Top 2021 Food Trends You Loved to Hate
Ah, the final month of a long and winding year. As soon as we flip the calendar to December, we begin to put a bow on not just presents, but final thoughts to wrap up the year. Best movies, best album releases, best bites. A way to look back on all of the fond memories and reset for the new year.
But you can't bring in the new without throwing out some of the old, right?
When looking back at the dishes we ate, the meals we cooked, the way we ordered in 2021, there's a lot to chew on — mostly good. (Yes, I'll admit it, the salmon rice bowl is yummy.) But there are a few trends, fads, whatever you call them, that we're okay leaving behind.
So, what goes out when the clock strikes midnight on December 31? Here's where I'd start:
(And, in the spirit of the season, we'll also shout out a few we're happy to keep around).
#1 The vortex of viral TikTok dishes
Yes, the app gave us that wonderfully easy feta pasta you could just throw in the oven, clever quesadilla folding hacks, and bacon made from carrots. But it also gave us the idea to consume unwise amounts of honey and freak-outs over an ice cube on a pile of microwaved rice.
I'm not proposing a total food TikTok banishment; I love getting inspiration while scrolling to try a cranberry digestif mocktail or a buffalo chickpea wrap. But the pressure to make the "it" dish and/or flip out online about the number of garlic cloves — let's leave it.
Instead, I propose getting inspired the old-fashioned way. And by that, I mean opening a cookbook!
#2 Giving into the delivery impulse
Habits are tough to break, especially when they involve getting garlic knots and carnitas burritos dropped off at your doorstep to snag in between old episodes of Law and Order (my go-to delivery night show).
But the decision to get delivery involves more than a few clicks or swipes. The pandemic exposed the economic damage food delivery services have done to restaurants, not to mention the environmental impact of all that excess plastic packaging.
For those who are able, I'm all for getting out in the fresh air! Going (safely) to our favorite neighborhood lunch spot! Let's take in the inimitable atmosphere of a dining establishment we've been deprived of for so long.
#3 Chicken sandwich mania
This isn't to discount the bounty of great chicken sammies everywhere from fast food spots to farm-to-table establishments. But we may have reached peak poultry saturation. Yes, they're yummy, they're ubiquitous, they're always a solid bet.
But you know what has me more excited? The absolute explosion of delicious meat-free and plant-based versions that are just as satisfying, flavorful, and straight up crave-worthy. I recommend starting with this dill-brined fried tofu sandwich.
#4 Cauliflower rice and anything else still trying to turn a comfort dish "guilt-free"
Do you remember the first time you had zoodles (aka "pasta" noodles made out of zucchini)? My mind was so blown; I initially couldn't even tell the difference. After remarking on the deliciousness, my thoughts immediately went to: "What a guilt-free way to eat pasta!"
Cut to today, when we've all eaten our way through quarantine loaves, homemade angel hair, and takeout-style fried rice. Low-carb alternatives are out and the carb is back in full swing, along with so many other comfort foods.
I'm all for everything in moderation, so let's live a little and swap out the cauliflower pizza crust when we need a slice of comfort without an ounce of guilt.
A few trends we're happy to keep around
Online grocery shopping: When you can snag back a few hours in your week (more time for tackling those baking projects) with the ease and simplicity of online grocery shopping, it's hard to go back.
Boards of all kinds: Snack dinner, charcuterie board, cheese sampler—whatever you call it, whipping out your nicest wooden cutting board and loading it with odds and ends to create a meal greater than its parts is nothing short of magical. It became an easy way to prep dinner during those early quarantine days when a full set of dishes for yet-another home-cooked meal was out of the question. Let's keep it in the meal rotation, no doubt.
Pantry meals: Over the past two years we've all gotten quite skilled at cooking with ingredients already in our pantry, fridge, and freezer. It's a win for less wasteful habits, less compulsory consumerism, and creative cooking. That's worth keeping around in my book.