Most people who wanted to experience authentic ethnic food and not some bland Americanized version of it typically had two choices, one only slightly less expensive than the other. They could plan a vacation to the country of their choice, or they could make a trip to a large metropolitan area and search out a cultural neighborhood. Neither of these options were something people could do on a regular basis nor on the spur of the moment, which means very few people got to experience the joy of traditionally prepared dishes they had heard and read about. Luckily, that is starting to change in a big way.
Typically, the reason many authentic ethnic and fusion restaurants got their starts in big cities was because that is where the people would immigrate to. It was easier for many of the new arrivals to establish themselves in an area where their community already had a foothold. The result was many of the major cities across the country having specific neighborhoods where people could find these authentic foods. It was not an act of a city's marketing manager that led to there being Chinatowns in many cities, for instance, but rather a natural progression of population changes.
Today, those population changes are allowing people to settle far beyond the inner city. Instead of residing in overcrowded and expensive neighborhoods in rapidly gentrifying cities, many second and third generation families are moving to the suburbs. There they can afford more living space for their money, have better schools for their children, and become part of the larger community as a whole and not feel so isolated.
Luckily for food lovers everywhere, something many of these people are bringing with them are the traditional cooking styles they grew up with. They are able to open larger restaurants, casual fine dining establishments instead of crowded take out places, and they have access to better quality ingredients to prepare their dishes with. The result is Latin fusion and other restaurants that bring together typical menu items people are familiar with - steak, chicken and seafood - prepared with spices, sauces and cooking methods that have been part of a family's heritage for generations.
In the past, a person would either to be very lucky or rather wealthy if they were to taste more than one or two authentic ethnic cuisines in their lifetime. Today, regardless of where they live, from Appleton, Wisconsin to Zebulon, Georgia, they can visit restaurants from all around the world without ever leaving their hometown. With people looking to find their own American dream, they are bringing their past with them, and preparing a seat for us at their dinner table.
Jack Terry is a freelance writer who has been covering the food and beverage industry for over 20 years. http://www.osorioslatinfusion.com