Inventing Authenticity explores how cookbooks play a vital role in the story of the contemporary South, a region whose identity is still in the making – or perhaps more accurately, always in the remaking. This study takes up authenticity as a rhetorical construction and a cultural practice by examining the language used to define authenticity in the discourse of Southern food, namely in the stories told in cookbooks. The recipe headnote – the conventional paragraph of introduction that precedes a recipe – is the main method that cookbook writers use to communicate authenticity. I argue it is also a type of origin narrative, referencing history and tradition as a claim for authenticity. Many origin narratives in contemporary Southern cookbooks, however, reveal a general squeamishness about the South’s past: particularly about slavery, wide-spread poverty, segregation, racism, and violence. The narratives in contemporary, or New Southern, cookbooks must negotiate a delicate balance between needing the past to prove authenticity and needing to steer clear of narrating a history that may alienate readers. While these cookbooks problematically obscure the pain of the Southern past, they do so in service of a capacious definition of Southern identity. I argue alternative narratives of authenticity may help to broaden the borders of the New South, making space for a more cosmopolitan New Southern identity.