Each December, lists of culinary forecasts pour forth. Pot-roast, cupcakes, and ramen has had a good run in the past years, but here’s what’s hot for 2017.
Jackfruit! Sorghum! Harissa! And don’t ignore horseradish, spirulina and Asian-inspired breakfasts. Authenticity and its cousin transparency are in. So is food inspired by Africa. Or maybe it’s The Philippines. Even French food has a constituency.
How food trends work
Some predictions will never come true, while others are but momentary fads (rainbow bagels, like rainbows, were never meant to stay).
This year’s list, which includes novel cuts of meat like the Vegas strip steak, healthful children’s meals and street food, may seem dated.
But that’s the idea. A fleeting fad is too frivolous to build a business on. The real trends take years to reach the mainstream.
“A good trend is like an Impressionist painting,” Cowin, late of Food & Wine says. “It’s something that looks like one thing, and then you dive in and see; it’s really a collection of many little points of paint.”
Take fermentation, the darling of the 2016 forecasts. It’s not a trend unto itself, she said, but rather the culmination of several changes that began with the rising popularity of Korean food in America and a particular interest in kimchee. The farm-to-table movement, which steered cooks to pickling as a way to preserve the bounty of harvest, contributed.
Interest in fermentation got another boost from research showing the importance of gut health, which also drove interest in probiotics, which led in part to kombucha’s rise.
Mix in the nascent DIY ethos and a flash of excitement about the preserving methods of Nordic cuisine, and you have the fermentation trend.
Meals in a bowl, a perennial on recent year-end lists, are another phenomenon driven by smaller engines: yoga, Gwyneth Paltrow, the gluten-free movement, a new appetite for Asian street food and the demand for grab-and-go convenience.
“We’ve got a moment when a lot of different needs are being met through this perfect little vessel,” said Willa Y. Zhen, a food anthropologist and associate professor at the Culinary Institute of America.
It doesn’t hurt that food in bowls can be visually attractive, perfect for an Instagram feed. At Pinterest, which is used by 150 million people a month, Buddha bowls filled with simple vegan or vegetarian ingredients are among the top items that users post. The name evokes the mindfulness with which a monk holds a bowl of food.
“The overarching trend we are seeing is along vegan, gluten-free and clean eating,” said Stephanie Kumar, head of what Pinterest calls “category insights.” Its latest report shows that Pinterest users are also into naan pizza, zucchini chips and octopus cooked at home, possibly in sous vide machines.
A perfect on-trend restaurant for 2017, apparently, would be a fast-casual spot serving dishes with deep, heady African flavors. The dishes should be made with locally produced ingredients, which chefs and skilled home cooks have been using for decades because they often taste better, offer more variety and can be healthier for the environment.
2017 is also reportedly the year of the egg yolk. Spanish flavors and the Middle Eastern spice mix called baharat will take off, it says.
Check out 20 years of food trends below.
By The Straits Times, December 2016
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