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Authenticity, enemy of creativity

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    What an excellent essay.

    In some sense if one tries to be fully authentic, one can actually experience the opposite and end up being stifled. The example that immediately comes to find is "authentic" Texas brisket: the rub is salt and pepper and that is it. Q.E.D. No deviations.

    (The irony, of course, is that many Texas BBQ places that are perceived to be authentic, probably deviate from the strict formula themselves!)

    I've also experienced something similar in my recent pizza experimentations. I've been getting hung on up finding out what is "true" Neapolitan, what is "true" Detroit-style, etc..... and feel weird if I try to deviate from that just due to my own tastes and preferences (I don't like cooked sauce on pizza!).


      Very thought provoking! Wine has taken this path, too, IMHO. Remember when the "rules" were white with fish and red with beef, blah blah blah. Now it’s drink what you like, for the most part.


      • ItsAllGoneToTheDogs
        ItsAllGoneToTheDogs commented
        Editing a comment
        Go back even further before CA wineries had recognition and only certain wines from certain countries were authentic. The movie Bottle Shock kinda portrays it well.

      • Meathead
        Meathead commented
        Editing a comment
        Yes. I have judged MANY wine competitions from NY to California to Italy and if the winemake gets creative she has no chance.

      If it's truly "authentic" you shouldn't have to express the fact you think it is on your sign.


      • Mr. Bones
        Mr. Bones commented
        Editing a comment

      BBQ for me has always been and will always be getting outside and cooking some food. But to each their own i guess. Im still kinda stunned at the idea of hate mail over lemon juice in pesto. Although these days i guess it really shouldnt shock me.


        Great read. I have always sought out traditional foods so I can understand and appreciate the culinary and cultural significance of a particular food. The artistry comes, as you stated, when you can play with traditional ingredients and methods and put your own spin on them.

        BBQ burn out is real. I'd love to try some of those places you mentioned.

        I love good traditional BBQ but it would be awesome to incorporate different styles, techniques, and flavor profiles into low and slow cooking.

        I have an offset on the way and just cooking ribs, butt, and brisket really limits this cooker's usefulness.
        Last edited by Old Glory; February 13, 2022, 06:59 AM.


          Just a quick thought on the "Authenticity" of BBQ.
          I wonder what most of us would think if we were hurdled back 150 years or so to taste the origins of American style BBQ?
          Technique would be vastly different.
          Sauce would likely be non existent.
          Rubs would possibly be salt and pepper (pepper might even be a stretch for a lot of those folks)but variety would likely be very limited.
          It would be interesting to find a bit more information on how they prepared the original. Did the spice and sauce? Did they build pits? Open flame? A combination?
          I do know they did a lot of salting and smoking to help preserve the better cuts but I would consider that an altogether different type of food preparation.
          BBQ as I understand its origins was an economy thing/avoid waste thing rather than a daily sustenance meal. It was used to supplement human meals after a slaughter took place I believe it was use it or lose it. It was NOT common year round as meat had to be used relatively quickly before it spoiled.
          I also wonder what the originators would think of todays version of BBQ?
          Would they be satisfied with what we have done to their original?
          Would the seasonings be considered good or bad? Edible to them or inedible.
          I personally suspect their palettes would tend to reject it as too sweet/spicy.
          I am of the thought that BBQ HAS constantly evolved and will continue to be tweaked and changed.


          I'm going to dissent and probably piss a lot of people off royally.

          The same can be said for the modernist chef who places microgreens on a plate with tweezers. The subject of much derision by many Americans, tweezer food is a form of kaiseki.
          It's a class issue. The working class places great emphasis on quantity of food. The ruling class places great emphasis on presentation of food.

          To the little people, a plate without enough food to get full is ridiculous, and anyone who would claim that this was admirable deserves to be publicly ridiculed like the emperor in the fable "The Emperor's New Clothes", and for the same reason. To the ruling class, the working class food looks like shit on a shingle and is worthy of even more ridicule. Two sides of the same coin, right? The difference is that the ruling class gets to print their contempt in the pages of the New York Times.

          Barbecue has not evolved. And for you, this may be just fine, but for me? I crave variety.
          This is the psychological trait of Openness. People high in Openness crave novelty. They are easily bored and are always looking for the next new thing. Most of us aren't high in Openness. I know people here who eat the exact same food every day. Who reading this could do it? And yet if they didn't have their traditional foods, they'd express exactly as much distress as high Openness people.

          Traditionalists need to wake up and look around. Traditions evolve. The times they are a changin’ and creativity and innovation are the driving forces behind almost everything.
          It is well and good to bring up the principle of Chesterson's Fence. What is Chesterson's Fence? Let's allow G. K. Chesterton himself to explain:

          >There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, "I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away." To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: "If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it."

