Authentic American Food

Contradiction in terms or something to embrace?
I really dislike the term authentic because it implies a static moment in time while I feel things are always in flux.
What do you think? Disdain for the traditional American menu or do you think our cuisine is an ever changing Delta spreading out and intertwining
various things into a unique whole?

personally, I have been known to utter that authenticity is bs (usually without abbreviating). what constitutes authenticity in food? is a tomato based sauce an “authentic” Italian thing? it sure wasn’t when tomatoes were brought back from the New World and everyone thought they were poisonous. is General Gau’s chicken an “authentic” (sorry for over using the scare quotes!) Chinese or American dish? it was invented by a Taiwanese chef serving the US military, and then adapted and made sweeter to please the American palate and became one of the major staples of Chinese food in America and now is apparently also widely available in Hong Kong.

barbecue is one of the staples of what many consider the authentic food of the South. but that food itself is awash in influences from Europe, Africa, Latin America and native America. Food is always a mix of influences, and while there are always some constants to be argued over there’s no standing still–especially today when many people get to see and try things from the world over.

authenticity is bs.


Thanks. That’s funny because I’ve been tossing around this idea after the NJ authentic thread, coupled with a NJ BBQ thread where the most popular topic seems to be bbqed Brussel Sprouts.
Neither is right or wrong but I think when a culture and food arrive on our shores or changes regions it has mutated already.

Cuisine adapts. Over time. Over geography.

As a foreigner, who has visited America fairly regularly since 1980, I would struggle to describe to anyone what might be thought of as authentic or, even, traditional American food. That said, I have only ever visited eastern states (I think every coastal one, except Vermont).

I particularly enjoy BBQ when I visit the South and am familiar with regional styles of cooking and saucing it. But I do struggle with a reference to BBQ sprouts. Not least because they are a vile farty vegetable but bringing BBQ anywhere near them seems just wrong.

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I don’t think there is anything wrong with using the term “authentic” in the right situation. To use term "authentic " to imply a dish has always been and always will be the same way is incorrect. However, I don’t believe that is what most people mean. When someone said “This is authentic New York style pizza”, I don’t think they mean New Yorkers have been eating the same pizza in the last hundreds years. Most people use “authentic” to imply the dish is prepared in way which is widely accepted by the people in that region at that moment.

An authentic Japanese dish does not mean it is a dish which Japanese have eaten over thousands of years. Rather, to me, it means it is something most Japanese recognize and understand. Japanese tonkotsu ramen is such. Ramen is actually relatively new to Japan, and it wasn’t even popularized until 1960-70’s in Japan. Even it is relatively new, you can still prepare ramen in a way which most Japanese are custom to and also prepare in a way which most Japanese are not custom to.


Authentic American food would be things like Navajo fry bread, cuy, or buffalo jerky.


Yes, I just giggle at a big manly BBQ joint serving brussel sprouts. I’m imagining something out of Peewee’s Big Adventure. But they’re probably very good, if as far from traditional as one could travel and still be considered BBQ.
The Navajo fry bread I had while living in Arizona was more greasy Mex than “authentic Native American.”
There is a place outside Tuscon on the Reservation that does try to serve their Native dishes. I’ll try and find that link.

As an aside Vermont has no coast line.:v:


I’d never heard of bbq Brussels Sprouts. Are they cooked in sauce or sauced after. Sweet? Or Vinegar?

I do think “authentic” might have some minimal application when it comes to a food associated with a region which is anomalous or eccentric or just plain unavailable in other places.

For example, I don’t think I could find bouillabaisse here in northern Indiana (although I have made it–expensive to do here).

I’m not sure. :slight_smile: Maybe someone from NJ will weigh in.
I guess my point was more that lack of tradition can lead to some interesting innovations and new ways of doing things.
No one would BBQ brussel sprouts in one of the traditional centers of que.
Make America Great Again by bbqing vegetables.

I’ve had fry bread once. There will not be a second time.

Thanks for the geography tip. Neither has Tennessee and West Virginia, but I’ve visted there as well.

You’ve visited more of America than many of our own residents.


Not sure on your meaning

These just sound like you haven’t had good Navajo fry bread.

I’ve had some pretty terrible BBQ; that doesn’t mean all BBQ is bad.

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My fry bread was actually Cherokee fry bread. It was in a Cherokee owned palce and came topped with a bland and boring chilli and tasteless cheese. Not at all nice. Family members though have had Navajo fry bread and came to the same concluion I did.

I am struggling a bit with what really is American food. American is a country of immigrants, so each group brought with them the culinary tradition of their country of origin. So is a German-American family cooking somewhat German food considered authentic American or authentic German?

But at the same time, some food is invented here, like gumbo, even though according to Wikipedia ‘combines ingredients and culinary practices of several cultures, including French, Spanish, German, West African, and Choctaw’. But I think most people will consider that authentic American, or authentic Louisianan.


Oh, to @Chemicalkinetics 's point, I think the term authentic only applies to American food when one is not in America. But even outside of America I very rarely hear the term ‘authentic American food’. The closest implied authentic American food that people are familiar with is probably McDonald’s, Hard Rock cafe, etc.

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I’d agree that American fast food is almost certainly the most familiar to foreigners. And that’s almost certainly including foreigners who visit America. Certainly from my knowledge of other Britons who visit, then most visit either Florida or New York. The Florida visitors talk of fast food, cheap steaks, all-you-can-eat places. And the New York visitors talk of the variety of restaurants - Italian, Chinese, etc. - but not “American”.

You need to be off the well beaten tourist routes to sample more regional food. I am a fan of BBQ - it’s what I seek out in the South. Not the chain places but the independents - like Woodlands in Blowing Rock, NC. Or the spankingly fresh fish at Mombo in Portsmouth, NH - and I say that with envy even though coming from a small island surrounded by fish.

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