The Americanization of French Cuisine?

french fusionOh Mon Dieu! C’est n’importe quoi!

The French would certainly not put it this way. But there is  a sense in which French chefs are now adopting the trend toward fusion cuisine that has been a defining characteristic of American cuisine for decades. As Adam Gollner writes in the NY Times,

These days, however, integration is everywhere — at least on the plate. Many of the most exciting French chefs are incorporating foreign ingredients into their repertoire with a newfound creativity and confidence. Now, you can find couscous on Michelin-starred menus and tagines at traditional brasseries, all of which would have been unthinkable not so long ago.

Of course the French are not simply copying the American approach to cooking; their cooking is beginning to reflect the multiculturalism that French society now exhibits.

PARIS IS AMONG the most multicultural cities in the world: More than one in three residents of the greater metropolitan area are either immigrants or the children of immigrants.

I suppose I’m ambivalent about this as I’m sure many French people are. The elegance and refined complexity of French cooking will not survive a mashup of disparate elements that make no sense together. But perhaps French cooking has been overly conservative in recent years as the center of the food universe has shifted from Paris to a multipolar equilibrium. An infusion of new ingredients and new dishes can energize a food culture too set in its ways.

It would be a great loss if French traditions were to disappear under a barrage of over-the-top novelty, but change is inevitable and who better than the French to create savoir-faire from disparity.

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