Authentic in Every Detail…

or is it Traditional?

A painting can be authenticated.

It was created at a certain time with certain materials by someone. It doesn’t really change. With good conservators, what you see now is what was available to see then. there is a through line.

Is this a DaVinci? Read rh

Is this a da Vinci? Read the Time essay

Can food be authenticated? Can it be authentic?

Can it be counterfeit, fake, false, falsified, unauthorized, ungenuine, unreal?

Let’s take pizza.

You all know what it is.

At least you think you do.

And regardless of how All-American it is packaged or that it’s available in lots of fusion forms, you probably think of it as Italian. Let’s go with that.

The term “pizza” first appeared “in a Latin text from the southern Italian town of Gaeta in 997 AD, which states that a tenant of certain property is to give the bishop of Gaeta duodecim pizze (“twelve pizzas”) every Christmas Day, and another twelve every Easter Sunday” ( Salvatore Riciniello (1987) Codice Diplomatico Gaetano, Vol. I, La Poligrafica)

Wikipedia -Pizza

What does a pizza need to be authentic?

Do the ingredients need to have a certain provenance?

If I use Italian tomatoes on my pizza is it more Italian, more authentic, then if I used  local tomatoes? (Are tomatoes even properly Italian? the subset questions – we’ll get back to that later)

So, if in Naples only San Marzano tomatoes will do, does that mean all pizza everywhere must use those, and only those tomatoes?

San Marzano tomatoes - kissing first cousins to Roma tomatoes

San Marzano tomatoes – kissing first cousins to Roma tomatoes

But, assuming my Nonna from Gaeta, Italy  who was making pizza back in the day, the day being the first third of the 20th century (she came over in 1936 – she was born in 1890. We just passed the 125th anniversary of her birth last July 26th) and that she was making ‘authentic’ pizza, did the pizza become less authentic, less pizza when she used American tomatoes? Or is it the local-ness of the tomatoes that matters?  Or do the tomatoes matter at all?

Is it the oven that makes pizza authentic pizza?


Oven at Pompeii – not so very far from Gaeta….

What about the pan – or lack of pan?

perforated pan for a crispy bottom

perforated pan for a crispy bottom

Pizza pans - round, aluminium

Pizza pans – round, aluminum

Is it less pizza if it's made in a skillet? I've done this, it's good pizza.

Is it less pizza if it’s made in a skillet? I’ve done this, it’s good pizza.

And we haven’t even gotten to the dough and the cheese….

But one thing I know isn’t pizza, no matter what the advertising…….

pizza dogbites

Hot Dog BITES Pizza? #pizzajumpstheshark


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5 responses to “Authentic in Every Detail…

  1. Irma Wall

    AMEN to the Hot Dog Pizza Bites. I wouldn’t even try one………. IMW

  2. Tomatoes came back from America with Columbus so none in the early “pizza”. However, I can’t imagine pizza without tomatoes so let’s not go down that road… 😉 Good post as it really makes you think about the definition of authenticity.

    • When I began my studies of 17th century English food, some 16th century writer proclaims that cabbages aren’t English – because the Romans brought them. Same dealio. That’s why authentic/genuine/ real needs time and place and people parameters

      • I was amazed when I first saw the list of Roman introductions – garlic, onions, shallots, leeks, cabbages, peas, celery, turnips, radishes, and asparagus according to one list I’ve seen. I considered everything apart from garlic to be “typical English” food. Really interesting subject!

  3. I’m not certain it even makes sense to talk about an authentic dish, at least if it is divorced from the context of location and time period. “Pudding” in ancient Rome meant sausage, and Robert Burns referred to haggis as the “chieftain of the pudding race.” So the pudding we serve today is not “authentic” or “traditional” if compared to that — but it’s still pudding. I think the best we can do is say, “this is authentic to the period” or “authentic to this town” or “authentic to this chef,” or maybe “this is a common interpretation of the dish in this region.” Otherwise, it becomes meaningless. Nothing is authentic, if one tries to find some unaltered original — with the possible exception of extremely basic and localized things, like the fermented mares’ milk in Mongolia.

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