The Melting Pot Of California Cuisine

The hip culinary style called California cuisine is getting more and more popular lately. Although the term is familiar to lots of folks, fewer are capable of explaining what it is. The state of California is a cultural melting pot, and so is its cuisine. “California cuisine” refers to the use of local and organic foods that are prepared with inventive applications of herbs and spices and the use of techniques from around the globe.

The food found in California shows its rich history of cultural integration. Since the state contains such a variety of cultures, California cuisine has always been a “fusion” food from all over the world. For example, since California was a part of Mexico until 1848, its food still reflects some of its Mexican and Spanish culture. The Gold Rush and the creation of the Transcontinental Railroad brought thousands of immigrant Chinese, who shared the flavors and cooking methods that to this day influence the food along the west coast. In the 1960’s, the influx of “hippies” to the San Francisco area popularized the philosophy of “peace and love” as well as local food movements like vegetarianism. A final and essential component of California cuisine is the application of French cooking methods. Many of the chefs who cultivate and promote California cuisine have taken their culinary training in France. All of these elements influence the recipes and cooking styles to create food that is a unique collection of flavors and ingredients.

Fresh ingredients are the common threads that unite the diverse cooking styles that define California cuisine. Because the rich California land is ideal for growing a variety of items, seasonal produce is always available. With an inexhaustible source of local foods, there are limitless menu ideas. Organic produce and hormone- and antibiotic-free animals are the hallmarks of the cuisine. Lastly, vegetarianism is seen a lot in California cuisine to appease its health minded population. Ideally, California cuisine celebrates the freshest, most wholesome, sustainable menu.

Avocado, citrus, herbal items, seafood, and tofu make up the basics of California cuisine. In terms of protein choices, meat and chicken are commonly used – lamb and pork less often. Innovative methods, like flash cooking on the grill or stove top to preserve color and freshness, have also evolved. A vital part of the cuisine is presentation and appearance. One iconic example of California cuisine is a sushi bar staple – the California roll. Crab, cucumber and avocado combine in a nori and rice wrap for this classic roll. Restaurant goers often sample California rolls as a prelude to testing more exotic items.

A longtime pioneer of California cuisine is Alice Waters. Her Chez Panisse has, since the 1970’s, been regarded as the standard for the movement. Wolfgang Puck is another famous chef who made California cuisine more popular. These chefs and the restaurants they created are outstanding examples of the spectacular and varied food one can create with local and seasonal ingredients. As people seek fresher and more localized food items, California cuisine is assured of keeping its place.