The time has come to put the past behind us, and are we ever ready. From cloud bread to "unicorn" inspired anything, here are the food trends we hope to send peacefully out to pasture with the memory of 2016.
I’m a little late with publishing this list. Conventional wisdom says I should have done so at least week ago, but I wrestled with how I ought to present it to the world for days, and here we are. I don’t usually care to write an article that’s already been written (and this one definitely has), but in this case, even if only for selfish cathartic reasons, I felt compelled to write my version anyway. Because most of the 11 items listed below have already shown up, in some form or another, on various other trends lists recently. Mind you, I'm not referring to other lists comprised of trends that should meet their inglorious demise, but lists of projected trends for 2017. As in, the trends I'm saying I want dead... those very same trends are ones that someone else "predicted" will come to life this year.
That bothers me. Because as silly as it may sound, these foodish fads and phases that the Internet moves through have a legitimately massive impact on my daily life as a digital food editor. I love food deeply and my career—from working in private home and restaurant kitchens to sitting behind a screen writing about ways to build confidence in one's own kitchen—has blossomed from a sincere, unfading passion to serve people through that love. And sometimes, I feel like getting caught up and carried away in these food trends, which is a neccesary evil of the industry, distracts from the real point—serving others through the lens of food.
The various lists of projected 2017 food trends that you'll find floating around the Internet right about now are constructed through educated, but arbitrary, guesses, common sense assumptions, and sponsored priorities. Largely, they’re a good refresh of what’s already hot and getting hotter, with a few amusing randoms thrown in for good measure. The things that actually take off—like really become “things”—are often trends no one could have seen coming. (Correct me if someone predicted the “unicorn” invasion prior to the first rainbow smattered recipe showing up on Instagram). For example, over the past couple of weeks, babka has erupted across my feeds—it seemed like some sort of conspiracy, at first. It started with a flicker of a few posts (some of us joked that it must have been an obscure holiday "challenge" we missed the boat on), then spread like chocolate rippled wild fire. This week, FWx posed the question, “Is it too early to declare 2017 the year of babka?” and yet, babka sure didn’t show up on any of the 2017 trend forecasts I’ve seen.
Eater did a nice job of concisely summing up how these trend predictions come to be in their recent compilation of all such 2017 lists published to date. And as I scroll through these lists from various outlets, even just seeing mention of certain topics that have been trending consistently over the past year makes my eye twitch. With that being said, I’m gonna go ahead and own it right now, you’re about to witness me being a grade-A hater. But try to remember my spiel above, the frustration stems from love. I just happen to strongly resemble a senior citizen who's unhappy with life at the nursing home when it comes to matters I find blatantly moronic, so my love-fueled frustration can translate as being an asshole. Do know, I say all of these things with warmth in my heart, as a number of my dearest friends and colleagues, who I respect, admire, and value to no end, have wildly different opinions than some of those I express here. But I love them no less and sincerely appreciate the fact that we can’t see eye-to-eye on certain food topics solely because we’re incapable of talking about them without rolling our eyes at one another—this promotes stimulating conversation, which is important. So take a deep breath and accept that the following was written in good humor.
Without further blabbering, here the 11 food trends of 2016 that have plagued the Internet for far long enough, may they perish in 2017:
1. Foods posing as different foods.
I have placed this as #1 on my list very intentionally. Because it is the #1 thing that has consistently pissed me off to no ever-loving end above all else in the past year. What I mean when I say “foods posing as other foods” is an established food implying that it is a viable replacement for another established food that it is clearly not comparable to. This is often achieved through naming conventions. A few recognizeable examples:
- Cloud bread
- I have put this stuff in my own mouth, chewed, and swallowed it. Do you know what it tastes like? Bizarre, spongey baked eggs… like the core of an Egg McMuffin, gone wrong. Do you know what it doesn’t taste like, even a little bit? BREAD.
