In this week's Last Supper, I explore the French influenced Vietnamese cuisine of Jade Patisserie and Tea House, located in the quiet, charming oasis of Sellwood. During one of my visits, after tucking into a particularly delicious meatball banh mi-type sandwich, I asked the server at the counter where the excellent baguette had come from. Turns out it was made in-house, along with every other thing that touched my plate or made it into the pastry case. While I'd always understood that the banh mi was a fusion of French and Vietnamese traditions, it never really hit me what that meant until I was standing there in Jade, overcome by macrons, cakes, baguettes, curries, banh-mi, and various soups and goodies with a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) French twist.

Food writers have always been concerned with this idea of “fusion cuisine.” In the late part of the last Millennium, the mash-up of traditional foods in America was first a trend, and then a joke, before becoming simply maligned. But when you take the long view of the world's gastronomic history, it's quite clear, with the movement of explorers and armies, and the human tides of colonization and retreat, the fusion of foodways is seemingly inevitable.

It seems to me the advent of new culinary styles is often the only good to come out of the horrors of Empire building, colonization, and all of the terrible things they can often entail. But, of course, that's a typically Western perspective. To take another view, the fusion of traditional cuisines can also signify the loss of one to the dominance of the another. Still, I find pleasure in the Muslim world's food traditions as adopted by the Spanish, or African food traditions as adopted by the Southern United States, even though what made the resulting dishes possible was bloody conflict, and enslavement.

As the world continues to change, I wonder how traditional ethnic cuisine will continue to transform. Will the melding of spices, flavors, and techniques witnessed by previous centuries be a thing of the past, gone with the British Empire? Is it possible that the continued (and more peaceful) migration of cultures across the globe will bring even more surprising and delicious fusion in ethnic cuisines? Or will the thing that most affects the way the world cooks and eats be a crash in the food supply, predicted by many doomsday scientists.

I don't know, but I intend to keep marveling at the best of “fusion” cuisine, new or otherwise. Korean tacos anyone? (More on that next week. Stay Tuned.)