28 Feb 2017

“Authentic Food”

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Megan McArdle heartlessly debunks the haute bourgeois obsession with food traditions.

Americans of a certain social class love nothing more than an “authentic” food experience. It is the highest praise that they can heap on a restaurant. The ideal food is one that was perfected by honest local peasants in some picturesque locale, then served the same way for centuries, the traditions passed down from mother to daughter (less occasionally, from father to son), with stern admonitions not to dishonor their ancestry by making it wrong.

These American diners are constantly in a quest for their own lost heritage, along with the traditions of other peoples they don’t know very well. We live, the lore says, in a fallen state, victims of Big Agriculture and a food industry that has rendered everything bland, fatty and sweet. By tapping the traditions of centuries past — or other, poorer places — we can regain the paradise that our grandparents unaccountably abandoned. …

[M]uch of what we eat now as “authentic” is mostly some combination of peasant special-occasion dishes and the rich-people food of yesteryear, fused with modern technology and a global food-supply chain to become something quite different from what our ancestors ate, or the ancestors of people half a world away ate. And that’s OK. The baguette is delicious, and so is that pricey “peasant” loaf. But they are no better for having been invented decades ago than something that was invented last week, nor would they be better still if Caesar’s legions had been carrying them across Europe.

Read the whole thing.

2 Feedbacks on "“Authentic Food”"


I find myself agreeing with and/or disagreeing with almost everything she says. I’m not sure if she is wrong or I am wrong or if the article was written exactly to poke and prod people’s opinions. What I found wrong was statements like:
“…today’s food scientists in their tireless quest to get people to stop eating the junk they like to eat now.”
This is the classic junk food mindset. If it’s processed or cheap, or not “natural and organic” it must be “junk food” and not real food. I just don’t live in that bubble.
“I have never eaten Taco Bell and have no plans to start.”
Oh really! So who are you virtue signaling to? Why would I listen to anyone’s opinion about food after they made a statement like that? Is Taco Bell fast food? Of course. Is it “bad food”? Of course not. But clearly it is beneath her to even think about eating it. Why, she would have to rub shoulders with the hoi polloi. Then she made reference to “an “authentic” naked chicken chalupa, just like Great-Grandma used to eat.” Well since she confesses she never ate at a Taco Bell she has no clue about that particular menu item. Personally my impression is that it was awesome. Yes I know that puts me squarely in the class of the hoi polloi but at least I actually ate one and know what I’m talking about.
Is processed food bad for you? I suppose some scientists somewhere did studies to prove it is. But the real test is that we all have been eating processed foods for 50-60 years or so and every year our life span has increased in spite of the thug life trying to lower that stat by shooting children. I will admit that I am not sure what, exactly, is a healthy diet. I have opinions of course but little real evidence. But the important point about this is that all the experts do not know what a healthy diet is either. If they did they could agree and it would be, as they say, settled science. But they don’t agree and they even change in their disagreement every few years. What we really have is a pseudo-science around the healthy diet made up of advocates of one fad diet or another and opponents of one fad diet or another. No one can agree but that obvious fact doesn’t seem to sink in and the advocates/opponents keep pushing out books and articles filled with theories and gobbledygook as though they have finally discovered the real truth.


I’ve had guys out of the interior of Mexico working for me for a long time. Once I asked them what was their favorite Mexican food place and the response was unanimous “Taco Bell!


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