Fuse My Food

There are many things I love about California. I’m reminded of them when I visit Milwaukee for more than 3 days.  I just got used to the hustle-n-bustle, you know?  There are moments when I revisit the Midwest that charm me, though, and never fail to remind me “where I came from.”  That phrase is so cliche, but wait for it.  I go out to eat with my mom at Chili’s or Sizzler and interestingly observe fellow patrons whose bodies resemble marriage and pregnancy prior to age 22 as is typical of the Midwest. Okay, not excepting the beer, cheese and bratwurst.  (I say this matter-of-factly, by the way, and with no disdain whatsoever.)

You kidding me?  I love cheese.  I eat dairy in the form of ice cream out of the box practically every day.  I keep a box of ice cream at the sig other’s, in anticipation of the next dairy-sweets craving.  I realized the other day that when I merely spot cheese, I have to eat it.  Taco night?  I’ll stuff half-a-handful of shredded cheddar-Mex mix in my mouth every time I walk by the stash.  See it laying on the shelf in the fridge?  I have to break myself off a slice.  And you know that whole Pinkberry craze?  All I taste is sugar in that “fro-yo.”  Where’s the milk and butter??

Though, when I return to Cali, which is now home, I eagerly look forward to the awesome variety of foods that’s available back here. I can’t take it for granted. I have just never had access to it my whole life. Granted, I have never had access to such bad traffic in my entire life, either, but you take the good and deal with the bad, right?  To paint a picture, when I visited my home church recently with my parents, I was in conversation with a fellow I had known since before I had left for college. He mentioned being in Southern California for a conference and like he almost ate sushi but you know, he doesn’t really eat “that weird stuff.”

I had smiled politely.  I wasn’t in the mood to get into it.  They call Cali eaters “health nuts,” you see.  Contrast that with the once-upon-a-time Roycifer’s mom said, “[e-star] likes really good food” as she was describing me to relatives.  It was strange, because then I had this pleased feeling inside of me and I rubbed my belly.  “Mmm.  Good food.” 

Cali foods are many and come in all forms.  That’s what is so great about the multitude of cultures–you just have to drive, not take a subway, to wherever it is to get it.  Korean food (K-town) less than 3 miles to the east.  Beach food (Santa Monica) 8 miles to the west.  Chain food (Culver City) 2 miles to the south.  Middle Eastern (Glendale/The Valley) 4 miles to the north.  Cuban the next block (Versailles) and Brasilian (Culver City) 2 miles southeast.  Japanese (Sawtelle-Olympic) 5 miles to the west.  Ethiopian (Little Ethiopia) 1 mile to the east.  And if you must, celebrity eating (Robertson Blvd.) 1/2-mile to the northwest.  Chinese food is saved for trips to the sig. other’s, as Pasadena is closer to Monterey Park and San Gabriel. 

And then there’s a type of food that is all over town, just because this is California.  It’s called, “Fusion.”  This confuses me a little, because I recognize the usage of this concept, of joining things together, in all different areas of life.  There’s nuclear fusion.  Cold fusion.  Music fusion.  The Ford car.  The Gilette Razor.  And now simply, Fusion cuisine.  But when there’s no two ethnic foods prior to “fusion,” it begs the question, “Fusion of what!?!” 

Honestly?  Fusion food is always something fused with something Asian.  [Two hitchhiking thumbs toward self.]  “Trust me, I’m the expert in all things Asian.”  Not really.  Nor the authority.  When it comes to Asian Fusion, however, it seems like Wolfgang Puck was the initial judge of which parts of Asian food it was trendy to “fuse” with other things.

You know you can expect the typical things on an Asian Fusion menu like, Ahi Tuna Poke.  Thai Lettuce Wraps.  Peking Duck Pizza.  My Islands favorite would be the Hawaiian burger (with teriyaki sauce, pineapple and swiss).  But you don’t really see things fused with certain features of authentic Asian cuisine. 

Imagine tripe and tendon lettuce wraps.  Chicken feet casserole.  Bitter melon fruit tart.  Stinky tofu salad.  Yum.

Remember, Fusion is like taking all the cool out of Asian food and leaving all the yucky weird and making it the trendy Californian’s own.  Traumatic times from childhood haunting you?  Known as the girl who “eats-rice-for-dinner-with-chopsticks every night?”  (I was.)  Nightmares of the neighborhood kids who used to tease you for “eating Dog” coming back?  Rewrite that.  Never fear, because Fusion is here.

I don’t really have anything against Fusion.  It’s yummy, and it’s interesting to get a famous chef’s “spin” on something, but I tend to think “real” Fusion is overpriced.  And I can’t help but think as I’m walking out of there that I could’ve gone somewhere else for “the real thing” and paid half as much.  It’s nice, though, because as time has gone on and variations of Asian cuisines have developed (all hail Iron Chef), it’s everywhere and in all different price ranges.

I’m happy that there’s even the prevalent influence.  I remind myself of a time and a place when Asian wasn’t anywhere, and it was considered purely foreign food.  You know–as if the foods of the Anglo ethnicities were the only domestics and had never done any emigrating.  It’s a start.

Trendy or not, good food is just … good food.  Whatever your taste may be.

Love,
*e

Favorites:

California Pizza Kitchen ($) - Italian-Asian Fusion
many locations

Katana ($$$$) – Euro-Japanese Fusion
Past Blog Post
8439 Sunset Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069
323-650-8585

Koi ($$$$) – Euro-Japanese Fusion
Past Blog Post
730 N. La Cienega Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90069
310-659-9449

Chinois on Main ($$$$$) – Euro-Asian Fusion
2709 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90405
310-392-9025

Roy’s ($$$$$) – Hawaiian Fusion
800 S. Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90017
213-488-4994