Genuine is hard to define. What makes anything bona fide? Is authenticity a whim of subjectivity? In the case of food, is it dependent on a strict adherence to a specific ingredients and preparation? Sure, you’ve got to have the right ingredients to make a dish. You’ve got to cook it at the appropriate temperatures and of course presentation is important as well, but the title of “genuine” requires more than a recipe.
Folks argue about this far more than they should, but when we’re talking about food I think it comes down to something else, something you can’t quite put your finger on. Genuine food is more than the sum of its ingredients.
All that being said, I know where you can find genuine Mexican food. It’s tucked away in a yellow food truck at El Noa Noa on S. Knoxville, or as us oldtimer’s call it, it’s on the truck route.
We had a torta, which is a Mexican sandwich that I’d never even heard of before. It’s a sandwich amped up with the spice and flair that Mexican street food is known for. At El Noa Noa you can get your choice of meat piled onto crusty white bread and topped off with melted cheese, beans, lettuce, tomato, cilantro, onion, and mayonnaise or sour cream. Get a side of sliced jalapenos and garnish with super-spicy red, sneak-up-on-you green, or avocado sauce. Wash it down with a cold Jarritos.
Then you’ll realize that authenticity is defined by the experience.