food trends

Hot Off the Skillet - Food News Links for Your Consumption

It's still the New Year, folks, so it feels like a good time to do a round-up of tips, ideas, and info for your eating life.

First up, what's expected to be hot, hot, hot in 2016? The National Restaurant Association has come up with this handy graphic:

Courtesy of the NRA What’s Hot 2016 Culinary Forecast

Absolutely, fascinating, if you ask me. First off, just because  an item is waning doesn't mean it's going to go away anytime soon. It just means your restaurant (or trendy kitchen) won't be cutting edge if you say things like, "You've got to try my new recipe for Agave-Sweetened Quinoa-Kale Porridge Coated in Bottom-Feeder Weirdfish Flakes." But people will ooh and aah if you brew your own alcohol and pair it with African Curried Egg Gelato in your backyard pop-up restaurant. (Eggs from your own hens, of course.) Oh, and insects are out, so put down the freeze-dried crickets.

If "hyper-local sourcing" is in, that's all the more reason to grown your own, pickle your own, brew your own. Sure, you say, but even if I had time to garden, who has the space? We live in Bellevue, not on our own three acres! In 2016, that excuse won't serve any longer because this Mental Floss article claims we can all grow fruit-bearing bonsai trees.

My Science Academy pic. Photoshopped? I hope not.

Of course, it looks like one awesome apple is about all that little tree can bear at a time, lest it suffer the fate of Charlie Brown's Christmas tree, so I'm guessing you would need a grove of the little bonsais to keep a family going. Another possible use for the family dining room, that nobody dines in?

The Paleo diet receives another body blow, this time from a Stanford dissertation. The author argues (you probably will not find it necessary to sit down to read this) that all that hankering after a caveman diet is actually our longing for a simpler, utopian world, unplagued by the plagues of civilization. Never mind that your average caveman had a pretty short lifespan, and what life there was was often rough stuff. Good old Otzi the Iceman, for example, the 5300-year-old corpse discovered in the Alps, suffered multiple bone fractures, Lyme disease, food between his teeth, and even an inflamed stomach from that troublesome Helicobacter pylori microbe, which still gives us literal ulcers today.

Otzi, Paleo spokesman.
A reconstruction of what we hope was one of his good days.

Well, fine, you say. Any advice on what we should be eating this year, apart from African spices and our bonsai apple?

Just the usual: more home-cooked, less processed. More produce, organic where necessary and possible. Robyn O'Brien gives some tips on affording organic in this article, and I would just add that you don't need to buy organic if the fruit/veg is on the Clean Fifteen (or if you grew it in your grove of bonsai trees).

That'll do it for this week. Happy, healthful eating in 2016!

Five Reasons to Hit the Saturday Market This Week

At book club last night, a friend mentioned dropping by Trader Joe's and finding that just about everything seemed to be Pumpkin Spice. There were the snack bars, the coffee (blergh!), the chai, the pumpkin spice cakes and pies and frozen things. There was actual Pumpkin Pie Spice. Pumpkin dog biscuits.

Because dogs like food trends, too

Pumpkins are hot. And if you like pumpkins, this would be the year to take advantage of their trendiness, because in a year or two pumpkins will probably go the way of sun-dried tomatoes and chia seeds. (Chia seeds, at least, are just over the trend crest, so there are still plenty of the little fellas to be found, gracing random food products.)

But Trader Joe's isn't the only one riding the pumpkin wave. Our Market farmers are as well. Have you noticed all the pumpkins we've got?

1. PUMPKINS

These would be Burpee Sugar Pie Pumpkins

Think of these sweet, smooth darlings as the high-maintenance cousins of butternut squash. But the same principles apply: hack the thing in two, scoop out the seeds, and roast it in the oven. Then just dish out the tender flesh. Years ago, the Seattle Times ran this article on sugar pie pumpkins, with handling and recipe ideas. You, too, can experiment with pumpkin-flavored everything in your house!

Because our book club was reading Out of the Dust, a young-adult prose-poetry tale of the Dust Bowl during the Depression, our themed food included a homemade apple pie, which really can't be beat as a fall favorite. The Market has several varieties of...

2. APPLES

Sweet ones, sweet-tart ones, you name it. Just ask your farmer which variety you should try for eating out of hand or making into applesauce or slicing into pie filling. They're at their crisp and delicious best.

