Wednesday, April 16, 2008

'It’s Not Racism, But Culture'

Is Cuisine Still Italian Even if the Chef Isn’t? asks the New York Times.

Is pasta still Italian, even if it came from China?

I have to say, I find this discussion nearly baffling. It's not surprising, of course, but it baffles me nonetheless. I suppose you'd have to embrace a Like-Water-For-Chocolate type belief that some of the creator's soul ends up in the dish to believe that the ethnic or racial or cultural background of someone preparing a dish fundamentally changes the dish's nature - or has any appreciable effect at all.

Yes, a chef could incorporate flavors from his/her experience and upbrining - but that's different than asking whether a non-Italian making a strictly Italian dish with Italian ingrediants and flavors can somehow not do it because he's not Italian.

All in all, the linked article is really just more NYT fluff that sounds more insightful (inciteful?) than it really is, since the answer seems to be, uh, yeah, lots of people in kitchens are recent immigrants, to whatever country, from whatever country.

In my mind, though, because I'm a nerd like this, it gets back to the question of who can represent whom. Or what. Our notions of authenticity come out in the strangest ways.

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