          In his book, Chesterton describes the classic case of the changer who notices something, such as a fence, and fails to see the reason for its existence. However, before they decide to remove it, they must figure out why it exists in the first place. If they do not do this, they are likely to do more harm than good with the change.

          If a fence exists, there is likely a reason for it.

          Creativity, innovation, and originality is what makes a chef a culinary artist. Creativity makes food better.
          Here's where the high Openness comes in again. Are all of us really striving to be a "culinary artist"? I'm not. I just want to make delicious food and fill up my guests. Nobody I know wants to be a "culinary artist". People high in Openness frequently make the error of thinking everyone wants to be like them. How many people reading this went to over a dozen different BBQ restaurants last year? Of course you regard what you do as Serious Business. The rest of us? Not so sure. That's a new one every month, a blistering pace.

          I note several commentators expressing boredom. Fundamental changes are often an attempt to attract new people. Unfortunately, that usually does not work. Worse, oftentimes the changes do not go over well with the established audience. Look at how they ruined Ghostbusters, or Star Wars. They had damn well better not ever come for The Goonies.

          There is value to tradition. The very meaning of the word is not changing. When we celebrate our traditions we celebrate our culture, we celebrate US. Traditions are passed down from one generation to the next. In China where I am, in the 1960s they decided to destroy their traditions, destroy their culture, and destroy their ideas. It was a catastrophe of gargantuan proportions.

          One of the Youtube channels I follow attempts to reconstruct recipes from the past. Nobody knows how the dishes were really made, though, because the tradition was not passed on and the dish died. If traditions had not endured, we wouldn't be able to drink lambanog in its original form, nor baijiu in the way it was enjoyed long ago. Change can become a bastardization of the original food that seems like an insult. Consider all the people who think that a McRib is excellent barbecue. Consider all of them who would turn down a plate loaded high with brisket for a McRib, and think they got the better end of the deal.

          This isn't to say that I and the rest of my not-high-Openness cohort hate change or want to eat dirt-covered BBQ. It's the rate of change. Change is well-considered. It comes slowly, or not at all. The working class slogan: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"
          Last edited by Meathead; February 15, 2022, 08:48 AM.


          • Meathead
            Meathead commented
            Editing a comment
            Very tasty food for thought.

          • Mosca
            Mosca commented
            Editing a comment

            I think I can hold both points of view at the same time.

          • CaptainMike
            CaptainMike commented
            Editing a comment
            As I have read this post and the many comments my mind keeps coming back this thought: One person's authenticity or tradition is another person's creativity.

          Wow! Great write up. Sounds like you might have been venting a little bit . But seriously you're right. I'm still learning so I like to know what traditional is and use that as a starting point. In my head I'm thinking, how can I twist this? So many times, I want to go for it, but my audience isn't as outgoing as I am. So, I back down and cook what they like.


          • Meathead
            Meathead commented
            Editing a comment
            Lotta venting in the next book.

          Last night I stopped at one of the nation's best BBQ joints, Chicago Culinary Kitchen in Palatine and Greg made his "Sticky Chicken". I didn't get a good shot of the finished product of this panko crusted deep fried whole chicken, but it was plated with crumbled peanuts, wasabi peas, Cap'n Crunch, and a sweet-tart-hot Asian sauce. The best fried chicken of my life. Lookin at you Bkhuna ...
          Attached Files


          • Debra
            Debra commented
            Editing a comment
            Meathead. Would Dave's panco encrusted deep fried sticky chicken be considered BBQ if it were served in another establishment rather than a BBQ joint? It looks and sounds delicious but should it be considered BBQ?
            To me deep fried would be a whole different type of cooking such as the local legendary Strouds Chicken here in the Kansas City area.

          • Meathead
            Meathead commented
            Editing a comment
            It was delicious food. Who cares if it is called BBQ or BQB or QBB?

          This thoughtful discussion is one of the reasons I love this forum.


            What a great thread to read on a lazy, snowy Sunday. Thanks all for the really enlightening conversation. Ditto Mosca , the signal to noise ratio here is off the charts.

            I count myself fortunate that I grew up well outside the areas where BBQ has history and tradition (Los Angeles area, and there aren't all that many things that are fortunate about growing up there), and don't really have any preconceived notions about what BBQ "should" be. I take that as a blessing!

            Sidebar re: wine judging. Years ago I was a pretty dedicated home beer brewer, and at one point sat in on a multi-week training course for people wanting to sit for the Beer Judging Certification Program (not sure what it's called today). I had no intention of going into judging, but it was a golden opportunity to learn very important fundamentals of flavor and aroma identification. Turns out that beer judges need to be able to distinguish well over three times the number of unique characteristics that the wine judges do. Similar situation to what Meathead described, most entries are really good, and it's hard to separate them. But the beer world is a whole lot more open to all sorts of experimentation, clearly...

