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Food trends 2011. January 10, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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5 comments

Silence Dogood here. Our local paper, the Allentown, PA Morning Call, quoted four “experts” last Wednesday predicting what lies ahead for food and cooking in America in 2011. It all sounded rather, forgive me, predictable if you asked me.

On the one hand, we find a continued emphasis on local, artisanal, seasonal, organic, heirloom produce and foods (good), and on the other, the rise of celebrity butchers and a growing obsession with offal (i.e., entrails, guts, brains, eyes, feet, reproductive parts, and other animal parts more generally reserved for pet food). Not that the two trends are mutually exclusive. All this was coupled with what now seems like the obligatory nods to vegetarianism (Meatless Monday) and luxury (the return of cocktail hour, white truffles, and etc.). And, of course, smaller portions! As if we hadn’t had more than enough of that overpriced preciousness and pretension with Nouvelle Cuisine.

I, Silence Dogood, take exception to all this. I applaud the emphasis on local, organic, artisanal, seasonal, and heirloom foods. I have no objection to people following the time-honored peasant tradition in every country of eating “everything but the squeak,” and thus saving both money and resources, as long as no one asks me to join them. And far be it from me to decry the venerable cocktail hour. As Jimmy Buffett would say, “It’s five o’clock somewhere.”

What I take exception to is all this turning up on trend lists. Surely nobody but Rip Van Winkle could have failed to see the trend towards local, artisanal, organic, etc.etc. of the past decade-plus. Ditto every celebrity chef from Anthony Bourdain to his parody, Ruth Bourdain, screaming about the unending delights of offal, pig fat, pig cheeks, and meat, meat, meat in general. Surely the cocktail had been enjoying a revival since the rediscovery of the martini in what, the 1980s? As for vegetarianism, veganism, raw foodism, cleanses… oh, please. Small plates? Please. Micro-servings predated the trend for microgreens (also old news) by several decades. Luxury goods? There’s never been belt-tightening where high-end trend foods were concerned.

So where does that leave us in terms of real trends? Here are Silence Dogood’s Top Ten Food Predictions for 2011:

1. A bad year for celebrity chefs. Paula Deen adopts Rachael Ray during a heartwarming TV special; Martha Stewart and Guy Fieri are godparents. Then Paula shocks the culinary world by running off with Emeril before Christmas. (Rumor has it they’ve bought an island in the Florida Keys and are starting their own Creole/Cajun casino.) Oprah invites them to star in a cooking show on her Oprah Winfrey Network, tentatively called “BAM! Ma’am.” Highlights of each show will be Dr. Oz having to eat an entire deep-fried meal created by Paula Deen, and Dr. Phil giving a blow-by-blow analysis of Paula’s and Emeril’s relationship and how they can make it better. Unfortunately, the monster hit show is forced to end prematurely after Emeril “kicks it up a notch” and flambes Dr. Phil after the third episode. Fortunately, devastated viewers can console themselves by tuning in to the new Rachael Ray/Dr. Oz show after the couple announces their elopement.

A scandal breaks out after the Iron Chefs are exposed for using all-aluminum cookware. RuPaul reveals that he is the real Ruth Bourdain, and also the real Ruth Reichl. LaToya Jackson announces that, as a renowned psychic, she has channelled Julia Child and Julia has told her that the future is goose liver pate. “Pate, dear girl, that’s foy-grah en francais! And do try not to drop it, but if you do, a few glasses of burgundy and your guests will assume those stuck-on dust bunnies are some nouveau variation on cracked pepper!”

2. Butter is exonerated. First, we learned that olive oil was good and the polyunsaturated oils like safflower oil, which we’d all been told to eat instead or else, were carcinogenic. Thanks, you stupid nutritionists. We’re glad you were eating them, too. Only a brain-dead plankton would ever have thought anything like margarine, aspartame, or Miracle Whip could be good for you, so revelations in those quarters could hardly have come as surprises.

But I’ve been most happy to see other formerly vilified foods besides olive oil raised to food superhero status in recent years: chocolate, caffeine, red wine, even salt. There’s even a movement to make lard respectable as a health food. I’ll let the offal enthusiasts tackle that one. I myself am waiting for the day that butter is finally recognized as a health food. It’s coming, I promise you.

