When a word has connotations that people typically associate with nuclear power, it does not seem like a likely candidate to be part of their dinner plans. Fusion cooking may sound like something that originated in the laboratory of an evil scientist, but it is as far from nuclear science as possible.
By definition, fusion is the joining together of two separate elements. In cooking terms, it is best described as a bridge between two disparate styles, retaining elements of an ethnically authentic cooking style while combining them with food items that are considered more common. One of the styles that has become very popular in the last several years is Latin fusion cooking.
Latin fusion actually has roots that go back further than that, but it is only recently that it has come in to its own. When most people think of Mexican food - and it is unfortunate but true that the term "Mexican food" has come to represent in this country an umbrella covering many styles of cooking from countries throughout Latin America - what they are really thinking of is what is known as "Tex-Mex."
All things Mexican did not start to catch the eye of people in the United States until the 1960's. It was the advent of convenient jet travel, primarily to resort towns like Acapulco, which helped make the world smaller and bring people together. Tourists would return from their vacation raving about the sun, the sand, the margaritas - and the food. Not wanting to let the opportunity to make a buck slip by, many businesses in the food and beverage industry moved to cash in on this as quickly as possible.
The challenge to making this happen was to present consumers with food that was approachable. Anything that was too exotic would be shunned, but something that seemed innocuous and safe while still being different was a surefire hit. Unfortunately, this led to a cookie cutter sameness, created by artificially flavorings and preservatives in the processed food that soon found its way to grocery store shelves and restaurant tables.
Latin fusion cooking takes the authentic components of the food and helps to return it to its roots by being in the hands of the people who grew up eating and preparing it. Many of the best Appleton, Wisconsin restaurants that feature an ethnic cuisine are the best because of the authenticity of the people who own them. Whereas Tex-Mex is best described as a blanket to cover a wide variety of flavors, ingredients and even styles of cooking, Latin fusion is far more specific, focused on the traditional foods the chef grew up with and his or her masterful way of blending them with staples of the North American restaurant scene to create something that is truly a work of art.
Jack Terry is a freelance writer who has been covering the food and beverage industry for more than 20 years. http://www.osorioslatinfusion.com