Most people think of fusion cuisine as a new, trendy idea but really it is a very old concept. The big thing now is Asian ingredients cooked with French techniques. Nobu, Wolfgang, and other high profile chefs have enjoyed success pairing their techniques with local ingredients and “developing” new cuisine. It is exciting to see this trend as opposed to can goods being trucked from factories across the country, if not world, to be used in large corporate chain restaurants. Although, fusion itself has been evolving since humans have been eating.
The climates of the world have been ever changing. With these climates come fruits and vegetables that evolve to grow and prosper in their respective environment. Obviously, tropical fruit doesn’t withstand cold. Temperate fruit doesn’t handle the heat as well as tropicals. People inhabit these areas and eat the local food and local cuisine develop. As people live, they travel and invariably bring their cooking techniques that they knew to their new home. They pass on knowledge of their culture. If enough of one culture comes into another, they will either hold their cooking techniques(which can even be tied to religion) close or be “fused” into the new culture.
Think of all the food that the new world cuisine that influenced Europe after the Americas were being colonized. Tomatoes are a New World food. Imagine Italian, French, or Spanish cuisine without tomatoes! Maize(corn) was also a benefit. This brought polenta and many other corn products to Europe. Chocolate(cacao) was not in Europe until the Spanish brought it over. However, the Europeans brought over many things, also. This exchange could be considered a massive fusion of cultures and this took place hundreds of years ago.
In the age of transportation and refrigeration, this has only been highlighted. Seasonal products can be shipped anywhere in the world in a matter of days. A hundred years ago, a person in the Caribbean would probably never have eaten Halibut or Maine Lobster unless he traveled far away from his birth place. Now, they can cook live Maine Lobster to order in the Caribbean or ship in a wild French mushroom that is only in season for weeks. This opens up new doors for new combinations of food that would never have been together. It is an exciting time in the history of mankind for cuisine. Obviously, not only the rich can experience quality food from all over the globe as in past history where only Kings and dignitaries were allowed such an honor.