Authentic Vs. Constructed

One of the ascendant virtues of the new culinary landscape is the murky, poorly defined quality of authenticity. It's an idea that means wildly different things depending on who's saying it and what they're applying it to, but in all circumstances it boils down to a fundamental notion of quality by fiat: if something is authentic, it is necessarily good. Authenticity implies a purity of history, a purity of purpose — in short, if something is authentic, it isn't enjoyed because we've been barraged with external indicators that have instructed us to enjoy it; it's enjoyed because it is inherently enjoyable. Inauthentic things need to be marketed and positioned and sold. Authentic things simply exist, and are perfect, and in their perfection they handily sell themselves.
Branding and authenticity together make up the cornerstones of consumption and identity performance. We make choices of what to buy and what to display, and through those choices we construct (or, oh fondest hope, reflect) our identities and affiliations.
-- Helen Rosner, "What the Mast Brothers Scandal Tells Us About Ourselves"

“Authentic things simply exist, and are perfect, and in their perfection they handily sell themselves.”

[Germaine] Greer attracted fury after claiming that “trans” women such as Caitlyn Jenner (formerly the Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner) are men “who believe that they are women and have themselves castrated”
[Barry Humphries, creator of Dame Edna] is supportive of Greer in the controversy. “I agree with Germaine! You’re a mutilated man, that’s all,” he says. “Self-mutilation, what’s all this carry on? Caitlyn Jenner – what a publicity-seeking ratbag. It’s all given the stamp – not of respectability, but authenticity or something. If you criticise anything you’re racist or sexist or homophobic.”
-- The Telegraph, 4 January 2016

“It’s all given the stamp – not of respectability, but authenticity or something.”

If authenticity simply exists, then the opposite of authenticity is the fabricated.

By claiming authenticity we are really trying to reject allegations of fabrication.

The problem is that truth can be authentic — they are almost equivalent — but truth can never be directly seen, it can only be detected or inferred.   Nobody has a little sample body of truth on their shelf, instead they have thoughtful analyses or potent art which encapsulates, reveals or exposes truth.

Truth is so ephemeral that it can only be claimed, not seen.  It always comes wrapped in legend, some kind of constructed story which tries to encapsulate it.

Are fried green tomatoes an authentically southern classic?  As Robert Moss explains in Eater, for around 100 years they were an obscure seasonal Midwestern dish until Fannie Flagg featured them in a hit novel and movie.    Now, they are as authentically Southern as canned baby corn is Asian.

The notion that our identities are constructed and our role is a performance is not only profoundly human but is also something many want to deny at all costs.

Do we get over the challenge by claiming that our authenticity, the one we are asserting right now, trumps all challenge?

Or do we acknowledge the shimmering nature of truth, understanding that we can only ever share that which we construct around truth and never truth in some kind of absolute, unchallengeable purity?

Is it best to assert authenticity or to acknowledge liminality?   Should we have a fundamentalist battle, fighting to claim the real truth or look for philosophical connections, places where truth is exposed across constructions?

If “authentic” is just another marketing term, does it mean anything at all?


(Just to note, Dame Edna Everage, the publicity seeking ratbag constructed by Humphries, has gone on Twitter to dissociate herself from any comments made by Humphries. She knows how to handle a media event.)