Thursday, September 17, 2009

Subway Series - Fusion

Once upon a time I ended up in a Cuban Italian restaurant for mojitos and pasta cubano (ground pork meatballs on spaghetti tossed with marinara, pickles and a touch of sweet cabbage). Strange as it may sound, this was not the first time I have visited a mixed race restaurant. Fusion has become increasingly popular over the years, starting with proximate pan-asian foods, and expanding to combinations never before conceived. Before we knew it, the French were in bed with the Japanese making Steak au poivre with Kobe beef, Indian curry was seducing its way into Dominican tamales and the Texans were corralling chipotles to scintillate their brisket (thank you NAFTA). This got me wondering - could fusion be the answer to the world’s cultural problems?

Having an affinity for multiple worlds is one thing, but being of them is a completely different experience. Is culture learned or a birthright? Can you truly call someplace home if you have no tangible ties to it other than current location or the short visit last year? Can someone truly understand another's culture just because they were raised by people of said culture? Such abstract questions arguably define the appeal and character of a fusion restaurant.

Some will argue that specializing in one cuisine will offer you stability, solidarity and a well defined community. You know which people are your mates, and you have clear lines along which to draw the borders. Though I don't totally disagree with this perspective, I personally believe having a foot in multiple worlds solves more problems than it causes. While you don't have clear definitions and rules to easily and systematically define what something should be, the confusion and identify crisis such a lack of framework can cause inspires exploration and assimilation of more information from the different cultural offerings of the world. In seeking the identity of a dish that has no rules, one must search for the meaning and context which appeals to their individual spirit amongst the innumerable available. Sometimes, seeing how people of another world live can better your understanding of your own culture. It can also help deepen your appreciation for the beauty of other cultures in the world and inspire you to make their strengths a part of your own. I find the opposing view somewhat banal, for if you already have a recipe and know what the end product is going to be, there is no need to seek out an answer or deeper meaning. But when you don't know, the journey to the end product can be one of the most fulfilling aspect of the dish.

Kibito might just have been on to something...

- The UE

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