Food writers usually predict food trends in January. But in this week’s Standard-Examiner column, I listed food trends I wish would go away for 2014.
Superfood Frenzy. I like kale, quinoa and Greek yogurt, but when they get turned into sugary kale juice drinks, fried quinoa chips, or cream cheese with a bit Greek yogurt in it, the health benefits are questionable. These are the superfoods du jour, and when they’re so over-hyped, people soon tire of them and move on to something else.
Those who have been around awhile might remember the oat bran craze of the late ’80s, when studies linked oat bran to lowered cholesterol levels. Suddenly there were enough oat bran products on the market to choke a horse. Oat bran doughnuts, anyone?
Instead of these crazy, short-term love affairs where the superfood gets dumped for the next Magic Bullet, how about a platonic, long-term friendship where we are OK with occasionally eating kale, quinoa, Greek yogurt, pomegranate, olive oil or whatever the next trendy health food is?
“Eating Clean.” I guess people feel virtuous when they proclaim, “Oh, I’m eating clean.” But, this self-righteous term is very nebulous. For some, “eating clean” is about cutting out processed foods. For vegans, the term can mean avoiding animal products. For Paleo dieters, it can mean eating only meat, fish and vegetables and avoiding starches or dairy. Those with celiac disease are thinking “eating clean” is gluten-free. To others, it can mean eating only organic foods. If it makes you feel a little more Gwyneth Paltrow-ish, well, go ahead and say it, but the rest of us don’t care.
The Baconizing of America. Fast food chains know that a few slices of pork can be a major selling point for any burger. But the bacon chocolates, bacon doughnuts and Bacon Explosion (that bacon lattice-wrapped sausage thing that has gone viral on Facebook) are too much of a good thing.
Bacon’s alluring smoky flavor has helped spur the “smoked food” trend —such as smoked paprika, smoked cheese, smoked salt, and chipotle chiles (which are smoked jalapenos). Perhaps we can rely more on some of these other smoked ingredients for flavor, and a bit less on bacon, bacon and more bacon.
Skewered celebrity chefs. TV personalities should speak responsibly, but should they be kicked to the curb over a racial slur uttered over 20 years ago? I’m pretty sure that TV cook Paula Deen’s rapid fall from stardom had more to do with money than being politically incorrect. An acquaintance working at the Food Network during the Deen debacle told me confidentially that ratings for the Queen of Southern Cuisine were already in decline. Her contract was up with the Food Network about same time as the lawsuit publicity hit, so it was a convenient time to drop her. The fact that she was acquitted of the discrimination suit didn’t seem to matter.
I personally don’t think it was a coincidence that Dameris Phillips, the winner of “The Next Food Network Star” was a young, blonde Southern cook.
Deen’s fan base dropped in 2012 when she revealed she had Type II diabetes and endorsed a diabetes drug. She seemed to be cashing in on her illness, after years of touting recipes built on sugar, butter, bacon and mayo.
But I don’t understand why some food personalities get a pass on spewing venom and others don’t. In “No Reservations” star Anthony Bourdain’s memoir, “Medium Raw,” it’s nearly impossible to find a page where someone wasn’t called a curse word or crude sexual term. (A chapter ripping on a food critic was titled “Alan Richman is A Douchebag.” That was pretty mild compared to what he called other people.)
So let’s ALL avoid nasty name-calling, OK?
Salted sweets. We eaten our fill of “fleur de sel” chocolates, salt-sprinkled caramel ice cream and other salty confections. I like the way a little salt can enhance flavors, but it can be overdone. All treats shouldn’t have to be accompanied by a tall glass of water. And considering that many people are trying to cut back on salt due to high blood pressure, it’s OK to shake this trend.
TV cooking competitions. When “Iron Chef” first showed up on the Food Network, it was intriguing. Enter “Top Chef,” “Chopped,” “The Next Food Network Star,” “Extreme Chef,” “The Great American Baking Competition,” “Cupcake Wars,” “Food Truck Wars, ” etc., and it’s overkill.
Cronuts. The cross between a croissant and a doughnut made a splash this year. Gee, as if America doesn’t have enough high-fat, high-calorie junk food.
Nuts for Nutella. “I love Nutella, but I have seen it all,” wrote one of my foodie friends. “The other day I saw a young man put Nutella between two grilled cheese sandwiches like a double- decker. It was disgusting.” Like the Superfood Frenzy, we don’t have to have Nutella all day, every day. Especially if we’re “eating clean.”