It’s near the end of 2014 and I’m still seeing people using the old “authenticity” stick to win arguments about cuisine. It’s a meaningless label because authenticity in cuisine is a sham. And it can be a millstone hanging around a cook’s neck.
It’s quite silly, especially when used in the Singaporean context because we’re a nation formed by immigrants who came from all over. Our grandparents came to Singapore, in search of a better life, had to adapt, improvise and overcome the differences in environment.
To sneer at their food and say it’s not “authentic” is not only missing the point, it’s downright disrespectful.
I was once asked by a recently-departed food blogger to arbitrate an argument on “authentic Italian”. The term “authentic Italian” itself is meaningless. Italy consists of 20 regions, each region has its own style of cooking. So what does “authentic Italian” mean?
And more importantly, do we care?
Of course, this does not mean we can willy-nilly do what we want to the traditional recipe and call it “innovation”. From my experience, innovation and creativity comes when there is a constrain, a gap or a discrepancy that needs to be addressed. It can be the environment, e.g. humidity, heat etc.; or lack of ingredients and so forth. This is when the cook has to be creative and use what is at hand.
What results from that may not follow the traditional recipe to the Letter but it certainly follows the Spirit. To brush the results off as not “authentic” is reductive and missing the plot.
If you think about it, most traditional recipes use what is locally available to the region.
Tonight I had Tom Yum Goong made by a Thai chef. To sweeten it, instead of using Palm sugar, she used Starfruit and Strawberries. It worked. Especially with the crab roe. Do we care if it deviates from the traditional Thai (or Laotian) recipe? I certainly do not.
“Authenticity” is a word used by those who are either fearful of or unwilling to accept change and innovation. It’s a very parochial view. It is ignorant of the world that lies outside their door.
So rather than be hard-assed about semantics, let us celebrate the diversity and innovation.
So called “authenticity” is a great hurdle to emergence of new tastes and experiences.
Btw, kacang puul looks amazing!
Thanks! I just think it’s a tired argument that doesn’t make sense.
Would have agreed with you but then I saw Pontian wanton mee with nacho cheese sauce… LOL.
The comments are closed.