Being Authentic

Food for Thought

Not just for food but also for art, we often talk about the importance of being authentic. What does it mean to be authentic, and why do we value it?

Recently, I wrote about how I don’t care for fusion cuisines, but then I came across one I liked, literally a day after, which forced me to rethink. The reason I don’t like fusion is that it’s too often a gimmick. You could create a list of popular cuisines, compute all possible combinations, and pick one that hasn’t been tried yet by anyone. In this way, creating something “new” is easy, and we humans are drawn to new things because novelty triggers dopamine production in our brains. But nothing can remain “new” forever (it’s impossible by definition), which means a restaurant could not remain popular solely based on the novelty factor. As it becomes “old,” the experience would stop producing dopamine.

One way to sustain the audience’s interest is through authenticity. It resonates within us because there is a soul we can connect with, like a realistic character in a movie, and this relationship is long-lasting, not dependent on fast-fading dopamine.

If the combination of two cuisines was selected by marketing research, there would be no human soul behind it. Even if you try to fake authenticity, it’s hard to sustain it, just as you cannot sustain a lie forever. The easiest way to be truthful is to be yourself.

We crave authenticity because today’s world is full of inauthenticity. Everyone is scared of revealing what they really think or feel because today’s technology makes finding a needle in a haystack easy. You worry that college admissions officers or your future employers might see what you reveal, even if you said it only once. Better safe than sorry, you figure.

When everyone is behind a protecting shield, you appreciate anyone who isn’t because you can make a real human connection; thanks to her courage, you don’t have to risk anything.

To be a good writer, you write what you know for the audience you know. Likewise, to be an authentic cook, you drop any pretense or cleverness and cook for the people you care about, not what’s going to sell or who is going to pay more.