3. People are finally encouraged to eat responsibly. Nowhere in the world is food consumption as perverted as it is in America. Rather than being told to eat until they feel reasonably full, and then stop, people are told to:

A. Chew every unappetizing mouthful 1,000 times like cows. Ever watched somebody chew food, much less chew it and chew it? Ugh.

B. Stop eating before they feel full. Hey, Sherlock: There’s a difference between feeling satisfied—”That was nice, but I’ve had enough”—and feeling like you’re about to blow up. It should be assumed that reasonable people can tell the difference between the former and the latter.

C. Eat low- or no-cal foods in unlimited quantities so as not to suffer from hunger. I’m not clear why common belief holds that people are always terrified of expiring from starvation if they’re not constantly stuffing themselves with food. 

D. Eat every five minutes, but only approved bizarre foods and in approved ridiculous amounts, to offset starvation. See C, above.

E. Eat chemically-laden foods that are low-fat, low-sugar, low-carb, and/or low-cal because it’s “okay” to eat as much of these pseudo-foods (as opposed to real, wholesome, nutrient-rich foods) as you want. Who cares what they’re doing to you? They’re low-cal!

F. Eat an all-protein, high-fat diet and skip those dreadful carbs, aka fruits, veggies, legumes, and grains. You’ll lose weight and keep it off! Never mind if your complexion is lumpy, your skin is grey, and your hair is lifeless and falling out. Hey, you’re thin! And that’s all that counts, isn’t it?

G. Try the latest fad diet. You can eat as much rice, grapefruit, blah-blah as you want, as long as you don’t eat anything else! Wow, talk about an inducement. Sign me up! Ditto those liquid diets, diet bars, or prefab diets with chemical desserts. (Gotta eat dessert, now don’t we?)

H. Take the final road. Forget food. Go for bariatric surgery, tapeworm tablets, or anorexia instead. Or make like Roman banqueters of old and make yourself throw up after every meal.

Are these perversions of eating really what we’ve come to as a nation? I keep seeing condemnations of American eating habits based on the presumption that, as a nation, we collectively grab a Big Mac and fries on the way home, then sit down in front of the TV every night and glug a keg of beer, eat a couple of pepperoni pizzas, wolf down a couple of bowls of buttered popcorn, enjoy a giant platter of loaded nachos, and then order out for a couple dozen wings while consuming several bags of chips. Hey, wait, can’t forget dessert! Where’s that gallon of ice cream and bazillion toppings and the plate of brownies? 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen anyone eat like this, or close. I have to admit, I’ve never even seen anyone order out, much less load up on high-fat junk. I’ve never seen anyone overload a plate. I’ve never seen anyone choose trash when good food was available. I’ve never seen anyone eat dessert after really good, healthy food was offered.

I think it’s time to say “Shut up!” to all the so-called experts and diet gurus and eat with our brains, our taste buds, and our appetites.

4. Cooking is demystified. I can’t tell you how many people I know who are terrified of herbs, spices, condiments, and cooking in general. Why?! Cooking is all about flavor, texture, and temperature. That’s all there is to it. Master those three things, and you’ll be a celebrated cook. In 2011, I’m predicting that chefs and cookbook authors will finally stop trying to complicate things for mystique’s sake and tell it like it is.

5. People finally discover that whole foods taste good. In today’s superprocessed society, this is not just counterintuitive, it’s shocking. But that doesn’t mean it’s not true. No chip ever created tastes better than a carrot stick, scallion, or red pepper strip dipped in hummus, sour-cream-onion or -dill dip, or any cream cheese dip. No form of corn on earth—popcorn, corn chips, tortilla chips, corn muffins—can even begin to compare with a hot buttered ear of corn on the cob. Pretty much nothing can stand against a complex, crunchy salad, and nothing at all can stand up to a baked potato, roasted sweet potatoes, or mashed potatoes.

I could go on and on, but you get it: Fresh, whole foods are best. Once people give themselves permission to enjoy them with salt, pepper, butter, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pepitas, onion, scallions, herbs, spices, and the like, this will become obvious: Food prepared simply, and simply delicious.

