What are the trendy words of the day? Let’s go with “hipster foods.” This is what the Associated Press is now calling hybrid foods, the en vogue food fad that has been exploding throughout restaurants from fast food to high-end gourmet. “Hybrid food” can sound a bit scary though, while “hipster foods” seems to genuinely appeal to the social media savvy.
Fusion in the Melting Pot
Fusion Cuisine became popular beginning in the 1970s. These unique cuisine blends elements from diverse culinary traditions and creating them has become a fine art in the kitchen. Asian fusion leads the pack by combining the various dishes of the many countries, such as altering Chinese dishes with Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese spices or specialty meats and vegetables. This was followed up by other intercultural blends, the most famous being of course Tex-Mex.
Yet again, fusion cuisine is not even that recent. It has been present ever since man began cooking food. As we have always been a nomadic species, we cannot help but influence where we go with where we have been. California cuisine is mostly a blend of Spanish, Mexican and Asian, the two highest concentrations of ethnicities. Nouvelle cuisine, while more popularly coined in the 1960s, was also the term used every time the French innovated with their classic cuisine, generally because of an invasion by another people, especially in the early-mid 20th century.
Many times throughout history, a large group of people would emigrate or seek refuge in another country, thereby changing that country’s way of eating forever. The Potato Famine in Ireland in the 1800s drove over a million Irish immigrants to the United States. Suddenly, everyone was eating more smoked meats like bacon or corned beef, which are now everyday foods in the US.
Tourism Sets the Table
Nowadays, it is often tourism that brings about a change in cuisine. A city or country that has large annual events each year, bringing in millions of international visitors discovers the demand for more international cuisines to satisfy.
Consider the south of France, for example. A rich blend of sun-drenched beaches and glamorous hotels, it also hosts several annual major international events – and all in the month of May.
The first week of May brings the European Poker Tour to Monaco. The richest poker tour in the world hosts events throughout the year in cities like Malta and Barcelona, culminating with the EPT Grand Finale in Monte Carlo. Not a week later, Cannes Film Festival brings over 150,000 tourists and flocks of celebrities to the south of France. Finally, the month ends back in Monte Carlo at the Monaco Grand Prix. The three events bring in an influx of almost half a million tourists in one short month.
How has this influenced local cuisine? There are more Asians making movies, driving formula one cars and winning poker tournaments than ever before. In Monaco, there are also currently 15 Japanese restaurants, 12 sushi bars and over 20 assorted other Asian cuisine establishments, influencing what was once high-end only, Mediterranean cuisine. What did the influx of Americans offer? Monaco boasts the only McDonalds in the world that does not sport the golden arches – instead, according to TripAdvisor, the fast food restaurant features a macaroon dessert stand.
Don’t Play With Your Food
Another recurring event that influences cuisine in the hosting city and country is the Olympic Games. Once held only once every four years, the Summer and Winter Olympic Games were eventually split so that the event occurs every other year. Even cities like Los Angeles and London, that are already centres for international tourism, see some changes. Others, like Brazil, which has primarily Brazilian cuisine with Portuguese influences, will see greater changes with the influx of tourism.
The city that is selected for each event spends millions, sometimes billions, preparing for that event. You must create something for everyone so many new international cuisines appear on menus and often stay as tourism continues to rise. London showed record tourism a full year after its Olympic Games in 2012. You can bet they are not serving just fish & chips, Yorkshire pudding and cottage pie there anymore. London was already a melting pot for different cultures, but the Olympics boosted this interaction of culture and cuisine.
The End of Regional Cuisine
Mass movement of people, regardless of the reason, will continue to change and influence the world’s regional cuisines. Central America has seen huge increases of Canadian and American expat arrivals, making casada tipico (rice, beans, meat and lettuce salad) not the only thing on the menu anymore. Eastern Europe has received an influx of Middle Eastern people and an increase in restaurants offering kebabs, hummus, tabbouleh and falafel.
There will come a time, in the not too distant future, where regional cuisines will be based solely on the produce, proteins and spices available as the populations will be too ethnically intertwined for one to stand out. For better or for worse, “World Cuisine” will then be the trendy words of the day.