Pardon the rant:
I'm starting to equate the word "authentic" when applied to a particular recipe by someone trying to convince me that it's good with "run away." Half the time they're wrong, and nearly all of the time they're lousy cooks who don't understand the amount of regionalism, individuality, adaptation to seasonal ingredients, and the sheer amount of improvisation that goes into making things taste good.
Furthermore, really good cooks seldom try to make something exactly like someone else's great aunt who cooked the most "authentic" version of that something seventy-three years ago. We impose our own stamp on things with our particular skill sets and palates because that's how we roll. That doesn't mean that sometimes we aren't true to traditional dishes -- it means we don't understand cuisine as being divided into the authentic and the inauthentic. Besides, who's to say which is which?
Rick Bayless is an outstanding example. He doesn't cook dishes as you'd find them in someone's home in some village in Mexico. Instead, he takes typical dishes and interprets them through his own prism. Authentic? Depends what you mean. I've frequently heard people who don't actually know much about Mexican cuisine call Bayless's food authentic; but never a Mexican. Yet, it's certainly not "inauthentic."
Edited by boar_d_laze - 1/29/12 at 10:08am