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Food Fusion:
Bell Peppers and the Nature of Authenticity


What does it mean for a food to be considered "authentic?" Does it mean that it has significant cultural and or historical links to the people which created it? Or does it imply that it has been untainted by Western food ways and ingredients? The question of "authenticity" is something which has plagued Chinese Canadian food for generations and till this day continues to be debated.

In many regards, to say a food is "pure" or associated with a particular culture as being "authentic" is something of a misdemeanor. No food, for any nation or culture is pure in any material or regional sense at least, after one considers issues of international trade and agriculture.

Despite being native to North and South America, the Bell Pepper is often associated with Asian cuisine.

For instance, the bell pepper, a prominent ingredient commonly seen in Chinese satay dishes and stir frys is actually a food native to the New world, brought by Christopher Columbus when he first visited the continent. With the spread of the bell pepper into Europe, it soon quickly found itself in the markets of China and the rest of Asia for consumption.

Consequently, fast forward several hundred years later to the 1920’s in Canada and the United States and we find repeatedly find that the bell pepper classified as a "foreign" and strange food found only in Chinese and other non-white foods. The irony of course, it that the bell pepper is an indigenousness food of North and South America.

The disconnect between where a food is natively grown and where and who prepares the food brings into question the relationship between culture, food and geography. If I were to go to Beijing and order a hamburger no one would even question that I am in fact, eating a hamburger, a symbol of American culture and capitalism. Continue...

Upon returning from the New World in 1492, Columbus brought upon seeds and other native foods to be grown and traded in Europe and Asian. Most prominent is the Potato, which went on to become the staple crop of Ireland for centuries and of course the Bell Pepper.

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