            Edit: Another parallel with brewing: I spent a number of years refining my gear, methods, and ingredients before I got to what I considered to be pretty decent competence. For most of that self-imposed apprenticeship, I stuck to established styles, akin to "compulsory figures" in figure skating, which one must master before freestyling. That's pretty much where I'm at in smoking meat, having only just started last July and with fewer than two dozen cooks under my belt. Haven't even done a brisket yet, although a 5lb/2.3kg brisket point is on deck for next weekend... I'm sure I'll start coloring outside the lines once I'm confident I can hit my figurative targets pretty much every time.
            Last edited by DaveD; February 13, 2022, 11:55 AM.


              Peg Leg Porker, aka Carey Bringle, has a wonderful essay on the topic here


              • Panhead John
                Panhead John commented
                Editing a comment
                Hey….what you talking about Willis?

              • Jfrosty27
                Jfrosty27 commented
                Editing a comment
                Excellent essay. I had the pleasure of eating at Peg Leg Porker in May 2021. One word: awesome.
                I don’t care how you cook it. If it tastes like good Q, it is good Q.

              • Draznnl
                Draznnl commented
                Editing a comment
                "Pitmasters can ... come from any region, city or state." Peg Leg Porker

                My only beef (pun a little bit intended) with Peg Leg's essay is the phrase I quoted above. It doesn't go far enough. Barbecue is an international cuisine now. There are many fine cooks from the world over right here in the Pit. And look at the immigrant pitmasters included in Texas Monthly's latest Top 50. Just as it grew from regional to national, it has now grown to international.

              Just talked with Carey. He sent me this excellent link
              This is a note from pitmaster Carey Bringle. It is copied in its entirety, with his permission, from the Facebook page of Peg Leg Porker. And to those who


                When I started trying to figure out how to make decent ribs many years ago, BBQ joints really didn't exist in my neck of the woods (northern US), other than a couple of national chains. Traveled to Texas for work on occasion, and fell in love with "authentic" Texas BBQ. I've watched BBQ blow up nationally. I've watched Amazingribs blow up, and now there are dozens of great BBQ joints up north. When I started, very few people I knew had "smokers" and only made steaks and burgers on a grill. Now, pretty much everyone I know that cooks outside is doing really good BBQ. Maybe the general popularity of the artform is causing the innovators to move on to the next thing? It's boring because it's no longer novel? Like in music and art, what is popular becomes "old news" and I think that's were BBQ is in the US. We're on the downslope after the peak. Then what typically happens, after a few years, a return to the old, familiar, quality styles. We then refer to it as classic, and it becomes a popular and new again. Love this type of discussion, and the Amazingribs staff and family - Cheers!


                  Ooooo boy this is gonna generate some controversy

                  I think it depends on your mood and what you're looking to get. If a restaurant is marketing that it has TX BBQ, that means a fairly specific thing (although, like anything, there is a lot of variance within that sub-category) and I'd for sure expect traditional TX BBQ. But I don't always want traditional TX BBQ and often don't.

                  Sure, you can go out and get some experimental variants/fusions of BBQ that either don't work or don't suit your tastes, but that I am all for taking creative chances even if they don't work. I made Steve Raichlen's Filipino ribs a month back, and to be honest, despite executing them very well, I wasn't a fan of the flavor profile. Ah well, try try again!

                  I certainly prefer to cook many things over charcoal or in a stick burner, but I can also make a Filet Mignon on a rusted our charbroil gasser that will put many a local steakhouse to shame. I try my best to reserve judgement for people that:
                  1. Use lighter fluid to start a charcoal fire and then cook on it before the lighter fluid has burnt off
                  2. Insist their boiled ribs are better than my smoked ribs (to be fair, I have never met anyone that boils ribs, I can only theorize about this based on commentary in Meathead 's first book)
                  3. Assure me their propane tank is full when I start the Filet Mignon's, only to run out halfway through the short cook
                  4. Are named Panhead John

                  Other than that, love (& share) what you eat and cook, that's the whole point
                  Last edited by jhoskins; February 14, 2022, 01:15 PM.


                  • Mosca
                    Mosca commented
                    Editing a comment
                    "I made Steve Raichlen's Filipino ribs a month back, and to be honest, despite executing them very well, I wasn't a fan of the flavor profile. Ah well, try try again!"

                    That goes right toward my feeling that I don’t want to invest $100 and half a day in an experiment. I might try it for myself, but if we’re having folks over it’s going to be what everyone expects it to be.

                  • jhoskins
                    jhoskins commented
                    Editing a comment
                    very true. I had a couple people over when I made them, but I also made 2 racks of my standard Memphis style ribs as insurance. Good thing, as the Filipino ones weren't a hit


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