The Fun and Fearlessness of New American Cuisine

By Melissa Lee

One day I took my 7-year-old daughter Amber and her classmate Lauren to the Tougas Family Farm for apple picking. We tried different kinds of apple: Fuji, Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Empire, and of course, Golden Delicious. Both girls frowned when they took a bite of Granny Smith. None of them was impressed by the tartness. Golden Delicious was their favorite pick of the day. They stuffed their bags full of Golden Delicious apples, smiling with satisfaction.

 

 

“If you were an apple, what kind of apple would you want to be?” I asked. Amber said, “Golden Delicious!” Lauren shook her head, “I want to be a Granny Smith on the top of the tree so nobody will harvest me!” I can’t stop thinking about their answers. Guess what kind of girl I was when I was little? Golden Delicious! Like Amber, I’ve wanted to please everyone since I was little.

 

 

Growing up in a traditional Taiwanese family, I lived my life to fulfill others’ expectations. I wanted to be a good daughter, a good sister, a good wife, a good mother. At some point, I was making everyone else happy but me. After I ended an unhappy marriage, I finally had my life in my hands. So, what was I going to do? I knew that I had a calling. Food and wine were always my passion. Long before I cooked in commercial kitchens, I enjoyed connecting friends with each other and creating amazing memories through cooking, drinking, and eating.

 

 

I am forever grateful for the support that I received from friends and clients in New England, my new home, where people don’t discriminate against divorced women. Because of those who have helped me on this journey, because you had faith in me, I realized I could be fearless. I could take an idea and make it a reality if I am determined to make it happen. So as I enter the new decade, I am looking into the future. I am growing. I am getting braver. And I am ready for the next adventure.

 

 

Over the years, I noticed the trend of “New American Cuisine” at all the hip restaurants in NYC, San Francisco, and Boston. Have you been to some of Cambridge’s hip restaurants, such as Pagu or Little Donkey? The menu at Pagu, a Chinese, Japanese and Spanish-hybrid restaurant, breaks all the rules. Ramen, Chinese Buns, Paella, Spanish Cheese, and a Charcuterie Board are listed right next to each other. It’s like a multicultural family. Does this kind of menu make sense? Absolutely! If this concept is so popular, we shouldn’t teach cooking workshops in the old school way, which is to stick to particular regions: Japanese Sushi and Sake Pairing, Summer Provencal Dinner, Sicilian Farmer’s Table. Yes, they are safe bets, but I want to open your minds! Can you put kimchi in your taco? Totally! Can you pair sake with cacio e pepe? 100%!

 

 

Do you know why I launched this platform to share New American culinary creations? Because I am a New American. I was born and grew up in Taiwan and moved to Boston twelve years ago. My cooking is inspired by my Asian roots and world travels, yet is informed by the unique ingredients and flavors from my adopted home of New England. I didn’t create fusion dishes to be “cool.” It just happened organically. Or maybe out of necessity, since it is not easy for me to find condiments, produce, and spices from my hometown at most mainstream supermarkets.

 

 

Whether you are an American or a New American, I would like to invite you to join us. We believe that cooking is about having fun, about trying new things, and about experiencing life. We are about replacing traditional with the unexpected. We are more interested in the joy of food than being perfect. We believe food is not artwork to admire from afar. It is a creative and imperfect expression of joy, and we encourage you to roll up your sleeves, have fun, and not be afraid to make mistakes.

 

 

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