When East meets West for lunch, each side brings a taste of its own gastronomy to the table.
When fusion exploded as a craze in the 1980s, many restaurateurs predicted the obsession would be just another flash-in-the-pan food fad. But three decades later, fusion mania is still cooking and shows no sign of moving to the back burner any time soon.
Today’s fusion is driven by accelerated globalization — a melting pot of love and understanding? These meals melding cultural cuisines are appearing on menus, dinner plates and cookbooks across the globe.
For me, studying foods from other parts of the world makes me understand more clearly and vividly the development of cultural diversity, as well as the processes and effects of globalization. I’m always looking for something new and exciting to eat and always visualizing how different flavors and food aromas will blend. But be warned, “fusion” can sometimes be “confusion.”
If you travel a lot, you know that some of the most memorable experiences can occur in restaurants and that some of the most memorable “English” appears on foreign menus. Eating in a foreign restaurant can be a genuine adventure spiced by culinary and linguistic entertainment.
On a Chinese menu you can read, “Mr. Zheng and his fellow workers like to meet you and entertain you with their hostility and unique cooking techniques.” Sichuan guacamole for “whores dover” anyone?
A Warsaw restaurant advertises with the exultation, “As for the tripe served here, you will be singing it praises to your grandchildren on your deathbed.”
A menu in a Swiss restaurant boasts, “Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.”
A Shanghai Mongolian hot pot buffet guarantees, “You will be able to eat all you wish until you are fed up!”
A Tel Aviv hotel advertises its room service, “If you wish for breakfast, lift our telephone and the waitress will arrive. This will be enough to bring your food up.”
A Sicilian menu assures, “Guests are advised that all fruits served here have been washed in water passed by the management.”
Another Italian menu requests that you, “Please pay the house waiter the price of you consummation.”
A Tokyo restaurant requests that you, “Please do not bring outside food, excluding children under 5.” Wow, shades of Hansel and Gretel … and to think we read such grisly stories to our young children.
One restaurant in Rome listed on its menu, “Mixed Boils to Pick.” The Italian phrase is simply “mixed boiled meats of your choosing,” and it is a tasty dish of simmered beef, veal, chicken, tongue and sausages. But something got lost in translation.
Our choices of skewed and skewered items around the world have livened up meals abroad. Think “muscles in sailor’s sauce,” or “drunken prawn in spit.” Yum.
So, for cuisine, (fusion or non-fusion) to work, you need tolerance and understanding. You must not be afraid to make mistakes. Share ideas and when mistakes happen, do not give up. The ingredients are out there, you have to make it happen. It’s a journey, but the only way to improve is to keep cooking and have fun! Just like marriage.