The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word “fusion” in respect of cuisine as follows; “referring to food or cooking which incorporates elements of Eastern and Western cuisine”.
During the 1970’s French chefs began introducing recipes that combined traditional French food with those from Asia. This concept quickly became popular and spread across Europe then into America; it was at this time that “fusion cuisine” became a “new” and “fashionable” trend in cooking. However; fusion cooking by its definition, can actually be traced back many centuries to when man first started exploring different civilizations and migrating .
A simple example in respect of an ingredient would be one used in dishes that we recognise today as being typically Italian. When did you last see a lasagne, Bolognese or pizza that did not use tomato as the base ingredient in the sauce? The tomato actually originates from South America and although the earliest recorded “cook book” with recipes involving the use of tomatoes was published in Naples in 1692, the tomato was actually introduced into Europe by the Spanish after a Spanish explorer called Cortes introduced it to his country following his expedition to South America.
Whilst this gives you an example of fusion cooking in its simplest form with an ingredient from one country being introduced to another, it should be noted that fusion cooking is not just defined by different foods from different cultures being used together, but also by the methods used to cook them.
Let me take you back to Tudor England. This was a time when explorers were bringing back to court many new spices and foods from the Far East however there would not have been a wok or Far East native in a Tudor Kitchen. They used large cauldrons and saucepans on an open hearth or brick built ovens with which to cook their food, therefore they would never have learnt to cook and experienced food “stir-fried” in the sense we now know it.
Modern times have allowed for multi-cultural societies. As different nationalities have settled in new countries they have not only bought with them different foods but also their knowledge in how to prepare and cook these foods and now we have the ability to preserve foods for longer with wonderful inventions like the refrigerator and modern transportation, most people are able to purchase both ingredients and utensils for the many styles of cuisine available today in order to experiment for themselves.
It is by experimentation with foods that fusion cooking will no doubt continue to develop in the years to come. Experiments in the kitchen can often lead to exciting new dishes to tempt our palates and then there are those that are born from “a bit of fun”. Whilst a crude example of fusion cooking; the “Deep Fried Mars Bar” started out as a joke with a local chip shop owner and some local kids but soon turned into a global phenomenon.