Fusion of foods from different cultures will always continue as cultures live side by side in the same neighbourhood. Their flavours will blend together creating new dishes as a form of evolution in a sense. This process will be ongoing forever. Look at the Peranakan food - a fusion of Malay and Chinese culinary worlds resulting in a unique breed of cuisine. The end result is exquisite. I highly recommend those who have no idea about Peranakan food to try it out whenever they have a chance to visit Malaysia or Singapore.
The latest rave though in the last 6-7 years has been molecular gastronomy with the popular demand for restaurants like The Fat Duck, El Bulli - where to get a table was a 6 months wait or so. Personally fine dining/molecular gastronomy is almost a culinary adventure that is 'fun' to take on once in a while but what I always come back to with fondness are good old fashion food, rustic with wholesome goodness possibly cooked by the matriachs of the family and the occasional patriarchs or some very good young upcoming chefs.
I think the main reason for the return of the old food is very much linked to comfort food we once knew when we grew up. Food that always invoke a sense of belonging and wellbeing - and being heartily fed! The food we share with our love ones and no pretensions! Times are now changing and soon the clinical, minimalistic stye modern cooking will not appeal as much as those from old rustic kitchens. I see a return to home cooking possibly in a slightly more modern setting but the main theme will still be good old fashion food. For instance, I see first of all a return of traditional French cuisine will make a big comeback metro cities like London and New York. We are seeing too many Italian/Asian fusion headlining the new restaurants these days or Nobu like Japanese food offerings.... we are overwhelmed now. Give me Kaiseki over THAT!
The only area I do see room for more modernising and up market dining experience is in the realm of vegetarianism! In addition, has anyone thought about 'healing foods' or ayurvedic dining?
Most restaurants run like Walmart will also start to lose its appeal - we have gone through too many conveyour belt like experiences either shopping or dining and I strongly feel there will be a return to shops where they know what they are selling/serving and particularly those who can create the lasting relationship with you as their customers, listens to you and also undestand there is a new breed of diners that care more about the fresh produce, rather the exoticness of it. Also those restaurants who respects the relationships they have with their supplies and vice versa.
As for the crisis, one lesson is, do we really need all these excesses in life - 5 litre Cokes or XXL size chips. I see the crisis as a much needed correction on how we have been consuming and all the wastages we see around us. Think about it, the planet cannot survive if we continue to exploit it and waste it. Do we really need those extras we seem to end up buying be it clothes, food or cars? Not to mention going into debts for this extravagant lifestyle? Food for thought. I for one have started to be more conscious too about many things around me not just the environment, but really thinking twice before I go out and buy anything.. do I really need it?
Anyways with the economic crisis though some fast food joints like McDonald's with the right price will continue to draw people due to cost and time. Although at the other end of the spectrum we will also witness a rise in dining and cooking at home.
Personally I confess, I may be biased - as you would have guessed - my preference has always been meals in a trattoria or rustic homey restaurant run by people who cares about what they serve and enjoy sharing their passion for food with you. Don't you just hate sometimes you get into a fancy restaurant where the waiter will assume to know more about your food than you do, nor are they sympathetic enough to adapt to your needs and too prententious to listen to your requests and engage passionately about the food being served and where they come from.
Not forgetting too, I truly admire and honour the many home cooks out there. They are outstanding cooks, do it for love and have many good old age secrets to share which we risk of losing if they do not pass on this knowledge they have to the younger generations. We can only hope such cooks will share their secrets and keep the tradition going. Another trend in the making - for such cookbooks!