One of the ascendant virtues of the new culinary landscape is the murky, poorly defined quality of authenticity. It’s an idea that means wildly different things depending on who’s saying it and what they’re applying it to, but in all circumstances it boils down to a fundamental notion of quality by fiat: if something is authentic, it is necessarily good. Authenticity implies a purity of history, a purity of purpose — in short, if something is authentic, it isn’t enjoyed because we’ve been barraged with external indicators that have instructed us to enjoy it; it’s enjoyed because it is inherently enjoyable. Inauthentic things need to be marketed and positioned and sold. Authentic things simply exist, and are perfect, and in their perfection they handily sell themselves…

Some of this absolution I’m bestowing thanks to the golden rule of food: if it tastes good, it is good. Something tasting good doesn’t mean it’s virtuous or that it’s authentic, just that it’s good, which is generally enough to justify a purchase. But far more is due to the simple, inescapable ubiquity of carefully constructed goods just like the Masts’ chocolate bars— we buy and sell stories every day, with almost every transaction, often in far more egregious ways than have been done with the Masts. These stories live in the space between how much something costs to make, and how much a customer is willing to pay to buy it; another word for them is branding, a dirty word largely because it stands in direct opposition to the virtue of authenticity.

“What the Mast Brothers Scandal Tells Us About Ourselves,” Helen Rosner


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