Last Call: Is some food more authentic than other food?

Illustration for article titled Last Call: Is some food more authentic than other food?
Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI (Getty Images)

I went to a food expo yesterday. I saw the Awesome Burger. I watched a chef cook up a batch of cell-grown chicken nuggets that a longtime vegetarian who was brought onstage for a tasting found acceptable. I saw a machine that makes grain bowls and yogurt bowls that are dyed blue with spirulina. (These are already out in the wild, so if anyone has seen one, please let me know how it was.) I saw salted lemon Kit-Kats and coffee-flavored Oreos and a video in which Neil DeGrasse Tyson explained, with great enthusiasm, how to turn a Tim Tam into a straw.

I also got to pet a llama and some goats. Truly, the world of food is an amazing place.

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I also listened to a talk on “authenticity” and what it means to food. A restaurant consultant told us about a poll in which most people had said that they find ingredients to be the best sign of authenticity. And then he reminded us that while tomatoes are considered authentic to Italian cuisine, they are actually native to the Americas and were not introduced to Italy until the 1600s.

It made me a bit philosophical. What is authenticity? Can a Tim Tam be authentic? Or a bowl of yogurt made by a machine? Or a plate of spaghetti? And what really is the best way to eat a Kit Kat?

Associate editor of The Takeout. Chicagoan. Owned by dog.

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coffee-flavored Oreos