One of my major goals when I began this blog was to learn authentic and traditional Italian cooking. Authentic Italian food in restaurants here in the USA is difficult to find unless you go to small local places. Even then you might have the Italian-American influence, which isn’t all that bad, but it’s not Italy “Italian” that’s for certain. I have confessed before to becoming a food snob since I started this journey and I am not ashamed of this fact. What I also discovered is that this snobbery isn’t confined to Italian food but ethnic food in general.
If you ask most Chinese-Americans, Hungarian-Americans, Mexican-Americans, etc. you will find the same thing-the food here that passes for their ethnicity is a far cry from the true and authentic cuisine of their homeland. Since the United States is called the “Melting Pot” of the world, it only serves to find various cuisines from the world over. Many cities have “little Italy” or “Chinatown” or similar named sections where those people groups reside. I know my grandparents lived in a section of Pittsburgh by many other Italians. My mother’s side of the family lived in a mostly “Hunkie” part of Pittsburgh. Hunkie means something like being from Eastern European countries-Slovak, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Romania, and the rest. And in all these sections of urban living you will find families clinging to the old ways of cooking in an ever-changing culture that wants convenience over authenticity.
With the melting pot of ethnicities came all the wonderful cuisines from their homelands. I find that when I want to cook something that is particular to a certain country, I much prefer to make it genuine if I can. Tonight I made Chicken Paprikash and used a generic paprika. The dish was good enough but it missed the zing of true Hungarian Paprika. I need to buy some because we all liked the flavors of tonight’s meal. I also steer clear of recipe clearinghouse sites and will gravitate towards a blog or site where I’ll find information about the culture and not just the food.
I wonder how many Americans do not know they are eating what they think are authentic foods but really fakes? How many accept a substandard food thinking it’s the “real deal”? I know I did until I began researching Italian food. It led me down a path to learn what is really authentic foods of any culture. I think I am richer with this knowledge. I know my dinners taste much better. And I hope to keep spreading the word to others to keep trying new foods from various cuisines but be sure it’s as close to authentic as you can get. Perfection is not needed but attempts are worthwhile. If you love good food, educate yourself a bit so you can spot the fakes from the real deal.