Authentic and Traditional…..

Wanting to keep up with my hundred day challenge, I decided to pull an old post that I had saved when I was writing this blog the first time around. I re-read the post and still felt the same way I did when I wrote it the first time. So, here is take two on this post:

I have been giving a lot of thought as to “what is next?”. At first, the goal was that I was going to go out on my own and do things the most authentic and traditional way possible. Then I began to think. What the hell does that even mean?
I have always been critical of establishments who claim these descriptions, my whole career. They would prepare dishes in a way that was not conducive as to how it “should” be prepared “authentically” and “traditionally”. At least this was my opinion.
As I grow older, and hopefully wiser, I am modifying my thought process. I do not necessarily believe that there are set definitions to these words as they pertain to food. Sure, there are foods that go back a long way in the history of a country. One could say that those foods make them authentic. As everyone’s Mum probably made certain dishes in her own way or in the way that her own family taught her, authenticity may vary. So, there really is not one “authentic” way of preparing food.
As far as tradition goes, countries evolve. So what was traditional at one point in time, may have grown to be no longer relevant. We just need to back far enough in time. At that point, we would realise that the dairy products of today would not be the dairy products of ten, twenty or a hundred years ago. Thus, a traditional dish of those many years ago would not be the same as the same dish made today. Food is not created, once, and done. It is constantly evolving. A few decades ago, I am sure Indian and Asian ingredients were not as commonplace in Ireland and the UK. Now as the culture has become more commonplace, so has the food. Those types restaurants were certainly there, but your average homemaker did not necessarily have the access to them.
Often I would get the question from patrons as to why we were serving Indian style food in an Irish/British restaurant. The answer was simple. It is part of the history and the now part of the culture. Hell, you can even find Chicken Tikka Masala sandwiches at Subway in Ireland.
Why bring up this point at all? I bring up this point because I want to break out of my narrow-mindedness. I have been following certain establishments, and have been quick to judge their lack of authenticity. I have been quick to judge their claims of what they offer as traditional. I am not so sure that it is my place to cast that judgement. Who is to say that similar variations of such dishes are not being offered in the country of origin? The important thing is knowing the origins of the food and the dishes. It is important to understand the geography and the basics of that cuisine, in order to reinterpret and make adaptations. Many things are open to interpretation.
Now, to criticise a restaurant or other food establishment for its lack of care or passion in the presentation of its dishes, that is another thing. I can surely find fault for a restaurant for using less than standard ingredients and claiming it is “all natural” or “finest quality”.
Criticism can also be cast on the chef or cook, him or herself. There are plenty of chefs and cooks who do not “think” about what is being put on the plate. Many go through the motions of just getting something, “out there”. It is more important to turn the tables and boost the numbers. I have often feared becoming one of those chefs. That is why I have stepped away from the commercial aspect of food production. The passion that I have for producing this kind of food is so great, that no owner wants someone who will take that much care. That is okay. In most respects, it would not make good business sense. Therefore, I have taken it on my now to create the kind of food that I want to create in my own time, on my own dollar, knowing there is more satisfaction to be derived from it. I refuse to be one of those chefs that turn out a half-arsed product for the point of more, more and more.
As I keep reflecting, I need to remind myself that this is not about what other chefs, restaurants, and people are cooking. It is not about them being authentic or traditional. This is about me being true to myself and my craft. This is about me finding the joy out of what I am doing. I do not need to criticise others for what I may find fault in. Criticism will only lead to distraction for what I want to do. This is about bettering myself, not tearing apart others.
I do not have to agree with others. What others are doing, creating new and off variations like corned beef and cabbage rolls are not my thing. My goal is to get as close to the source as possible. I am not here to do a play on Irish food. It is deep inside of me to try and replicate the food of these areas with the ingredients of this country.
I am also not here to compete with other places that do this type of food. I am just here to share the love I have for this style of food with as many people as I can. That is it. I am not here to put a label of authentic or traditional so I can sell it. I am here to do what I do best. If that means I can get as many people as I can to share it with me, all the better.