An Immigration Turning Point: "Authentic" Ethnic Food
Dara Horn sees the search for authentic ethnic food as an important sign:
The history of American food is really a history of immigration, and the nostalgia that comes with a cuisine's decline is an indicator of an ethnic group's confidence in its American identity. When a group first attains critical mass in America, its restaurants are mostly for its own members. Later, as these groups gain confidence, they begin selling their more accessible foods to a general public craving cheap exotic eats. These dishes then mutate into American form, a la chow mein, and the group's American-born children typically spurn these foods as they try to assimilate. Around the third or fourth generation, the descendants of immigrants are secure enough in their American credentials to explore their "roots." Shortly thereafter, food nostalgia sets in, and the quest for the "authentic" begins.