Writer, dreamer, and story addict. Author of The Dark Earth, an upcoming gritty YA fantasy series and Alexander Hickory, a MG Victorian mystery.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Authenticity and the “IT” Factor

I was hungry and my mom had to pee.

We had already spent at least three hours in the car and were in the middle of Amish country, rock cliffs, and absolutely no cell phone reception. But we needed food. And a bathroom.

Per our road trip rules, all food stops had to be “authentic”. Thankfully it's easy to find authentic restaurants in rural Wisconsin – there's one in every town. Usually it's the only one in town where the owner is often the waitress and cook. And no one, not even the owner/waitress/cook, is in any hurry.

So, in the middle of western Wisconsin, we found our authentic restaurant, slid into the old wooden chairs and waited.

And waited.

Finally a quiet lady took our order and delivered water.

Then we waited some more.

All that sitting gave us a chance to absorb the scenery and admire our surroundings. A snow shovel leaned against the wall and the wallpaper dated back to the mid-70s. A nearby group of seniors shared gossip about grandchildren and pending marriages.

Feeling guilty for eavesdropping, I turned my attention to the back to the walls.

A pair of paintings from a local artist hung above our table. They were nice, systematic paintings meant to replicate portraits from the late 19th century.

They were...nice. Not great. Not inspiring. Just nice.

What was wrong with them you ask? They were missing the “it” factor. They were trying to be something they weren't. They were replicating someone else's idea of a good painting.

They needed to be ART. Wonderful, original, gorgeous art unlike anything ever created. Sure, few things are completely original, but the best artists, writers, and musicians learn the skill, practice their crafts, then find a way to make it their own.

Turns out the food had an amazing “it” factor. Homemade sausage, fresh bacon, bread, and a waffle I loved so much I wanted to wear it as a hat.

The cook/waitress/owner had mastered her craft and presented us with the best breakfast I've ever had.

So what did I learn from my two hour Midwest restaurant experience? Authenticity is essential...especially when it's edible.