Though no longer a Texas Monthly staffer or Austin resident, I remain a devoted foodie in my far-away home of Boston. I’ve made some initial explorations here, yet hunger pangs hit me for familiar favorites like Vespaio, Mandola’s–oh, that melanzane pizza!, Din Ho Chinese BBQ, and Fonda San Miguel.
While I can’t find perfect equivilants for the food, atmosphere, and familiar faces of these Austin haunts, I follow my same old restaurant-hunting habits. I always gravitate toward the small, less-trafficked ethnic nooks for the culture and culinary history that exists behind the meal as much as I do for the food adventure itself. On the flipside (whether Boston, Austin, or otherwise), folks seeking gastronomic novelty might dine at the latest fusion restaurants, where the edgiest chefs merge all sorts of ethnic cuisines and consequently cultures, some of which have never met during the course of history and should therefore, one would think, not meet on the plate. It seems unlikely these newbies will outlast the classics, but still, I feel twinges of regret as they make strides against the more traditional, storied cuisines.
Call me a food prude, but we all know tinkering with fusion can be dangerous. It’s one thing to create a cuisine or menu based on regional fusion and another when cultures merge by pure imagination. The identity and cohesion of the meal can get lost, along with a significant part of the dining experience.
Carry on creative chefs with your newfangled dishes, just remember that wielding your wooden spoon to simply inspire classics can carry you far. Food trends come and go, but folks will always be looking for a meal that tastes like something someone’s mamma would make, no matter where on the globe she might be from.