6. People lose their fear of eggs. OMG, salmonella! Cholesterol! Bunk. Pass up factory-farmed eggs. Put your faith in organic, free-range eggs, and bear in mind that those alarmist nutritionists who squawk on and on about eggs have never, ever actually made a connection between the cholesterol in eggs and the cholesterol in people. Genetics suck. Eggs don’t.

7. Branching out becomes de rigueur. All fresh, all the time is great if you can swing it. But what if you live where the winters are harsh, like me and our friend Ben? I’m predicting that people will finally embrace the whole picture of dried, canned, frozen, preserved, and fresh foods. You can still buy local and put up your own. But for mercy’s sake, embrace the wisdom of your ancestors and make sure you have plenty of usable, delicious food staples stored away for bad weather or other emergencies.

8. Tony rocks the culinary world. Anthony Bourdain announces that he’s going to stop being a globetrotting TV star and get back to his roots as a hands-on chef. Then he turns the culinary world upside down by opening a vegetarian restaurant, Roots & Shoots, in SoHo.

Asked what caused him to abandon the world of meat for vegetarian cuisine, he replied: “I’m [bleeping] sick and tired of having to eat [bleepitty-bleep-bleep] [bleep] and smile and pretend I’m enjoying it! If I see one more [bleeping] piece of artisanal salumi, I’m going to [bleeping] throw up! And don’t talk to me about [bleep-bleeping] pig cheeks, pig fat, pig brains, pig eyeballs… Feed that [bleeping] offal to [bleeping] Rachael Ray. I want to eat something that actually tastes good for a [bleeping] change!  [Bleep] [bleep-bleep-bleepitty] [bleeping] celebrity! Just give me some [bleeping] food for a change!” 

Asked if he’d made any New Year’s resolutions, Mr. Bourdain responded, “Now that I’m a father, I’ve been making a [bleeping] HUGE effort to watch my [bleeping] language!”

9. Heirloom hysteria becomes balanced. Heirloom fruits and veggies have become huge in the past decade as consumers (that would be us) became more aware that many commercially popular foods were created to serve marketing (i.e. packing and industry) needs at the expense of flavor. Unfortunately, the backlash against industry greed and evil has been to vilify every hybrid as a tool of big business.

But it’s been our experience that certain hybrids, like ‘Sungold’ cherry tomatoes and ‘Juliet’ paste tomatoes, are better than anything else on the market. (Sorry, ‘Yellow Pear’ tomatoes and ‘San Marzano’ paste tomatoes; we still love you, too.) How did we encounter these hybrids? Through our organic CSA, which clearly shared our views.

We see that the mainstream vegetable catalogs have taken note of the heirloom craze and the drawbacks to heirlooms as well: low productivity, susceptibility to pests and diseases, extremely limited range. And we see that they’ve taken steps to combine rich heirloom flavor with hybrid reliability, as in the case of Burpee’s ‘Brandy Boy’, combining the flavor of the beloved heirloom ‘Brandywine’ with the reliability of their own ‘Big Boy’ hybrid.

We’re not suggesting abandoning heirlooms that do well for you for hybrids, God forbid. But if full-size heirloom tomatoes or whatever don’t do well for you, we suggest that you keep an open mind about the hybrids that are now available. We’re planning to try ‘Brandy Boy’ this year and see how it turns out.  

10. What’s in, what’s out. Fried turkey’s out, fried catfish is in. Sushi is out, tempura is in. Bacon is out, fried onion strings are in. Hummus is out, tzatziki is in. Martinis are out, Campari and soda (with a slice of lime) is in. Soy sauce is out, chili oil is in. Raw foodism is out, real foodism is in. Slow cookers are out, rice cookers are in. Cupcakes are out, doughnuts are in. Sourdough is out, no-knead is in. Fresh and pickled jalapenos are out, chipotle is in. Quiche is out, crepes are in. Jelly is out, marmalade is in. Salt and pepper are out, custom salt-pepper blends are in. Williams-Sonoma is out, King Arthur Flour is in. Black-eyed peas are out, butter beans are in. Bland, boring radishes and mustard greens are out, mustard greens and radishes with a bite are in. Lite beer is out, black & tan and porter are in. Chemically-laced sodas are out, flavored sparkling water is in. Caramel is in, chocolate and vanilla are out.

Okay, that’s it for us for 2011.  Please share your food trends predictions with us!  

           ‘Til next time,

                          Silence

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