Everything's "authentic" now. That is, we're seeing more and more "real" people in advertising. Men who look like Sam Shepard. Women with the grit of Edie Falco.
Not hard to understand why --- we're sick of fakes.
But here comes the irony: There's too much "authentic." It's not accurately defined --- most of what is now labeled "authentic" is just a new form of "fake."
Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer --- the women who create the seasonally-published Canal House cookbooks --- really are authentic. This is their description of their workspace in Lambertville, New Jersey, just across the river from New Hope, Pennsylvania:
"Our loft studio is in an old red brick warehouse. A beautiful lazy canal runs alongside the building. We have a simple galley kitchen. Two small apartment-size stoves sit snugly side by side against a white tiled wall. We have a dishwasher, but prefer to hand wash the dishes so we can look out of the tall window next to the sink and see the ducks swimming in the canal or watch the raindrops splashing into the water."
Why do I believe them? I've been there. Seen them in action. Real people, real food. I'd admired them before; now I adore them.
"Authentic" --- real authentic --- means listening to yourself. That's what Hamilton and Hirsheimer did in Volume 5. Those recipes were totally unexpected, and, in a recession, shocking: Fried oysters. Escargots. Four kinds of goose liver. Scrambled eggs with truffles. Lobster with browned cream. Truffled lobster with gnocci. What was the point? Who did they think their readers were? Why, thee and me. They just wanted us, in a grim time, to be extra-good to our friends and family --- and ourselves --- on special occasions.
How like Hamilton and Hirsheimer, in Volume 6, to take The Supermarket as their theme. Not the aisles with store brands and ingredients you can't pronounce. But not Whole Foods, either. Just your basic chain store, with more choices than anyone needs --- and more specialty and quality foods than they did when Mom was pushing the cart around. Like organic chickens. And locally grown vegetables.
The recipes are not fancy --- as they write, this is "home cooking for home cooks by home cooks." The big idea is excellent products, straightforward preparation, smart spicing. Which yields dishes like Braised Escarole with White Beans. Fish Sticks (yes, fish sticks). And a killer Gingered Chicken with Cream.
Authentic to the max, say I.