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May 1, 2011 11:22 AM

where to draw the line on "authentic"?

I recently was served mussels, chicken shrimp and kielbasa in italian red sauce over some butter rice. I had order jambalaya.

As ridiculous as the meal sounds, it wasn't half bad. I was expecting the kielbasa because this wasn't even trying to be a cajun or creole restaurant and its a much easier to find in this area, but man they didn't even try to make jambalaya.

I know chili is another thing that isn't really a standardized recipe, but I think it goes without saying that chocolate, penne, italian sausage, snake meat, corn, coconuts etc don't belong in chili. If you have ever been to an amateur chili cookoff, you would know this isn't common knowledge apparently.

So how strict are you? I am semi strict with chili. anything aside from beans is too many extraneous ingredients. I would be especially interested in hearing northerners ordering bagels, philly cheese steak, chowder etc in the south and what they got.

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  1. I am not strict at all. I regard "authentic" as a marketing term only. For me, food either tastes good or it does not.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Harters

      but if you were ordering one thing and got something that was completely different from what you expected, this wouldn't bother you?

      1. re: j8715

        No, not really. I never know what is meant to be "authentic" so I'd assume that this was the chef's interpretation of a dish.

        Of course if I ordered, say, pasta with a puttanesca sauce - and got a chicken and cream based sauce then I'd be likely to conclude a line in the sand had been crossed.

        1. re: j8715

          if you aren't going to be close to the standard takeon a dish, label what you're serving. other than that, I don't mind. No fish dish should be served instead with chicken without telling people. or the other way round.

          1. re: Chowrin

            I agree. The key is in the labeling.

            1. re: Chowrin

              Agreed. I had red snapper Veracruzana at a high end Dallas mexican restaurant Saturday and although their interpretation with sauteed sweet peppers and a few other ingredients was good, it completely lacked the savory saltiness of a sauce with capers and olives I craved and expected. Bummer.

              1. re: Veggo

                my condolences- I would have been disppointed, too.

        2. I think it depends on the dish. I love a good, spicy chili, but I don't care if the meat used is pork or beef. I don't mind some beans. I don't care if you threw in a bottle of Corona or some tequila. (Well, who can be unhappy with Corona or tequila?) I just want a hearty, smoky flavor explosion that'll make my tongue burn a bit.

          But if I order something like chicken picatta, where the end result is supposed to be a bit more specific, I'm more prone to disappointment if it's not done right. A chicken picatta without capers is NOT worth eating, and some restaurants won't do enough lemon. However, my favorite was at this little place called Alfredo's that's no longer in business: a lightly breaded chicken cutlet bursting with bright tanginess and spring vegetables tossed into the pasta. Probably not 100% traditional, but so good.

          I guess the point is if you're not going to do traditional, whatever you serve me better be amazing enough for me to overlook it.

          1. Sometimes 'authentic' isn't all it's cracked up to be. For example, the authentic Caesar Salad as made by Caesar Cardini, didn't contain anchovies and who wants to eat a CC without those salty wonders?? An authentic Salade Ni├žoise (and this is a minefield of debate) does not contain cooked vegges such as green beans or potatoes which in my opinion add a lot to the dish. Is 'authentic' the same as 'traditional', perhaps it depends on how one defines 'authentic'.

            1. authentic (whatever that means) depends or where you are from or how it's developed in the country your ancestors moved to. For example in the UK you would never get lasagne with ricotta cheese - I had never heard of it until trying it in the US. I personally don't like the ricotta in lasagne but prefer a white sauce which is how Italians in the UK make it. You would also not get deep fried eggplant in an eggplant parm, nor have I heard of chicken parmegiano in Italian restaurants in the UK.
              Either immigrants came from a different part of Italy when they went to England or they developed the dishes differently from those who emigrated to the USA.
              As another example, British Jews make fried gefilte fish (yes there is also boiled but fried is very normal there) but that seems to be unknown in the USA. Never heard of bialys nor whitefish salad in the UK, corned beef does not exist either (it is salt beef and different). So I conclude that authentic is an odd word to use.

              2 Replies
              1. re: smartie

                I suppose there are a lot of odd words in the English language when you try to define them. Justice, love, faith, freedom. So many odd things in life..... if only we could just simplify things and get rid of all those hackneyed ideals.

                Getting back to the OP, what passes for kielbasa most places in the US is fairly atrocious, so I doubt I would enjoy that jambalaya. If I were to visit Southwestern Louisiana, and I had the choice of tasting a home cooked jambalaya compared to one of those Bobby Flay throwdown concoctions, then I'd go for the home cooked jambalaya 10 out of 10 times. I can always get the bastardized stuff when Burger King introduces the BKJ Broiler. And I don't even have to leave the 'hood.

                1. re: Steve

                  i know what you mean about kielbasa. why do so many brands seem to taste like they have butter in them??

              2. there is a little place here in town that serves a "hot brown"
                it isnt even close to a "authentic" kentucky hot brown"
                but i still like it and have been eating it for 10 years...

                so no...its not as important to be authentic if it tastes good...