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Apr 30, 2013 10:58 AM

michael bauer on "authentic" (Miss Ollie's)

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  1. The person Bauer's responding to apparently formed an opinion about Miss Ollie's based solely on what Bauer wrote about it.

    "Authentic" is problematic, since a lot of people use it to mean "the way my mother / aunt / grandmother / neighbor made it."

    7 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      You're right! they are arguing about the "authenticity" of the food when one party hasn't visited, and isn't inclined to.

      The same kind of quality debating we get from our politicians...

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Or, "authentic" means "frozen at some point in time determined by me," which ignores the fact that all cuisines evolve over time and cooks in (for example) Mexico have just as much right to experiment with new ingredients and techniques as American cooks do without being labeled "unauthentic."

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Further, using your Mexico example, there are probably thousands upon thousands of mediocre restaurants in Mexico, dishing up what we think of "traditional Mexican fare." No doubt, they are the 100% definition of authentic. If one of them opened up shop here and served the same food, yes, it would be authentic, and I'd probably eat there a total of one time. For me, "Good" is much more important than "authentic."

          1. re: lmnopm

            There are lots of places like you describe in Oakland. They're certainly authentic, which at one point I defined as "cooked by members of an ethnic group or community and intended to be eaten by members of that group" -- it's just that they're the Mexican equivalent of an average diner: meant to be cheap and filling and familiar.

        2. re: Robert Lauriston

          I found it strange that Bauer made this article about the topic of authenticity, since the person who wrote the email didn't actually use the word "authentic."

          I think the email author may have been hoping the restaurant served meals that were "the way my mother / aunt / etc. made it." When she found it didn't do that, she put the restaurant down (probably unfairly) but never actually called it inauthentic.

          1. re: calumin

            Wow, I didn't notice that at all! She used the term "watered down" and quoted her husband as calling it "white people food."

            I'm all for experimentation and advancement of a cuisine if something tastes good. The only time I would criticize something is if the chef deletes an ingredient to cater to a local audience, or to be cheap, despite believing a better version exists and is doable with local ingredients.

            1. re: hyperbowler

              Yep, in this case seems like it's a distinction without a difference. The subtext of the email is "I know real (i.e., authentic) Barbados cooking, and what you've described ain't it."

              The question when reading a Bauer review becomes: is his interpretation of "good" reliable with food that isn't the usual fine dining? I'm not sure I trust Bauer to be able to tell the good and innovative (like Radio Africa+Kitchen) from the panderers.

        3. I have occasionally defined authentic is "you get the same diseases and food poisioning as you would if you actually travelled to that country and ate there" - the height of authenticity, imported parasites.