There have been three recent moments that has had me thinking about food and the evolution of food. Not in the sense of how food has developed over the years but how cultural foods have had to adapt once taken away from their home country.
"That's not real Italian food" Marco said
"What do you mean? It tastes great to me and it looks like Italian food"
"When you go to a Chinese restaurant do you think it is authentic Chinese food?"
This conversation (with my ex-Italian flatmate) was like an explosion in my head. How could I have not known? So simple....so naive!
"I ate a whole zucchini, I did well, I don't normally eat vegetables"
That is a quote from my friend Darryn who had dinner at my house one time.
The next time I got thinking about this topic was at a recent dinner I had with some friends of mine. We were in a Chinese restaurant and it was packed...absolutely packed with.....Europeans. In my personal opinion, if the place's patrons are not at least half packed with Chinese people then that place is shit. But doesn't a packed house mean it has good food?
Sure, it has good food for Europeans, but why aren't their any (many) Chinese people eating there? The simple reason is because to survive (make money) in this industry the smart move is to cater to the majority rather than the minority. More Europeans equals more potential customers.
It just won't do serving delicate subtle food. It just won't do serving exotic foods (such as stinky tofu, chicken feet or beef stomach lining). So therefore the Chinese foods have to adapt.
Sweet and sour pork is perhaps one of the most famous and well eaten Chinese dishes in New Zealand but is very rarely ordered at all by Chinese people. Braised pork, Braised lamb, Deep Fried Salt and Pepper and Fried Rice are on every Chinese menu in New Zealand. All these dishes have one thing in common.
This thinking lead me back to the conversation I had with Marco. What are Italian dishes like in New Zealand? Pizza's from the chains aren't subtle, they have heaps of toppings, lots of cheese and sauces. Bold flavours. Pasta's are full of cream and heavy sauces. Bold flavours.
When was the last time you went out for ethnic food that didn't have bold flavours?