Thursday, December 5, 2013

about authenticity

One of my absolute favorite bloggers, Kelsey, recently ranted (albeit mildly) about what it means to be "authentic", and thus, hipster cool. Personally, I'm all for artisanal products, fairtrade goods, and market-driven meals. What I don't appreciate is the attitude and price often attached to them. It's not okay that "authentic" things are only available to those who can afford them. Of course, the real trouble is that it often costs creators and purveyors more to offer quality from real people as opposed to that from technology.
I think our reinvigorated obsession concern with "authenticity" is a direct result of our simultaneous overconnected-ness and lack of connection. A few days ago, Erin reflected on an NPR podcast which discussed the history and shifting evolution of housework. "For many household duties, the rise of technology brought a rise of isolation, trading outlets and plugs for outdoors and people." Most other community experiences we once depended upon have been lost and replaced in the name of facilité as well. It's why businesses like that of Barbora Veselá (via Erin) are able to exist and thrive. It also explains the growing sharing/peer/collaborative economy. In this era of exaggerated consumption, we so desperately long to remember the who, where, why, and how again.
Unfortunately, we have yet to see a true shift in the way we earn and exchange money, and we need to preserve our livelihoods. More often than not, that doesn't allows for locally-roasted filtered coffee imported directly from Ethiopia on the regular. So what does that leave us with? Thoughtful choices. I'm hesitant to advocate for the “neoliberal assumption that capitalism itself can cure societies’ ills,” (Anderson, 43), but, most of us can choose who and what we surround ourselves with. And this is where attitude comes in, the good kind. We can decide to act in gratitude and treat all parties involved with kindness. Because the "authenticity" that matters to me, may very well not matter to you, and to better tomorrow, it's essential to respect our passionate differences.
For instance, you're probably familiar with the high priority I give to eating well. I prefer to meet s/he who cultivated my seasonal produce in environmentally-friendly conditions. I'll save for weeks to afford unforgettable meals and apparently, wait for months for popular tables. But even fabulous "cosmopolitan market cooking" can be tainted by a rudely apathetic sommelier. That's what I found last month when dining at a particular resto with Rachael and Lorelei. I'd been unimpressed with their wine bar, too.
For me, true nourishment is in the shared experience that "authentically" good food calls for; the stuff that heartwarming memories are made of. I'd say it's never really about the food, but last night's dinner at Le Richer convinced me otherwise. Their pumpkin crème brûlée blew my mind. And even if my former coworkers spent the entire meal joking about the wine's fruit rouges and épicé finish (as described), I know I wasn't the only one who savored the moments we spent drinking it. I'm really going to miss my Paris.
And you know, that's the kicker with authenticity--it's absolutely rooted in how we as individuals experience and interact with the world around us. If we are to use the word less carelessly, we may actually reach beyond the aesthetic to make tangible good...


  1. I love this post - I really agree with everything you said. I know sometimes I can come off as crazy because I'm always trying maybe too hard to eat well, and local, and fair trade stuff, and lots of people brush it off - but that's really because of the crazy people who think you're a terrible person if you don't ALWAYS go local and fair trade and organic even if it costs 3x as much. I think there's a reasonable balance that is different for everyone, and that's what we need to promote. And that's why I loved this article!

  2. Great post Danielle! There are two thoughts in particular that I am in 100% agreement with; "I'm all for artisanal products, fairtrade goods, and market-driven meals. What I don't appreciate is the attitude and price often attached to them" and "For me, the true nourishment is in the shared experience that "authentically" good food calls for". You said both perfectly and took the words out of my mouth although I could never say either so eloquently. x.


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