblence to how it's done in Tuscany. And so on.

Now throw in the foreign influences. Is tomato sauce authentically Italian? Not if you go back previous to the 1500s. How authentic is a dish if you back out the Arab influences (there'd be little in the way of spices)? Or the Turkish? Or that of other invaders, starting with the Phoenicians.

What about Spains signature soup? Anyone here ever make an "authentic" gazpacho? Not if it's red, you haven't.

Can anybody here tell me what "authentic" Chinese food consists of? Or even what makes a dish from any of the eight major cuisine regions more or less authentic than a variation of it?

Koukouvagia will, I'm sure, confirm that Greek cookery is at least as diverse, geographically, as Italian. How they cook in her native Krete is not the same as they way they cook in Epirus, or Thessaly, or even Athens. Anybody here with enough nerve to tell her that the foods she cooks aren't authentic? Not me! But I'll be glad to hold your coat when the fight starts.

And how much "authentic" Greek food is actually Persian? And Turkish? And Egyptian? And even Indian in origin? That kid from Macedonia really got around, you know? And brought back lots culinary influences with him.

What we have, really, are traditional ways of preparing certain dishes. And those traditions change, not only geographically, but even within families. The way you're grandmother made it may be the traditional way for your family. But the lady next door, in granny's native village, may have (probably did) make it differently. And that's the tradition within her family. But neither of them is any more or less authentic than the other.

Superimposed over all of this are the traditions of using what is available. Maybe there's no chicken available, so you use a hunted rabbit instead. Does that make the dish less authentic? I think not.

In that regard, the idea that Italo-American cooking is not "true" or "authentic" Italian is just plain silly. All it is is a continuation of the tradition of using what's available and applying a style of cooking to it. Sure, compared to Europe, meat was both plentiful and relatively cheap in America. But for poor immigrants, top cuts weren't affordible. So the tough bottom cuts were chosen instead. This led to the Italo-American use of long braises in thick tomato sauces. But the world view remained unchanged, and those thick sauces are just as authentic as a fresh sauce made in the old country.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #24 of 49
Thread Starter 
Great to see you around KY, it's been a long time since we've heard from you and what a great post to boot! I couldn't agree with you more about authenticity.

Moussaka, stuffed grape leaves, baklava, gyros, souvlakis, none of them actually greek. The list goes on. One of the most common responses when I meet people and they find out I'm greek: "Really? I LOVE gyros!!"


"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."


"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

post #25 of 49
It's been a rough February for us, Koukouvagia. The ice storm, which you may or may not have heard about, had us without power for 11 days, without phones for 12. I had five trees go down across my drive, and my chain-saw picked that time to stop working.

Eventually we moved in with friends in Lexington, and were there for a full week.

So it's been catch-up and clean up since then. Although it will be several months before we have all the downed limbs and branches taken care of.

So, I haven't been on-line as often as usual. But I should be back in the swing of things now.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #26 of 49
I've talked with the proprietor of this persian fast-food joint on State Street in my area. He makes some tasty food. He does a lemon pilaf rice for the restaurant and in discussing it he commented that he would make it with saffron for home meals, but for the restaurant, it's turmeric. Still pretty good. I suppose some of those sorts of substitutions contribute to the immigrant food drift but also what other casual diners might assume is authentic.

And you can get a gryo there too :D:D
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #27 of 49
This is the beginning of a slippery slope.

I agree with KY: there's no such thing as "authentic" by any reasonable measure. The only way to get "authentic" is to have somebody determine it authoritatively, and in very few cuisines is there that kind of authority -- and always resisted.

The annoying thing is this constant insistence in so much food writing -- reviews, cookbooks, magazine articles, etc. -- that "authentic" is better. Note that this applies primarily to cuisines seen as "other" or "ethnic", though the range of regional pseudo-ethnicities has been expanding over the last decade or so.

Consider what happens with fine dining vs. "ethnic" restaurants. A gourmet chef who combines French, Japanese, and Mexican influences is doing "fusion"; a middlebrow Mexican restaurant that starts serving blue cheese quesadillas, a middlebrow Japanese restaurant that serves chicken-and-ketchup rice, is going to get flak about not being "authentic."

Another problem, which tells you a great deal about where and when this notion of "authentic" came about, is that each ethnicity is defined by a national geography. This is what doesn't make sense for so many places: Italy, Spain, Mexico, India, Japan... these national boundaries do not in any sane sense define any particular ethnic group. In a funny way it does work passably well for China, because it's been centralized for so long, but once you scratch the surface China is frighteningly non-homogeneous. But Italy or India? When did these boundaries become ethnic groupings? Very recently, and not particularly deeply -- Florentines are arguably more like Neapolitans than they are like Berliners, but as soon as you step up closely the disagreements, disjunctures, and basic divisions are much deeper than the connections. Remember how recently these people started speaking something resembling a common language -- and how recently the Neapolitans were under Spanish rule (and generally proud of it).

At base, I think the whole "authenticity" thing is a 20th century way of being nostalgic for a kind of cultural homogeneit a lot of Americans feel they lack... but their immigrant ancestors had. It's also a great way to separate the "in" crowd from the rubes: those in the know will order the really authentic dishes at the whatever restaurant, whereas the rubes will order all kinds of inauthentic recent inventions, and this allows the "in" crowd to sneer smugly. In short, it's a fiction used to give a sense of rootedness, knowledge, and superiority. And it has very little to do with the foods or the cultures that developed them.
post #28 of 49
Just a thought . . . when I was in India, restaurants in any particular area would have very similar versions of the same dish. "Authentic" for a certain city could maybe be judged by comparison to what restaurants there served. Indians are, or at least were then, very traditional with how they made food.

This might be in contrast to other places, or maybe even to present-day Indian cities.
post #29 of 49
Yeah, but look at newspaper reviews of the new Indian restaurant: you're going to see remarks on whether the place is "authentic" or not. To where? Which city? Which region? Which group?
post #30 of 49
I wasn't trying to say there is authentic whatevers. I said casual diners might assume so. My point was that the owner changed a recipe for production costs purposes but the casual diner doesn't know that. And they might assume something about so-called "authentic cuisine". And falsely so.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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