Authenticity in Gastronomical and Culinary Tourism is about eating or experiencing a certain stereotypical food in the place that we identify as it being from. This fulfils our need to be curious of other cultures as well as satisfying needs that are related to our status and prestige according to Holloway and Plants summary on tourism and Maslow’s Hierarchy.
It is not only about the food but also the surroundings and the whole experience. Eating pizza and pasta may seem normal for some, but eating it in an alfresco setting, in Italy, as a tourist, being looked after by a 63 year old waiter with a waistcoat and a moustache whose name is Luigi – turns it into a whole new experience.
Tourism or travel is what is known as a peak experience as it is something that takes us out of our daily routines. However we cannot exclude our daily routines (which are known as supporting experiences with eating and sleeping as examples) from this tourist ‘peak experience’ as all of these things combine together to form the experience as a whole.
Of course food changes – and so do cultures – New York has some of the best pizza in the world, San Francisco some of the best sushi and in Japan you will find some of the most ‘authentic’ Italian michellein stared restaurants on earth – except for the fact that the restaurants are in Japan and the chef is Japanese.
When we eat, authenticity is as much about our surroundings or the context as it is the food. Authenticity is an important social construct that we need to stereotype food with the place it comes from in order to make sense of the world.
On a local level within the region I live (Osaka Japan), eating food from a particular area whilst in that area always makes the food taste better. Drinking sake at the brewery it is made, and eating the local food from that town or region is not only enjoyable it has a variety of social stigmas attached. It gives you bragging rights and you get to tick off another to do box on you list for life.
On an international scale Japan is very interesting. As far as culinary tourism is concerned eating sushi and drinking sake in Japan is about just about as authentic as you can get. Sure you can get great sushi in many places around the world – but you don’t get the full cultural experience that comes with it. One of the most enjoyable things about being a foreign tourist in Japan is that you know you are out of place. The language barrier is probably the most difficult – you can’t read a menu, not many people speak English and due to your non-Japaneseness you will never be able to blend in, but don’t let this deter you – get amongst it and you shall receive.
Finding that place that truly is local with no other tourists will always be a heightened or ‘peak’ experience, not only for the food but for the context and setting as well.
“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener
Tikkanen, I 2007, ‘Maslow’s hierarchy and food tourism in Finland: Five cases”, British Food Journal, vol. 109, no. 9, pp. 721-734.
Quan, S & Wang, N 2004, ‘Towards a structural model of the tourist experience: an illustration from food experiences in tourism’, Tourism Management, vol. 25, pp. 297-305.
James Michener in Goodreads Website – accessed June 2012 http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7995.James_A_Michener