3. ASIAN PEARS


I bet I'm not the only one who has missed Rockridge Orchards and all the scads of Asian pear varieties Wade(?) used to bring. But I've noticed we still have a couple types at Collins Family Orchard. Sam recommends you let them sit out until most of the greeniness is gone, replaced by golden dots. She also says these are fabulous dehydrated like apple chips!

4. POKE TO THE MAX


My daughter and I have grabbed plenty of Saturday lunches at this truck. I go for the Loco Moco bowl, while she prefers a Shaka Sandwich Wrap. Whatever you choose, it's sure to be fresh and flavorful. Plus it's always delightful to hear someone speak to you with a Hawaiian accent...

5. FRESH-BAKED BREAD


Those of you who haunt the Woodinville warehouse district might already know Proven Bread, where Alexis Carson provides rambling winetasters with picnic fixings like sandwiches and charcuterie and fresh-baked goodies. Well, we at the Saturday Market also get to enjoy her James-Beard-Award-Nominee baked offerings. What better to pair with a hearty fall soup, or some Tieton Farms cheese and a salad?

Okay--this is not a post to write before breakfast. I'm off for now, but hope to see you all this Saturday.

Noteworthy Notes, April 2015 Edition

Future Deviled Eggs

It's April 15th - Tax Day! That would be the bad news. The good news is, we have less than one month till Opening Day of the 2015 Bellevue Farmers Market season! The Thursday Market kicks off on May 14th with food, fun, and festivities. If you'd like to get involved as a vendor or volunteer, here's the link you need.

The Market won't be a moment too soon. Supermarket apples are mushy, the pears are Argentinian, and the strawberries of the giant, flavorless variety. Even the winter standby of oranges is getting hit-or-miss. For smoothies I've been falling back on frozen fruits, since they at least were ripe when processed.

Speaking of flavor, did you see this very interesting article on how naturally flavorful foods are actually higher in nutrients? It's based on a book I'm looking forward to reading:

As some of us have noticed, widely-available produce found out of season and grown on an industrial farm does not have anywhere near the flavor of the fruits and vegetables our local farmers or own backyards produce. Try one of the "sugar bomb" strawberries at the Market in June, and you'll turn your nose up at Watsonville's baseball-sized grocery-store offerings ever after. Well, it just so happens,

For more than 50 years, the food that we grow has been getting blander. As our crops and livestock become more productive, affordable and disease-resistant, they keep losing flavor. As any grandparent can tell you, tomatoes, strawberries, chicken—all taste like cardboard these days.
As flavor diminishes, so does nutrition. According to a 2004 study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, modern tomatoes have half as much calcium and vitamin A as they did in the 1950s. We compound the nutritional insult by drowning bland food in the only things that can make it taste good—ranch dressing, whipped cream, ketchup or barbecue sauce.

Because we still love and crave flavor, we add it back in to food--usually favor cooked up in a chemistry lab.

Not only is the Market a convenient source of flavorful, nutritious food, but I've also noticed some of our vendors do a great job of riding food trends. We've had kale chips and gluten-free baked goods and fresh juices. Greek yogurt and hand pies and kim chee. Can't wait to see what this season's offerings include!

Food trends follow an arc, as this article notes, moving from Discovery to Popularity to Mainstream (Ho-Humness) to Been-There-Done-That. I'm glad to read that eggs, butter, and whole milk are back in, since we consume plenty of those. Sadly, also trending are pre-made sauces which you dump in a pan and heat. Today's version of Hamburger Helper.

Kicking it old school, for you lovers of fake home-cooking

Ah, well. You win some, you lose some.

Whatever you're eating--flavorless or flavorful, trendy or classic--I leave you with these handy reminders of "5 Healthy-Eating Strategies That Will Outlast Any Trend" from a recent Huffington Post. 

Do a self-test. I scored 1 out of 5.

  • No, I don't use small plates. 
  • No, I don't eat twice as many vegetables as protein/grains. 
  • Yes, I eat colorfully. 
  • No, I don't try to "quash" unhealthy snacking. 
  • And, no, I don't eat mindfully.
Looks like the Market can't come soon enough...

