Into The Food World’s F-Word: Fusion Cuisine
Us homosapiens have been gossiping for ages and according to research, it is one of the things that aided our survival as a species for it kept us united (Gossip Girl does not seem so bad now does it?) This gossiping has continued for ages, wrapped up as a pretty present from our ancestors, and has enabled us to share cosseted cultural information. Fusion cuisine is one such baby of this marriage between cultures through which we have been able to learn culinary techniques that have been passed down from generations.
The roots of fusion cuisine go back centuries, probably as far back as trade goes but the term gained momentum mainly around 1970s. Around this time, several French chefs began to offer dishes that merged classic French cuisine with Asian cuisine, particularly Vietnamese and Chinese cuisines. Roy Yamaguchi and Wolfgang Puck can easily be called the pioneers of fusion cuisine.
These innovations were brought to the world by Puck's fondness for Asian flavors which he injected with his European lifestyle, giving birth to dishes that picked up popularity hastily.
The idea immediately soon spread to other major European cities. The spaghetti arrabbiata you always order to play safe (or to retain the virginity of your taste buds) is also a perfect example of the cuisine which wouldn't have happened if Italy hadn't been exposed to the Chinese noodles.
In India, the era began at the time where 5-star hotel chains started out experimenting with two distinct food cuisines by combining two or more culinary traditions from various regions. The innovations included crispy blue cheese naan, with a plate of foie gras stuffed galouti kebabs, plates of drop-dead khandvi ravioli and concluded with a stunning mishti doi cannoli. The attempt was made to create unique and often highly interesting dishes because charging heavy bucks for a simple cuisine was getting pretty boring right?
It initiated as a fun and experimental concept, different than what it is now. Indian chefs explored their ways through food items and cuisines to create mind-blowing dishes. The blend of South Indian cuisine and North Indian cuisine falls under the category of Indian fusion food, whereas, a combination of Chinese and Indian cuisine falls under the category of International fusion food. Food from, both categories were massively cherished by Indians, still is, before, we the guinea pigs scrutinized this evil closely.
Where things went haywire
Fusion food is often talked up in the culinary world as ‘cross-cultural’, ‘globally inspired', and lauded for how innovative it is. But it quickly got renamed as confusion as chefs soon just started mashing up ingredients randomly, hoping they'd taste good. The essence of fusion cuisine diluted as little to no research went into merging flavours and it became more of a fad.
You might think we are over exaggerating but imagine idli burger, pizza dosa, pasta biryani (???). Imagine chocolate, and momos, together, on one plate. Is your craving for those spicy chicken dumplings is ruined? Forever? You see we were not exaggerating. These badly executed abominations, which were earlier associated with innovation and creativity, are now called mash-ups in the modern world. Mash-up dishes are simply two distinct food concepts combined to form one, perhaps the most well-known disasters.
The (Comparitively) Good In The Bad
Yes but one likes to experiment with their food choices rather than being a purist to the core right? Yes agreed. We have been eating fusion food since the time the term became hip (or hated). The fault according to us lies in the evolution and not how it started out. There still exist versions of fusion food that don’t make you want to puke your guts out. Some rare examples of this could be the holy combination of gulab jamun and vanilla icecream and even spaghetti sandwiches which are beyond a doubt, worth the hype.
Therefore, despite the vast array of cuisine options available today, everyone yearns for something new and different. Though we all have our traditional favorites, when we eat out, we like to experiment with new flavors, sample new tastes, and broaden our palates which makes food enthusiasts give in to the F word of the food culture. Therefore, despite the criticism, fusion cuisine remains popular and has endeared itself to a younger audience that is probably more aware of it as a result of social media. They are more curious about new foods and cultures, and thus eager to try the food mash-ups.
The reality remains that, while the phrase "fusion" has fallen out of flavor (pun definitely intended) but its the echoes of effect it has had can be found everywhere since it's not only unavoidable but also, part of one's ever-evolving food journey.