Authentic Schmauthentic

Dec 31 2023

What the fuck does authentic mean anyway? … The term ‘‘authentic’’ … is essentially meaningless. ‘‘Authentic’’ when? ‘‘Authentic’’ to whom? But it sounds good and wise doesn’t it?

Anthony Bourdain. ‘‘14. Alan Richman is a Douchebag’’. Medium Raw

Some things leave a clear semantic trace in my mind — I don’t remember the exact words1, nor the circumstances, but they leave a dent. In my mind, Bourdain’s acerbic takedown of a journalist questioning the authenticity of Creole cuisine is up there with Siracusa expounding on sports, or the final shot in Ozu’s The Only Son. They contain multitudes in so little, and not just because they’re akin to pithy aphorisms — they nudge me to research, read, learn, and ponder on their meaning endlessly. They enrich my life, my work, and relationships, even if it involves uncomfortable introspection.

Questioning the authenticity of food especially evoke a deep-seated rejection fermented by years of pondering on Bourdain’s words, and my own cowering behind that empty word. This isn’t to say one can’t criticize food (or any cultural product), but if you see fit to judge and expound on it, be decent enough to admit what you’re doing and why — maybe you wanna feel superior, or occupy space in the conversation, or be seen. You can do that without empty gestures towards authenticity.

Funnily enough, what I yearn is for people to be genuinely authentic (in the sense of be honest about what you’re feeling or wanting) with me.

  1. which is just as well, since I enjoyed re-reading this chapter, and the book, perhaps just as much as the first time, in the process of finding this excerpt. Bourdain could write and cook — I’m still not good enough at the former.