Corn, Reborn

At a recent gathering we hit folks with a hipster quiz, to rate how trendy they were. Had they downloaded the hottest songs? Seen the hottest movies? Lost hours of their lives to Trivia Crack?Since those present ranged in age from 14 to 85, you might imagine that trendiness varied widely. In one area, however, just about everyone was in step with the times. Or the times, circa 2014!

Passé on two counts

This area was food trends. I asked if anyone had consumed, within the previous week:

  1. Greek yogurt;
  2. A smoothie with vegetables in it;
  3. Bacon-flavored anything (other than just bacon itself); or
  4. Something labeled "gluten-free."
Scoring was impressive. Except that those trends are supposedly on the wane now.
For that refreshing, "I just ate breakfast" feeling

It's 2015 people, and according to this recent CNN article, we've got all new food trends:

  1. Radishes. Because they're so...radish-y, I guess.
  2. Yogurt with vegetables in it. Because...ick.
  3. Maple syrup. Because all our bees are dropping dead, but there's no shortage of maples in Canada, for the time being. If only the danged trees could make themselves useful and do some pollinating while they're at it.
  4. Sour flavors. The kids had the jump on us on this one. They've been downing sour Gummi worms for years.
  5. Hemp. Because with all that legal marijuana, we've got more seeds floating around. Hemp milk! Hemp in cereals! Hemp--it's what's for dinner, not just what's tying the yacht to the dock.
  6. Old school cocktails. Might be sentimentality over Mad Men ending, but those drinks grandpa drank are ba-a-a-ack!
  7. Eating seasonally, if not locally. Not sure I get this one, since, to co-opt the drinking excuse, it's always summer somewhere.
  8. The end of restrictive elimination diets. Which means that book I reviewed earlier, Smart People Don't Diet, is exactly on trend. Impressive.
  9. Spanish cuisine. Not only is the country a hot tourist destination, but the food is in too! And if you make or eat it in America, you can even eat your dinner before nine o'clock.
  10. And finally, trendwatchers predict fancy cookies on dessert menus. Well, duh.
But supposing you're still clinging to 2014's food trends. Greek yogurt tastes like ice cream, you argue. Or, It may be 2015, but I'm still gluten-intolerant!

It's okay to be out of style. In fact, if gluten still isn't your thing, you may as well go all the way and be 250 years out of style. I've been reading a fascinating little history of American meals called Three Squares, and in one passage, author Abigail Carroll describes how Ben Franklin patriotically stuck up for American consumption of "Indian corn" in the face of English snootiness.
 
Franklin deemed corn "one of the most agreeable and wholesome grains in the world...its green leaves roasted[!] are a delicacy beyond express;...samp, hominy, succotash, and nokehock, made of it, are so many pleasing varieties, and...Johnny cake or hoecake, hot from the fire, is better than a Yorkshire [English] muffin."
This impassioned declaration got me to thinking--colonial Americans often ate gluten-free by default. After all, wheat ain't easy to grow, and Carroll notes that wheat didn't take off in America or become widely (or cheaply) available until the end of the 18th century. Instead, early Americans ate plenty of peas and that Native American local favorite, corn. 
So say you're clinging to your retro, gluten-free food trend and want to get back to corn. What are these luscious dishes Franklin references? 
Samp: corn porridge similar to oatmeal, based on a Native American dish nausamp. Plimoth Plantation provides recipes for both here.
Hominy: yes, that hominy--like you find in cans in the Mexican food section. I guess they mixed it with bacon (another ancient food trend!) or ham and ate up.
Succotash: a boiled, one-pot meal in olden days. Zester Daily gives a history and recipe here (and hominy makes its second appearance). 
Nokehock: apparently this recipe has fallen out of favor in the last 250 years, so maybe Franklin was alone in his appreciation for it. Another author of an American food history defines it as "parched corn cooked in hot ashes, then pounded into meal." Uh, yum?
Johnny cake: recipes for corn pancakes have never gone completely out of style, and looking this one over made me want to whip some up. 
Add a dollop of Greek yogurt, some bacon-flavored maple syrup, and wash it all down with a kale smoothie, and it'll be like 2014 all over again!

