He knows I’m not as accepting of others’ personal tastes as that blog entry made me sound. But the comment made me think.
‘Tastiness’ is not an objective measure. So we can’t just close the book on the topic by saying that if a ‘tastier’ version comes from an altered original, that it’s therefore ‘better’. Perhaps the reason authenticity obsesses us is that it’s really the only objective measure we can have for food, particularly food whose distinguishing factor, for us armchair culinary travelers, is where it comes from.
My reconsidered point doesn’t fall far from my original point, which is that authenticity thrills us because it makes us feel like we’re experiencing something exotic, something that sweeps us away into a different universe. If we know that mì quảng isn’t ‘supposed to’ have sweet-and-sour broth or be vegetarian, we can’t dive fully face first into the illusion that we’re sampling a taste of another culture and another place.
If we don’t know that, well, then we’re fine, and free to subjectively like what we subjectively like. We can either delude ourselves into thinking what we’re eating is virtual transport to a faraway land, or (much more simply) just not care.
Something I’ve noticed, though, is that people often try very hard to avoid not knowing. They go out of their way to research what their dinner is ‘supposed’ to have in it, how it’s ‘supposed’ to be prepared, and how it’s ‘supposed’ to be presented. They’d rather have the research done, and the background knowledge firmly implanted in their heads, than to remain in the dark, even though remaining in the dark would make it easier. But willful ignorance is apparently not acceptable. There’s no use pretending to be in a faraway land if you don’t know enough about that faraway land to adequately picture it (or convince yourself you’re adequately picturing it).
I’m probably way overthinking this, but I’m just fascinated that a whole subset of culture is so obsessed with this measure that has almost nothing to do with how pleasing food is to their tastebuds.