I watch way too much Food Network. I’ve only ever tried to make two recipes I learned there and one was really only a theory, not an actual recipe. The actual recipe I tried was Ina Garten’s Triple Ginger Cookies. (I learned that when Ina says “jumbo eggs,” she means jumbo eggs.) The theory was Bobby Flay’s Tangerine Turkey, which I adapted to use orange juice instead of tangerine.
(Bobby Flay is so predictable. No matter what he cooks, he always includes one or more of his favorite ingredients. In addition to the tangerine juice, he invariably includes Calabrian chiles, pomegranate molasses, and either bourbon or tequila. Sometimes even when he’s making dessert. I don’t know why they even bother to have a blind tasting on Beat Bobby Flay. But I digress.)
But, even as Flay never changes, lots of changes do occur in the cooking world – all manner of trends come and go. For a while in the 70s, everyone who got married received a fondue pot. Later, the trend was blackened everything, which meant either burnt or way too spicy. Now we have pumpkin spice everything. Though with nearly everyone hating on it, it may not last for much longer.
But there are other trends in food and cooking, and the times, they are a’changing. What do we have now?
I’m glad you asked. We have bacon on everything. Avocado toast. Salted caramel. Poached eggs. Cauliflower. And, apparently, buttered saltines.
Bacon is such a trend that it appears everywhere. Strawberry-bacon crepes. Garnish for a Bloody Mary. I can’t say whether this is a recent trend. It feels like it’s gone on forever. Today I heard that men’s second favorite thing, apart from sex, was not beer but bacon. (I just had a brilliant idea for a new flavor of edible panties. But I digress some more.)
Avocado toast has a rep for being the chosen chow of hipsters. Although I have no objection to it (I love avocados and have eaten many a slice of toast), I’m not sure what’s so exciting about guacamole on bread. Though you do eat guacamole with chips, and that’s another grain product.
Salted caramel is something I heartily approve of, and I hope it stays in vogue for many, many years. I wouldn’t have thought just from hearing the name that it would be good, but I love caramel and was willing to try a new version of it. Now I’m hooked. Makes me wonder what other candies would be improved by salt. Chocolate? Butterscotch? Peppermints? No, probably not, though someone is bound to try it sooner or later.
Poached eggs are appearing everywhere, especially on sandwiches. The idea is to rupture the egg when you chomp into the sandwich so the yolk becomes some kind of marvelous sauce. The chefs describe it as “unctuous,” which I have always associated with “oleaginous,” loosely translated as “smarmy,” something I don’t want my sandwiches to be. I once ate a burger with a poached egg and it unctuoused all over my sweater. I was not a happy chomper.
Cauliflower came around with the advent of the gluten-free movement. As I understand it, gluten-free food is really beneficial only if you have celiac disease, but that doesn’t stop every Tom, Dick, and Harriet from swearing by it. And everyone who likes gluten in their mac-n-cheese, pizza crust, and rice pilaf swearing at it.
As for buttered saltines, I just learned this week that this was a thing. Personally, I don’t think it sounds very exciting, not the way bread and butter is.
Celebrity chefs are responsible for a lot of other kitchen trends, not necessarily associated with food. Take clogs, for example (specifically Crocs). I recently read a whole article on this – I think it was in the LA Times. Apparently, Crocs are valued for their non-slip soles and their ease of cleaning up after spaghetti sauce spills on them. But I’ve noticed that celebrity TV chefs are now wearing fancy sneakers – brightly colored or sequined ones. I don’t know how well they stand up under bolognese, but I guess if you’re a celebrity chef, you can always buy new ones.
Even kitchen equipment has changed. It used to be that no self-respecting chef would go anywhere without their squeeze bottles, the kind that used to hold ketchup and mustard in diners. They were used to decorate plates (and food) with dots, spirals, and squiggles of whatever sauce was on the menu. (Old joke: “Do you have everything on the menu?” “Yes, what would you like?” “A clean menu.”)
Nowadays, chefs have paintbrushes to put a swoosh of sauce on the plate for the food to rest on. If they can’t afford paintbrushes, they make a swoop with the back of a spoon. Which is all well and wonderful, but you can’t write Happy Birthday in chocolate on a plate if you’re using a spoon or a paintbrush. (Unless it’s a wee tiny one.)
When I was in college, there was a class called Food Facts and Fads. I never took it, so I don’t really know, but I think the fads they were talking about were extreme diets. Personally, I say to heck with the fad diets! Bring on the salted caramels!