Fusion cooking emerged in culinary circles about 10 years ago. This was a time when gourmet cooking that blended Eastern and Western flavor profiles appeared in California and began spreading across the nation. As the popularity of fusion grew, so did the way various chefs expressed it. At the same time, some cooks have raised concerns about what Fusion cooking means to truly authentic cuisine.
By definition Fusion marries different types of food together, and not simply Asian and American blends. Any culture, any local specialty, aromatics or textures can become part of a fusion endeavor when it meets a globally inspired pallet. And while the term “fusion” has only been recently applied to the world of cooking, it’s really nothing new.
Consider the history of the spice route. As merchants traveled to new and strange places, they carried their treasured goods and recipes with them. When a new town, city or culture came on the horizon it represented an opportunity not only for sales, but to expand their spices, dry goods and culinary methods. For example, it was not until the 1800s that pasta and tomato sauce actually met formally. Before then pasta dishes used olive oil. This was a truly successful blend, but not all efforts come with raving reviews.
With the advent of television and numerous food-oriented TV shows, everyday cooks have been introduced to fusion. Novice cooks see it as a great way to impress friends and family without realizing they can ruin a dish by using too many un-related spices or techniques. At the end of the day you have a very difficult dish that takes hours to prepare and has no real place in “history”, not to mention it may be nearly impossible to recreate.
Another problem with fusion cooking is the availability of what are sometimes very rare or unusual ingredients essential to the success of the meal. Substitution is fine in some cases, but in others it makes for a disaster. It takes a refined hand to do fusion well, consistently.
Culture, Tradition and Trends
Different cultures have well-loved recipes and culinary traditions. When one stars tinkering with those, something gets lost in translation. In some cases historical recipes may even get lost over time because they’re not being handed down family lines in their original form.
Additionally some folk, including professionals, are tired of the seeming never-ending parade of trends in not just food but fashion, electronics etc. Sometimes “new” is not better. There’s a reason that classic food is called “classic” – because it works!
So how can we all avoid Fusion confusion? By sticking to the simple principles on which good cooking depends. How will it taste, how will it look, how will it smell? If you’re answer to those three questions is “phenomenal” then you’re on the right track to using fusion as an inspiration, not necessarily a lifestyle.