- I don’t have a problem with zoodles’ existence, I actually love what changing up the texture and presentation of certain vegetables through spiralizing does in terms of the eating experience. I have a problem with presenting a piece of squash as a “good swap” for real noodles… because it’s not. Watery squash and a firm, doughy noodle made with flour are not even remotely similar items; they are not a replacement for one another. There are endless ways to make vegetables vastly more prominent and celebrated than starches in your diet—telling yourself that a zucchini string is just as good as a bucatini noodle in the context of pasta bolognese doesn’t have to be one of them.
- Sweet potato toast and eggplant toast
- Please hear me: Calling a slab of sweet potato that you put stuff on top of “toast” is not genius or visionary, it is a f*cking lie. (Or a misuse of verbiage at the very least.)
- Do you know what toast implies? As a noun “toast” refers to one of two things: saluting someone or something with a glass of booze in your hand OR a piece of bread that has been exposed to heat until its sugars begin to caramelize, resulting in browned crispness. Used as a verb in a culinary context, what do we typically toast (besides bread)? Nuts, flours, spices… things that are inherently dry and are browned with a dry heat (i.e. no oil or liquid needs to be incorporated into the cooking process). In other words, we don't typically deploy the word "toast" in reference to browning something that is inherently moist, like a vegetable.
- If someone were to ask me if I wanted a piece of eggplant toast, I would assume they meant a piece of toasted bread topped with some sort of cooked eggplant (sounds great to me), not a plank of eggplant topped with… whatever you top eggplant “toast” with. In the same way, I’d be confused if a server asked what type of toast I’d like with my breakfast order and listed off my options… “Oh let’s see, we have pumpernickel, whole-wheat, sourdough, and eggplant." One of these things is not like the other.
What I’m not saying:
That these food ideas shouldn’t exist and aren’t valuable in their own right.
What I am saying:
That we should stop selling these foods by comparing them to really great foods that already exist, as if they are just a different variation of something. I understand why this happens—it’s clever rebranding—but it’s getting a little out of hand.
I don’t know, I guess what I’m really saying:
If you invite me over for spaghetti night, then serve me a plate full of squash with meat sauce on it… I might be a little confused and upset on the inside. (I don't expect you to ever invite me over for spaghetti night.)
2. Frozen booze.
OK, frosé had its moment, and it was totally worth it for the cute and punny name alone. Although to be completely honest, the first time I heard the term, I thought it was a pithy reference to Franzia’s pink variety of boxed wine, “Sunset Blush.” Anyway, this concept that all things alcoholic need to have a “slushy” iteration is heinous. The more I see red wine slurpees and whiskey milkshakes smattered across the Internet, the more I think it all sounds like a bad idea. Mostly because:
- If you have a decent bottle of wine or whiskey on your hands, I don’t think blending it with sugar and ice is the greatest way to enjoy it.
- If you’re blending a sh*tty bottle of wine or whiskey with ice and sugar to mask its sh*ttiness, I don’t want to drink it… because I’m no longer a nervous college freshman who just wants to loosen up a little and make new friends.
- Mixing mediocre alcohol with a brain freeze sounds like the circle of hell Dante forgot to mention (because his brain frozen).
- These sorts of boozed-up slushy drinks are often pushed as some sort of super-fun, “adult” throwback to childhood. And a number of things in my life have led me to feel a little uneasy about forming associations between childhood and getting hammered.
- Taking all of the above into account, prolonging the life of this trend seems like signing up to wander aimlessly down a not-scenic road paved with nausea and sadness.
3. Putting an egg on it.
I like an over-easy egg as much as anyone, but I’m growing concerned that people don’t know that it is, in fact, possible to create a super tasty dish (and yes, a successful Instagram post, too) without plopping a golden yolk on top of it.
4. All rainbow/unicorn/tie dye foods.
For the love of God, please make it stop. Our wee brains weren’t designed to understand how rainbow mac and cheese could exist.
