Cooking · Food

Authenticity and the Rules in the Kitchen

When to use them, when to toss them

I recently came across a discussion about authenticity of a dish, or more precisely, the lack of authenticity of a dish that caught my attention. The person relating the incident was the cook, who was presenting her version of a dish her family had innumerable times as she was growing up. The commenter told her that the dish was not ‘authentic’ based on what was the ideal from the home country.

The response to the commenter made my day: “It is authentic to the way I grew up eating it and adjusted it for my preferences now.”.

This made me consider how many cooks seem to be stuck with the idea that a recipe – any recipe – is written in stone and can not be altered for any reason. They literally put themselves into straitjackets to avoid any kind of adjustment be it necessity or creatively.

If you have ever perused a recipe website or any number of cookbooks, you will note that there are hundreds of varieties of the very same dish, each with its’ own variations. This is due to the fact that it has evolved over the years based on any number of reasons.

To be fair, there are certain, shall we call them rules, that cooks need to be aware of, if only to avoid unnecessary problems, but by being aware of those ‘rules’, they have the leeway to springboard from them to create something different.

A recent Glen and Friends video is a perfect example of what I would call springboarding. Check it out:

I love both of these recipes! My version would replace the hot pepper with a bell pepper. I love the gnocchi recipe, too. It is something my father would think of as cornmeal mush (something he would avoid) but I find an interesting and much easier method to produce a flavorful base for the stew.

Food is fluid in so many ways. Recipes change based on location, availability, tastes. When you step out of the straitjacket and begin to experiment in the kitchen, the results can be amazing.

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