Why 'Authentic' Recipes Don't Exist, According To Reddit

The frozen pizza you got at Walmart says it's an "authentic" recipe. The new Mexican fusion restaurant that's trending on Twitter says it serves "authentic" Mexican cuisine with a blend of "authentic" Americana flair. Cooking shows on TV toss the word "authentic" around like it's going out of style.

Just what makes an authentic recipe or dish anyway? Does it actually mean anything or is it just a fancy buzzword chefs and companies like to slap on their foods to give them a "wow!" factor?

Food Fraud Advisors defines authentic as "food (or drink) that exactly meets its description and also meets a person's reasonable assumption of its character." In other words, if you got an "authentic" grilled cheese sandwich that promises to be made with real aged cheese made from organic milk and whole-grain artisan bread, you would expect it to be all of those things right down to the smallest detail. Instead, you get a greasy sandwich made of processed cheese and cheap white bread. It's a cheese sandwich, sure, but it's not the authentic grilled cheese sandwich you were promised.

But what makes a recipe authentic then? Is it a recipe that never changed over the course of its life? Or is it the quality, how much the dish matches the classic recipe down to taste and texture and style?

According to Reddit, the whole argument is pointless. Why argue about something, they say, that doesn't exist to begin with?

Describe recipes as traditional instead of authentic

On the subreddit r/Cooking, a user by the name of "BirdLawyerPerson" posed an interesting argument: the term "traditional" should be used when describing food in general instead of "authentic."

Their reasoning is that the term "authentic" causes debate because recipes naturally change over time. Moreover, labeling something as "inauthentic" carries the risk of invalidating other people's experiences with a recipe. By using the term "traditional", you would be acknowledging cultural influences, without claiming that one way of preparing the meal is the only correct way.

The question over what exactly makes a dish authentic is indeed a puzzling one. PhilosophyNow attempts to answer this question through a discussion on carbonara, seeking an answer whether the dish must be enjoyed a very specific way to be authentic, or if they even have the right to change the dish, as they are not the true creators of the dish. In the end, they manage to base their conclusion off of twentieth-century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein's notion of "games" — they know what carbonara is, and what carbonara definitely isn't. All that matters in the end is taste. 

Though, if the question of whether or not food is authentic or traditional may be too much, nothing beats a simple sandwich at home.