"Fusion" or "New American" Blurred Lines in Culinary Style
It seems that just as we begin to understand the meaning of one culinary buzzword the fickle food world moves on to something else. The culinary landscape is constantly evolving and navigating the lingo can be challenging. Recently, I found myself having a difficult time describing Sargasso’s core culinary style. So I did what anyone with a burning food question should do. I asked our Chef Thomas Metzler. The discussion between Chef and I inspired this post.
Ask your average foodie what “fusion” means and they will probably tell you that it describes a style where more than one ethnic tradition is represented. The term has been around since the 1970’s and went mainstream during the 1990s as more restaurants experimented with different cuisines and styles of cooking on their menus.
Today, it is common to see South American dishes on the same menu as Asian inspired offerings. Like the world’s population, menus are becoming more diverse. A recently released report by the U.S. Census Bureau reveals that there will be no racial majority in America by 2044. Perhaps this is part of the reason why “fusion” feels passé and not longer specific enough as a culinary category. So how do we describe the here and now of cuisine that isn't French, but isn't Israeli?
The food world has a new buzzword....."New American.” That’s right, American. The label is being used by restaurants of all types from quick service food to fine dining and tells us more about what the cuisine isn’t than what it is. According to the Chicago Tribune, “New American” may just be the culinary equivalent of “dude.” What it means depends, as with “dude,” on the inflection, the context and, perhaps, a spoonful or two of attitude.”
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this "new" term is that there isn’t anything new about the idea. Our ancestors adapted ingredients and dishes from the countries from which they immigrated and blended those with what they learned from the Native Americans. Traditional American food, like our society, has always been a mix of different cultures, but if the culinary world wants to slap a “new” on it and make it a thing, I’m game.
Regardless of what we are calling it, Sargasso's cuisine is authentic, cutting-edge and delicious. The next time you're trying to describe a dish that uses local ingredients, Thai flavors, French techniques, and something you can't quite identify, dig in and worry not! You don't have to explain it if your mouth's full.