Authentic Cuisine from Its Original Source
By Dr. Michelle Kmiec, Founder OHH
Though you may have tasted some new and different flavors offered by the diverse eateries you tried out in the last activity, the dishes likely still carried an overall local flare. Regardless of which country you call home.
For example, here in the United States, many ethnic restaurants, such as Mexican, Italian, Chinese, and Indian prepare dishes containing hints of authentic flavors, yet still, cater to the American flavor palette.
And this will be the theme of this activity as you attempt to find genuine, authentic cuisine.
To really understand the flavors of authentic cuisine, you must experience them as they were originally intended to be eaten.
The difference between localized and authentic fare is as vast as night and day.
Authentic cuisine is not just about flavors, but also about traditions and the many years of history behind them. In other words, cultural foods come with stories of life. Food fills not just our bellies, but also our souls.
It triggers emotions and can bring forth mental images of specific moments in our life.
And though we all come from different backgrounds and cultures, we have one thing in common, and that is how we translate the food we eat into skillful masterpieces representing who we are and where we come from.
Fast food establishments such as McDonald’s and Applebee’s do have a page in our cultural cookbook. However, these foods of convenience are unable to encapsulate our genuine passion and our human experience.
In this activity, we are going to explore the stories behind different cultures via food.
Ready to delve in?
Authentic Cuisine Life List
This activity has only a few rules that you must follow as you create your Authentic Cuisine Life List:
1. Visit Other Countries
The best way to sample food from its original source is, of course, to actually visit the country where you can immerse yourself in the culture and experience traditions and palate profiles.
This can be a bit challenging though; especially if you have concerns about how your body may react to different oils, plants, and even pathogens. If this is the case for you, look into guided tours of various regions that will allow you to experience authentic flavors without putting your health at risk.
However, if you prefer to explore on your own and are game for the adventure, there are holistic remedies that can be used to protect your stomach. Examples are probiotics, antiseptic teas, and certain herbal formulas.
2. Visit Ethnic Areas of Any Large City
The next best thing is to visit ethnic areas of any large city. But keep in mind that even in these areas, the cuisine isn’t as authentic as you might think because the economy dictates that for a business to make a profit – it must rely upon local clientele.
With this in mind, a Mexican restaurant may be a significant step up from Taco Bell, but it is still diluted a bit by its host country. One of the best ways to locate a credible ethnic eatery is to ask where the natives of a particular culture choose to eat.
Word-of-mouth is priceless when looking to experience cuisine in its purest form. You will be surprised by how helpful, and informative people can be, especially when you show genuine interest in their culture and food.
3. Talk to Friends From Other Countries
Do you have friends who grew up in other countries? If so, ask them if they would mind cooking a favorite meal from their childhood for you. You might even want to plan a cultural food exchange!
When it comes to authentic cuisine, there are always variants stemming from where in the country it is prepared. These variants greatly affect not just taste, but also presentation.
Consider some of the differences in American cuisine.
For example, the flavors and traditions that come with Soul Food prepared in the deep south differ greatly from the Cajun dishes of Louisiana and a cup of hearty New England chowder. Though different, they each are not only uniquely delicious but are also rooted deep in tradition.
So perhaps you will begin with some Indian Dahi Vada, French Canapés or Chinese dim sum, and then move on to a few Caribbean-inspired tidbits. Another day it might be a Mediterranean inspired nosh followed by Peruvian fare. You get the picture!
Notice common ingredients, aromas, and flavors in each of the cultural dishes. Take in the ambiance of the various restaurants and ask about the origin of each dish as a way to further immerse yourself in the cultural experience.
With that being said, let’s not forget about experiencing the authentic and unique foods from your own country!
Experience Authentic Cuisine
Now, create a list of 5-10 different types of authentic cuisine, foreign or domestic, that you would like to sample. And as you begin checking them off of your list, note your impressions and observations.
- Take note of the differences in flavors, textures, and aromas of food from an authentic source as compared to a chain restaurant.
- Can you feel and/or appreciate the passion that goes into the preparation of cultural foods when prepared authentically?
Consider authentic foods from the source as “home cooking.” And what are the two main ingredients found in home cooking that are largely absent from commercially made foods? Passion and Love!
Now go have some fun and experience the world!