Defining National Cuisine

09/12/2009 - 00:00
We all know where national cuisine comes from but do any of us know where it ends up? David Anderson, the co-founder at CADA design group, gives us an insight into what the future holds for cuisine and some of its trend predictions.

One could always argue that National Cuisine has always been regional in its country of origin, but once exported it too quickly becomes regionally defined, either aggregated but separated on a menu or as a regional speciality restaurant. The catch all for food from the subcontinent is as we know Indian food, or more colloquially – curry. But we have restaurants that specialise in Punjabi, Mughlai, Kasmiri and Sindhi cuisine. Are they authentic? Do they reflect their points of origin? The answer is generally yes, but they evolve and adapt to suit their trading markets. They also influence the surrounding food offers. For example, just look at the Vietnamese Pho – currently the preserve of specialists and independents becoming a staple and cornerstone of any Asian influenced food offer. The issue of origin and evolution is easy to exemplify. Balti is a British invention and Chop Suey was invented by the Americans. Street food from all over the world is being adopted and adapted for the British market and palette. If we look forward over the next 40 years to 2049, the question has to be asked, whether it will be possible to authenticate food at a point of origin or will cuisine have become a truly homogenised global phenomenon? Today, the Welsh have Cawl, the Scots Haggis, the Irish their stew and England has Chicken Tikka Masala – a dish ironically in Glasgow when a customer famously complained that the Chicken Tikka was too dry and asked for some gravy. The idea of the homogeneous food in the future is not as radical as it sounds. Culinary globalisation, new world cuisine, new American cuisine, fusion cuisine – these terms all had their roots in the 1970's. We know that migrant populations take their food with them. Ask an American who invented the hamburger he or she would claim Fletcher Davies in the 1880's in Athens Texas. Ask a food historian and they would tell you Genghis Khan. The reasoning is good. In the 1200's his Mongol armies ate patties of raw lamb tenderised under the horsemen's saddles. Fast forward – the Mongols (or Tartars) invaded Russia, and steak tartare is now on the menu. Fast forward to 1600; Russia began trading with Germany – Hamburg in particular. At some point somebody decided that it would be a "Gute idée", to put some heat into a Steak Tartare, the rest as they say is history. So just using the example of the humble hamburger demonstrates how the most internationally ubiquitous food on the planet has been Mongol, Russian, German, American and now belongs to everybody. However, if you ask who invented fusion cuisine you will be met by plethora of further questions, "Do you mean, Asian fusion, Australian fusion or American fusion?". And everyone will have a different opinion on who started what and when. This is a clear, contemporary example of the blurring of International boundaries. Fusion is truly a hot air balloon! For the future I foresee true homogeny and distinction. There are already first class restaurants in Paris with foie gras and Mandarin duck on the menu. There are and will be restaurants informed by the diversity and eclectic nature of its menu. As a counter there will be restaurants that celebrate, perpetuate and in a way curate national cuisine. The world has shrunk. International air travel, the internet and social networking are driving internationality and homogeny but also accentuating national tendency. The big question for design specialists in the food, restaurant and hospitality industry is what effect can we expect this to have on the built environments that we eat and drink in? What we are seeing today are interiors that are defined by celebrity, "concept" and brand rather than point of origin for the menu in direct contrast to the fiercely nationally focused restaurants. A trend in nationally themed restaurants is one of greater authenticity. The days of flock wallpaper and pictures of Mount Fuji are largely over thankfully (except in an ironic way

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