5. Foods cooked in things that weren’t intended for cooking them.
In other words, stop putting weird sh*t in your waffle iron. If its ability to produce fluffy, crisp waffles isn’t enough to earn something called a waffle iron a coveted spot in your kitchen appliance collection, donate that thing to Goodwill, settle for pancakes, and move on with your life. Trying to cook meat, pizza, pasta, etc. in a waffle iron isn’t innovative, it’s stupid (by stupid, I mean less efficient and more messy than preparing those same foods “the old-fashioned way”). To be clear, I’m not hating on the waffle iron corn bread, brownies, and cookies that came about first… those battered-based concepts made some sort of sense, but as soon as someone tried to sell the world on cooking bacon in a waffle iron, they led the charge for the Internet to do what it does best… continually bludgeon a popular, clickable idea (in this case, Will it waffle??) to death and beyond until people grow noticeably bored/annoyed with it.
I mean, let's think about this. The rational for cooking bacon in your waffle iron (I actually read this from more than one source) is that “Everything you cook in the waffle iron after that will taste like bacon!” You guys, that’s an optimistic way of saying, “Yo, I hope your family likes the flavor of aging pork grease, because you just royally effed up the fancy-ass waffle iron your mother-in-law bought you from Williams-Sonoma for marrying her kid.” Seriously though, good luck cleaning bacon fat out of a freaking waffle iron.
6. Avocado roses.
Would an avocado rose, by any other shape still taste exactly like an avocado? Yeah, probably.
Earlier this year, I observed two incredibly talented test kitchen chefs invest well over an hour of their lives practicing how to delicately push avocado slices into a spiral “rose,” while watching various Youtube tutorials on the matter and growing increasingly frustrated with themselves because their roses weren't as beautiful. I went home and cried for humanity that night.
7. The quest for decadent paleo desserts.
Maybe I just don’t “get it,” (completely possible) but I thought the whole idea behind going Paleo is that you only want to feed yourself the foods that your ancestors of the paleolithic era would have eaten, because you believe that’s the diet our bodies were designed to thrive on… Now, I don’t know this for a fact, but I feel like paleolithic cave people were probably more concerned with not getting trampled by a wooly mammoth or having one of their kids eaten while they gathered seeds than they were with how to make a brownie sundae without using refined sugar. Again, maybe I just don’t understand the lifestyle.
8. S’mores for every occasion.
I think 2016 must of been the Year of the S’more on some lost ancient Chinese calendar of desserts. No matter the season, every direction you turned, a deluge of s’mores “inspired” everything was waiting… s’mores dessert paninis, s’mores dessert dip, s’mores dessert pizza, s’mores dessert lasagna—you name it, they s’moresed it. Fingers crossed 2017 is the Year of [Something Way Better than the S’more], because being the flavor profile applied to every existing traditionally-savory-food-converted-to-dessert out there is a lot of responsibility. And s’mores aren’t that great to begin with.
9. Inedibly large sandwiches.
I’m kinda just over staring at a stream of massive meat sandwiches that only creatures possessing the capability to unhinge their jaw could feasibly bite into. Lately, whenever I open Instagram to see yet another monster meat-wich, I have to avert my eyes. The gross excessiveness of it just makes me feel like I’m looking at something vulgar.
10. Food Hybrids that don’t make sense and/or are poorly executed.
There’s nothing I love more than a smart, well done food mash-up (these, for example). By the same token, nothing is more upsetting to see than a hybrid of two foods that clearly wasn’t thought out. Before setting out to create a food hybrid… say of something like a cookie and a quesadilla, one should first ask thyself a few simple questions: Do I truly understand these two foods individually? Why do I want to merge them into one? Who stands to benefit if I do?
If the two distinct foods aren’t somehow bringing something positive to each other in marriage, then don’t force them together and put a 60-second video of it on Facebook. That’s just socially irresponsible.
11. Asking, “But wait, could you make that with cauliflower?”
Eight times out of ten the answer is “no,” and 2016 didn’t seem to understand that. Just because your cauliflower “pizza crust” didn’t literally explode in the oven does not mean that it “worked.” I love cauliflower and I would agree that it’s incredibly versatile, but I’m starting to think that maybe everyone wouldn’t have felt quite as tragically disappointed and jaded by how 2016 shaped up as a year if we hadn’t put so much of our faith in cauliflower to be everything we needed.
RIP 2016, please take all of these trends with you for good, or at least haunt the people who started them.