Focusing on the authenticity of foreign food

In my last post, I talked about Ruth Reichl’s fiction-writing process. However, fiction only makes up a tiny portion of her career; for most of it, she wrote nonfiction pieces about food. As a restaurant reviewer, she did something that I haven’t seen any other food writers talk about: she tested the authenticity of foreign food.

In an interview with Creative Nonfiction, Reichl says, “When I was writing about Korean food, I’d never been to Korea—and I’ve still never been—but I found Korean people to go to restaurants with me so I could find out what the rules of that food were and translate that for an audience.” She often met people who were familiar with the cuisine and could testify about what was authentic and what wasn’t. In the same interview, she says she went to Thailand to learn about what the food in Thai restaurants should taste like.

I think this dedication to her work, and especially her commitment to research into her topic, is part of what sets Reichl apart from other food writers. Journalism is mostly reporting with a little bit of writing and Reichl’s dedication to her reporting is part of what earned her 6 James Beard Awards and the recognition she gets today.


One thought on “Focusing on the authenticity of foreign food

  1. adlere353 March 11, 2015 / 2:20 am

    This article makes me wonder how much of the supposed international cuisine in America is indeed authentic. I recently read somewhere that the “Chinese food” Americans have come to know was actually started by a Jewish guy in New York City. I wouldn’t be surprised if other similar foods were as inauthentic as American Chinese food. But, at the same time, one has to consider that a cultural food based in another country, especially for extended periods of time, is bound to change in some way. This change is sort of beautiful. What one may perceive as inauthenticity, another may see as the future of food–a morphing of cultures that produce a new breed of dishes.


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