Cuisines

Fusion food enhances cultural diversity | Opinion

Fusion food enhances cultural diversity |  Opinion
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Krispy Rice offers sushi with contemporary ingredients such as cream cheese and Serrano pepper. (Chloe Hong / Daily Titan)


Fusion food has encountered so many claims of cultural appropriation over the years that it’s difficult to determine when fusion food is done “right”.

April Bullock, professor of liberal studies and environmental studies at Cal State Fullerton, discussed the widespread idea that certain foods are “authentic” or “pure expressions of culture.”

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Despite associating certain “authentic” ingredients with a specific culture, this can sometimes be the result of cultural exchange. For example, when it comes to Italian food, we often see tomatoes as an integral part. However, this ingredient originated in the New World and was not widely used in Italian cooking until the 1800s.

Likewise, many of the food innovations we see today are the result of cultural exchanges. For example, the taco truck Kogi combines Korean and Mexican ingredients to create something that many Los Angeles customers enjoy.

It’s important to note that the creator of Kogi and CSUF alum, Roy Choi, doesn’t brag about improving Mexican food with his creations. He said in a toofab interview that there’s a problem when you usurp your food: It’s not good and you claim to be an expert. It is his humble nature and respect for cultural authenticity that shows Kogi’s appreciation for both cultures.

Bullock also discussed the importance of intention. The professor urged people to ask critical questions about cultural appropriation: who is behind the fusion food? What is their background and who is in a position of power? For example, if two white people who had grown up on Korean and Mexican food founded Kogi, this move might not have translated the same sentiment.

There is also the discussion surrounding the founders of fusion restaurants Wolfgang Puck and Ming Tsai. In many ways their journeys parallel each other. With their hands in the fusion food world, they both achieved fame and fortune. However, some will argue that their culinary backgrounds are very different.

Ming Tsai has a background in both Chinese and European cuisine, which he learned during his culinary training in France.

Although Ming Tsai hails from a place of deep knowledge, it is uncertain whether the same can be said for Wolfgang Puck with regard to Asian cuisine. Therefore, Puck’s fusion food can be viewed differently from how people view Tsai’s cuisine. Knowledge is clearly another factor in whether something is cultural appropriation or not. This coincides with this idea of ​​respect – specific to the ingredients and cultures you fuse.

Devany Arreola, a customer of Trader Joe’s, said she doesn’t mind fusion food as long as it’s respectful of the culture. She said she understands that people get bored when they eat the same thing and want to try something new.

No, not all fusion food is cultural appropriation. These cultural exchanges, if done respectfully, can result in delicious and innovative creations. Experimenting with ingredients can be exciting and introducing people to new cultures, as long as you don’t claim to be an authority on something you know nothing about.

Therefore, if you see a local fusion restaurant creating something truly spectacular, make sure to support them.

Restaurants such as Anepalco’s Cafe serving authentic Mexican food with a unique French twist, and Café Hiro offering food with a delicious blend of Japanese, Italian and French influences are a great place to start exploring and supporting fusion food.

Show quality fusion restaurants that their creativity is valued and endorsed, and you might find something new about a culture to love.

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