Fusion cuisine is not a novel idea

In 2020, there was a barrage of “Lives Matter” movements occurring across this great nation of the United States of America. It got me to thinking about this section of North America and why the sudden divide.

“Together we stand, divided we fall” is a meaningful quote that is mainly attributed to one of the country’s founding fathers, John Dickinson, a Pennsylvanian farmer who penned many a letter that would influence the thinking, and opinions, of the colonists.

He opposed British taxation of the colonies but also opposed the use of force against mother England.

You could say that Dickinson believed compromise and peace could be achieved via communication, not violent acts. The American Revolution proved that ideology not to be necessarily true.

By the way, John Dickinson did not come up with the phrase, “Together we stand, divided we fall,” but took it from Aesop (620–564 BCE).

Aesop was a Greek storyteller, and this line appeared in one of his fables, “The Four Oxen and the Lion.”

John Dickinson placed the line in his song, “The Liberty Song,” written in 1770, reflecting on the growing tensions between the colonies and mother country.

“Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all; by uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.”

So – and this is my personal take on it all of course – as a nation, shouldn’t we be standing together instead of planning on taking a fall?

We are a nation of various races, religions, cultures, ancestries, beliefs, ages, genders, and cuisines which, as a melting pot, should fuse together. Perhaps we all should read, or reread, the European folk story, “The Stone Soup.”

Now to food, and Fusion Cuisine. What exactly is it?

When a fancy restaurant advertises fusion cuisine, you are paying an exorbitant price for a “current fad.” Guess what? This type of cuisine has been around for centuries.

Fusion cuisine is not just the merging of food from different cultures but the cooking techniques as well. As different countries and cultures visited, immigrated to, or invaded elsewhere, food items and recipes were either brought along, or discovered.

It is not unusual to also discover that many went well together.

Cooking techniques were also shared, so where a culture had only baked bread over open coals, now they learned about the clay oven.

If you go into a restaurant that offers different cuisines, that is not necessarily fusion. The dishes may be Greek, Korean, and Mexican, but each dish is prepared and served in its traditional form.

An example of fusion would be to take the ingredients of a Greek Gyro (roasted lamb, tzatziki sauce, vegetables), but prepare them as a Mexican Enchilada, adding some of the ingredients usually found in a traditional enchilada and/or taking away some of the gyro ingredients.

While this might sound simple, care must be taken to ensure the tastes meld together successfully.

The recipe I am giving to you is my attempt at fusion cuisine, a mixture of Irish with Mexican.

The O’Brien potatoes are cubed potatoes that are fried with diced onions, pimientos (roasted red bell pepper), or diced red and green bell peppers – this is the Irish part.

The other part will be ingredients that would typically go into tacos – the Mexican part.

The technique will include some frying but will finish off baking in an oven.

Taco Beef and Potato Bake

Ingredients:

2 lbs. lean ground beef; 1 cup diced onion, divided in half; 1 envelope taco seasoning, medium; 1 (14 ½ oz.) can diced tomatoes with green chilies, medium; 1 (16 oz.) can light kidney beans, drained and rinsed; 1 (28 oz.) bag frozen O’Brien potatoes, thawed; 1 (10 ½ oz.) can cheddar cheese soup; ¾ cup 2% milk; ¼ cup diced red bell pepper; 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce; 1 Tbsp. paprika; 1 tsp. ground black pepper

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a skillet over high heat, brown the beef. Add ½ cup of onion halfway through cooking.

Drain; reduce heat to low and add taco seasoning and tomatoes. Mix well and let simmer for 5 minutes.

Spray a 3-quart baking dish with non-stick spray; spread meat mixture in dish. Spread the beans and potatoes on top of meat mixture.

In a large bowl, mix together the soup, milk, bell pepper, remaining ½ cup onion, and Worcestershire. Pour mixture over the potatoes, spreading evenly to edges of dish. Sprinkle the paprika and black pepper over the sauce.

Bake for 1 hour covered with foil then uncover and bake 15 minutes. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 8-10 servings.

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