Global cuisine was born with the spice trade, which had its earliest beginnings around the 10th millennium BC. Cinnamon, cassia, cardamom, ginger, pepper, and turmeric, among others, were popular trade goods in the Far East long before Christianity. When they first arrived in the Near East, clever traders kept their sources to themselves and made up legends about where they’d gotten the stuff and how. It was the spice trade that inspired the tale of Sinbad the Sailor.
These spices found their way into the Near East by around 1500 BC. The true sources were often withheld by the traders, who made up outrageous stories to boost sales and throw competitors off the track. But there was no stopping what had begun, and the spice trade would become a driver of the world economy well into the middle of the last millennium, deserving at least partial credit for what would come to be known as the Age of Discovery. (Very Eurocentric perspective there, of course; people living in all those other places already knew of their own existence and circumstances.)
Before relatively recent advances in food preservation and transportation, it was harder for foods other than spices to make intercontinental journeys. But food concepts were another story. The sandwich may be famously named after an Earl who ordered meat on bread at the pub, after which his friends immediately latched onto the concept, but the basic concept of using some type of bread to wrap your food undoubtedly arose in a great many places centuries earlier, being such an obviously good idea.
(In 2006, a Boston court took the trouble to legally define “sandwich” as a dish made with two slices of bread, making it a category that excluded burritos, wraps, tacos, and suchlike single-tortilla creations. We all know that whoever first wrapped their food in a tortilla was working with a similar concept.)
Here in the US, we’ve been lucky to have wave after wave of immigrants come to stay and bring their cuisines along in the memory banks of millions of grandparents, mothers and fathers. Many of the most talented among them found that it offered not just survival but a path to prosperity in the “new” world, at least when adapted to the local palates. By 1850, there were five Chinese-American restaurants in San Francisco. Sub sandwiches grew from Italian-American roots in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as did pizza. French cuisine made a brief appearance during the Revolutionary era and then faded, to return with Escoffier during the era of the great hotels in the late 19th century.
As world travel and immigration have exponentially exploded since that era, so too has global cuisine, defined as foods and cooking styles that have made their way around the world and are eaten everywhere. And the Hudson Valley—with its rich mix of immigrant cultures constantly refreshed by newcomers, its cornucopia of locally grown ingredients, and the Culinary Institute of America (which just added an African-American Chefs and Southern Foodways course to its global cuisine portfolio) has one of the richer arrays of global cuisine you’re likely to find outside of a major city.
At Tilda’s Kitchen in midtown Kingston, we consulted with locals about what kind of food they’d love to have available, and we’ve chosen to work with a panel of chef experts who bring to the table Asian, Caribbean, Latin and New American flavors and traditions, creating what we like to call community-inspired global cuisine: Our Asian expert, Youko Yamamoto from Tanma Ramen Tavern, was born in Japan and trained in the fine art of noodle making and other traditional Japanese foods. After ten years of running Gomen Kudasai in New Paltz, she’s opening a Kingston shop and is willing to help a neighbor out. Our Caribbean chef experts, Martin and Tamika Dunkley of Seasoned Delicious and Seasoned Gives in Saugerties, NY, provide a range of delectable, health-based Caribbean food products at their Kingston grocery. Ana Hernandez from Mi Pueblito in Kingston shares the flavors of her native Mexico with the Midtown community, and Tarah Gay of Outdated Cafe in Uptown allows her vegetarian diet to inspire her to embrace local ingredients to put a twist on classic American dishes like the Reuben.
The lineup and menu will grow and change, but the concept—informed by our panel’s knowledge base in food as medicine, in pay-it-forward, in entrepreneurialism, and in foraging and farm-to-table, among other things—will remain our guiding light: amazing ideas from everywhere, beloved by people right here.