Why Fusion Sucks

I have some complicated, maybe irrational feelings about fusion cooking.

My first response is not to trust it. The worst restaurants in Evanston are these doglike, pandering places that label themselves Pan-Asian or Pan-World, that will give their customers practically anything they want however they want it. One place, opened recently, serves chicken drenched in sauces from all over the globe, kind of: Thai peanut, Italian Alfredo, Japanese teriyaki. Customers can choose one, or choose all. The philosophy is have it your way. The result is that nobody leaves happy.

With these trendy new places the word fusion is code for “We’re willing to make it if you’re willing to buy it.” And more often than not, “Please think we’re cool.” Naturally this is bad for the form. And despite the worldly, progressive sheen of the word, I think it masks a certain kind of fear. It’s the fear of serving food that’s simple, food that rejects gimmick, fear of saying to the precious customer, “our food is good enough the way it is.” Continue reading

Steakhouse Broiled Tomatoes

broiled tomatoes with blue cheese

Now, it has come to my attention that a lot of people don’t like tomatoes.

The complaints vary. Raw tomatoes are slimy. Cooked tomatoes are mushy. I once heard someone say that tomatoes have an identity crisis—they’re not sweet enough to be eaten as a fruit, and not savory enough to be used as a vegetable. Fair enough, I suppose. If you’re eating nasty tomatoes. But I think life is too short to eat anything nasty, and nasty tomatoes especially. Because tomatoes are wonderful, and taste wonderful.

Plus, their health benefits don’t suck. Like other berries (yes, they are berries) tomatoes—especially cooked tomatoes—contain the most powerful natural antioxidants. Eating tomatoes can decrease the risk of skin cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer. Scientists are beginning to link tomatoes’ cancer-fighting powers to lycopene, the chemical pigment that makes tomatoes red. Tomatoes are also believed to prevent heart disease. They are also a good source of vitamins A and C. Among other things. Continue reading