Of Lemmings and Lentils

I remember buying a pizza and flatbread cookbook, sometime pre-kids (which would put it at least 15 years ago), from which I tried at least 15% of the recipes. A very high percentage, if you go by cookbook reviews on Goodreads, where the readers dwell on how good the recipes look and how charming the anecdotes are and how tempting they find the pictures. Little did I know it at the time, but I was buying into a major food trend.

I found the book!

Why, you ask? Are not pizza, focaccia, flat and filled breads timeless? Yes, and no. The book was a perfect example of a food trend for two main reasons: (1) the use of a bread machine, which everyone thought at the time would turn the world into homemade-bread eaters; and, (2) the fact that it seemed every third recipe incorporated sun-dried tomatoes and roasted garlic.

OMG--remember those food trends? Remember when everything was sun-dried tomato this and roasted garlic that, when it wasn't slathered in the alternate trend, Thai peanut sauce? Remember when you bought a bread machine and used it maybe twice? I think I can safely say I'm in the minority now because I still have a bread machine out on my counter, and it still gets used about once a month. I hang on to my trends. I even roasted some garlic (along with other vegetables) a couple weeks ago.

But the food trend world has moved on. Now we have chia and Greek yogurt and sea-salt sprinkled sweets. (One point for each of those items you have in your fridge or pantry.) Have you ever wondered how one food gets hot and takes over the foodie world? How it goes mainstream? Or how a trend dies?

Wonder no more. Author David Sax has explored exactly this topic in his upcoming The Tastemakers (May 27, 2014).

This was a fun read, covering everything from cupcakes to the media to food truck politics to fondue. It also made me very hungry and, lemming-like, eager to run out and try various new foods and restaurants. His talk of Charleston restaurants alone had me texting friends in Alabama and planning a meet-up.

Who knew that "cupcake sales grew 56% from 2008 to 2012," and have gone worldwide, even to the most unlikely places? Buenos Aires. Dubai. Kenya, for crying out loud. What began with a bakery in New York and a flicker of a moment on Sex and the City set the juggernaut in motion. Amazing. And for all the eulogies delivered about how this trend is over, it continues to chug on.

I'm loving the food trend toward local and diverse. Before the Civil War, over a hundred varieties of rice were grown in the Charleston region, but historical events (one named Sherman) put an end to that, and monoculture reigned until recently. But yay for trends! Sax discusses the emergence of Anson Mills as a cultivator and supplier of the lost rices and other grains. Can't wait to try their "China Black" rice, if it ever goes mainstream enough to hit our side of the country.

Meanwhile we're stuck in "Superfood" territory, with food manufacturers, processors, and marketers touting the latest ingredient that will solve all our bodily woes. Take the American market for hot "antioxidants." They're basically found in all fruits and vegetables, but we superadd them or focus on a particular plant source of them and go berserk, to the tune of an $86B market by 2016. Of this trend, Sax quotes Marion Nestle:

It's a marketing device...Nutritionists like me don't recognize any one food as especially super. All unprocessed foods contain a huge range of nutrients but in varying proportions. That's why healthful diets are supposed to contain a range of foods with complementary nutrient contents. The 'super' designation usually depends on one nutrient or a category of nutrients (antioxidants are a good example). All fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, so by that standard all are superfoods. This is about marketing, not health.

And then there are the fancy foods. The artisan products. The fifty varieties of barbecue sauce at the grocery store. Specialty foods, the little niche companies that develop food products they hope will become the Next Big Thing, now have sales totalling $80B per year. No wonder all those former high-power investment bankers and lawyers are now making obscure nut butters, cheeses and candies!

Food is big, big business, which makes it politically hairy and sweeping in its impact. The food truck wars and the rise and fall and rise of pork bellies during the bacon trend make for fascinating reading. I wish Sax had done a chapter on farmers markets. He does say that foods which were once only found at farmers markets then hit the supermarkets--or at least Whole Foods--if the trend gets big enough, and that some restauranteurs and food manufacturers got their start hawking at farmers markets, but that's about it.

Nevertheless, a great read.

Oh, and as a food trend P.S., you may have noticed lentils are doing well. Check out this cool graphic from Washivore on Washington-grown lentils.

Big business! And, lemming-like, I love lentils and am happy to learn they have Protein Power and fiber and antioxidants and "are low on the glycemic index." Could a trend get any better?