Thoughts inspired by a recent meal at Louisville’s Tandoori Fusion restaurant: Fusion cuisine has been around for centuries, going back to Chinese restaurateurs coming up with chop suey to please Western consumers in 1850s California, and maybe even to Marco Polo and his noodles.
But the concept didn’t get a name until the 1980s, when chefs like Roy Yamaguchi and Wolfgang Puck began to intentionally combine flavors from different cultures. Before long, just about everyone was chowing down on Pacific Rim cuisine and Thai pizza, and calling it “fusion.”
The concept became hugely popular — I loved it, too — as it invited chef-driven creativity to come up with, well, “new original cuisines which could be called true artistic creations … artistic dishes never seen before.” Yeah, the original Japanese Iron Chef took fusion to a new level.
But a funny thing happened on the way to Hawaiian pizza: People started asking questions about cultural appropriation. “Many white cooks and chefs have been called into question after presenting audiences with dishes from which they have no culinary connection,” food-culture expert Sylvia Tomczak wrote in Canada’s RestoBiz magazine last April. “This is problematic as ethnic ingredients are rebranded to be trendy, cool, and relevant for Westerners while sometimes totally disregarding culinary histories.”
Uh-oh. Does this mean that we need to strip our pantries of international delights like Laoganma hot chile crisp, and even [gasp] pasta? Naaah. Even Ms. Tomczak eases up a bit at the end of her piece. “While it’s inevitable that our pantries will see more unique international goods going forward, we must be ...Read more