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Cooking: Authentic food

September 27, 2018

Food can be a lot of things. It doesn’t just have to be a means of getting calories into your body. Food can be exciting, experimental, comforting or simply made by hand and that’s all that makes it special. But the best food is authentic. It doesn’t matter if it’s empanadas or ebelskivers. Authentic food doesn’t just give someone calories or even a nice flavor, but a piece of culture. 

It’s safe to say every culture has its own food. Sure, these foods can cross borders and change over time, and sometimes the food can retain its dignity. But when that doesn’t happen, the dishes can become something completely different. I, for one, wouldn’t consider Panda Express or Taco Bell to be authentic and I pray no one does. These chains can give you the basic flavor formula, sure: some meat, some cheese, some crunchy stuff, some spices, make it easy to carry and boom, you’ve got everything on the Taco Bell menu.  

Real food needs to be more than this. It needs to be imperfect measurements, recipes your grandma wrote on index cards before your parents were born and “you’re not supposed to do this, but this is what I do.” Real food can’t be ordered from a drive-thru every three miles.  

The culture of a food should not be overlooked. Even if you’re not part of that culture, that doesn’t give you permission to deform the dish and let it keep its good name. Crab rangoons and orange chicken are what some Americans call authentic Chinese food, but, for some reason, I can’t picture anyone munching on a fried pocket of Philidelphia cream cheese in the Han dynasty. This food has been grossly westernized and it’s not the only victim. 

Food can be a connection to a person’s entire ancestry. It is a part of traditions that are passed down for generations and will be passed down for more to come. Real, authentic food should be appreciated but not replicated.  

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