Cuisine Authenticity Bias

— Who REALLY cooks in Rome?

“visitors and locals alike still fantasize that Rome’s kitchens are populated by plump nonnas hard at work prepping, cooking, and cleaning.”

“Immigrants, primarily men from South Asia and North Africa, are the unacknowledged anchors of Rome’s dining scene. With fewer and fewer young Romans signing on for the poorly compensated and grueling job of restaurant work, immigrants have filled positions at every level, from dishwashers to head chefs.” - Tasting Rome

I assumed the Italian food I had in Rome was made by Italians who had recipes passed down to them from generations before. It’s hard to see how silly that is when immersed in the city of romantic dreams. If I didn’t see Italian-looking people in the kitchen, I would’ve thought the restaurant was inauthentic.

The background of the cook doesn’t determine the authenticity of the food. A person could have grown up in Italy, had only Italian food all their life, even have parents who never ate anything but Italian food, yet could have a harder time reproducing traditional flavors than someone with no history of living in Italy.

Creating flavors is a skill that isn’t endowed by simply eating. You gain the skill from cooking and tasting, but primarily cooking. Locals of a region may understand flavors and nuances better, however, that doesn’t give them the ability to deliver flavors to a dish.

So why is it less authentic when someone from another culture makes Italian food?

I have a hard time getting over this bias.

Trying out a Roman recipe from a cookbook written by Americans

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