Medibbean….. Fusion Cuisine

To understand the beauty of Medibbean fusion recipes, we must first understand its core definition. Medibbean is all about combining distinctly different food elements from across the world into something new, healthy and tastes extraordinary. Cuisine is a specific set of cooking traditions and practices within a given culture or region. Medibbean alters this to include the best of the best.

From the introduction, we learn that “fusion” may be a term which has more recently been coined to refer to food, but in its broadest definition, we have seen this as an on-going characteristic for chefs throughout the centuries. For instance, when I think of Italian cuisine, pasta covered with a red sauce immediately comes to mind. Many of us know that Marco Polo brought pasta back to Italy from China; further, prior to 1492, there were little to no tomatoes in cooking throughout Italy. This means that at some point, possibly hundreds of years ago, pasta with red sauce was an example of fusion cooking.

 

Cookbook cover: Interview with a mango
Interview with a mango

Another incarnation of Medibbean cuisine is a more eclectic approach, featuring original Caribbean recipes using varieties of ingredients from various cuisines and Mediterranean regions and then combining cookery techniques and methodologies. A Medibbean cuisine restaurant might feature a wide variety of Caribbean food inspired by a combination of various Mediterranean regional cooking techniques with these new food pairing and preparation ideas.

A third approach uses foods with a history based on Caribbean food, but prepared using methods and flavors inherent to Mediterranean cooking or cuisines.
For instance, pizza made with cheddar and pepper jack cheese, salsa, refried beans and other common taco ingredients is often marketed as “Taco Pizza” or a similar concept, and is a fusion of Italian (pizza) and Mexican cuisines. Another example of this is Korean tacos. Similar approaches have been used for fusion-sushi, such as rolling maki with different types of rice and ingredients, e.g. cheetos, curry and basmati rice, cheese and salsa sauce with Spanish rice, or spiced ground lamb and capers rolled with Greek-style rice and grape leaves (resembling inside-out dolmades).
Since Medibbean fusion cuisine is a general term, it is legitimately applied to very few restaurants as of yet. While many diners feature dishes from Greek, Italian, and sometimes Asian cuisines side-by-side, these restaurants are generally not considered fusion as they fail to combine any elements of the cooking styles and also have no over-arching fusion or eclectic theme.

In fact, Chef Michael Bennett’s Medibbean cuisine has gone further, incorporating ingredients and methods from the Middle East, the Caribbean and Central and Southern Mediterranean countries into menus that, when successfully paired, begin to lose their national identity and become something like the diet for a culinary One World.

But there’s a problem with this notion: it assumes the existence of a cuisine that hasn’t been fused already. Take that weary emblem of Italian food, pasta with tomato sauce. Noodles, the story goes, were carried to Italy by Marco Polo on the backs of camels and tomatoes or “love apples,” were shipped from the Americas. There are myriad other examples, all demonstrating that cuisines themselves are in as much flux as languages and the nations that claim them both.

Can Medibbean cuisine be in flux and be fused? A region would have to be impregnable–as China once was or seemed to be–for its food to be continuously constant to register the change that flux in Medibbean fusion represents.

No, what we mean when we talk about “fusion” is a particular historical circumstance having to do with late-20th-century chefs and their urge to create. Of course, most high-rent chefs offer the recipes on their menus as their own, but these dishes are usually variations (often wonderful variations) on standard themes–Mediterranean, Greek, north African and bistro-style French. It’s not complicated: you sit down, open the menu and more or less know where you are–whether your protein will take the form of a slab or pieces; whether butter, olive oil or animal fat will smooth your tastebuds way; whether the palate temperature will be Arctic cool or tropical hot; whether you’ll be paying for food originally intended for the poor, the rich or the in-between.

Look at L.A.’s Spago’s early fusion dishes: pizza with artichokes, shiitakes, leeks, eggplants and sage; roasted duck with pears and ginger; marinated tuna with avocado, kaiware (daikon sprouts) and sweet onions; sweetbreads sautéed crisp with mustard greens and smoked pancetta. One can hardly predict where the separating semicolons should go
Fusion works not only by artfully combining flavors but also by reminding the eater of the gap that’s being breached. When the look and taste of such ingredients as nori become so familiar that they cease to challenge the Western palate–cease to seem “foreign”–then chefs may feel the urge to look elsewhere in order to invent. Chef Michael Bennett’s Medibbean fusion cuisine has succeeded so well in Miami distinctions of where the food was originally harvested will disappear.

Fusion cuisine has existed for centuries before people like Wolfgang Puck coined the term in the 80s and 90s. Whenever you have two or more cultures meeting and combining – either due to trade, conquest, immigration, etc. – the result has always been new culturally variegated recipes.

Technically, any dish that is composed of ingredients that aren’t from the same geographical area, could be considered fusion. I was a chef for many years and was schooled in Classical French and Italian cuisine before I worked with healthier French nouvelle cuisine techniques in the early 1980’s. Medibbean follows Northern Italian/Southern France cooking techniques, held to a higher standard by the 1980’s California cuisine craze that tend to marry it to two or three different cuisines on one plate like; a Japanese style cooking method with Thai spices and a Classical French plate presentation. Medibbean is mixing up these cooking techniques and seasonings; splicing them onto traditional Caribbean recipes by adding in our exotic fruit or spices to alter the color, texture and flavors.

Critics of the practice sometimes call it “confusion cuisine,”
arguing that chefs rely on novelty to carry the food,
rather than flavor, texture and presentation.

The roots of Medibbean fusion cuisine are ancient, since Pirates, Indentured servants and worldly travelers have been exchanging culinary heritage for centuries in the Caribbean Islands, but the concept became popularized in America in the 1970’s with the USA Culinary Team winning the Culinary Olympics in Germany.

Some of the most well-known fusion cuisine combines European and Asian-inspired Caribbean food. These distinctively different cultures have wildly divergent culinary traditions and combining the centuries of these cooking traditions can sometimes result in astonishing recipes because of their adventurous home cooks.

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