In my workplace, the word "authentic" gets tossed about a lot. Usually in the context of speaking in an "authentic voice" or just being "authentic." I hear it with such frequency that I think it's become one of those buzzwords that gets applied to anything somebody wants to get budget approved for, without much concern for whether it might actually be authentic in any way.
I thought about this today as I happened upon a couple of episodes of The French Chef, Julia Child's 1960s vintage how-to cooking show on public tv.
Of course, the Julie & Julia movie has reignited interest in the trailblazing tv chef, and we still snicker at famous Julia Child send-ups, most memorably Dan Aykroyd's too-close encounter with a meat-cleaver on a long-ago Saturday Night Live. My mother watched her show in my youth, and I remember my college friends and I trying recipes for haricots verts, soupe a l'oignon and supremes de volaille a blanc aux champignons (which we christened simply "Julia's Chicken Boobs") in our apartment kitchenettes.
As I watched those old episodes this morning with fresh eyes and a far more seasoned -- or perhaps more accurately, jaded -- perspective I saw something more.
I saw authenticity in action, in the form of a deliciously dowdy, engagingly ebullient woman who dared to be just who she was in front of all America.
There she was, all 6'2 of her in a basic little mid-century kitchen, gleefully brandishing a giant knife before whacking the head off a fish... standing behind a long row of chickens ("a peep," she explained, in her distinctive high-pitched voice) to point out the difference between fryers and stewing hens, then wrestling the stump of a neck off the chosen roaster and giving it a "butter massage"... tying a napkin around her neck to demonstrate the proper way to eat bouillabaisse.
Here was a woman who clearly had passion for her work and simply wanted to share it with us. There was no shred of artifice -- if she had a wardrobe and makeup consultant, it was not apparent, and if she made a mistake, she acknowledged it breezily and forged on.
Contrasted against today's frantically paced productions (food and otherwise), hosted by Barbies and Kens with graphics packages and crawling text to divert our attention lest we realize there's no substance under all that hairspray and makeup, it was, well... joyful. Delightfully simple.
Authentic. For real.