Every year, a group of professionals take pleasure in predicting what will be the next ‘it’ factor in the culinary space; from smoking to pickling, tacos to kimchi, and jello to cupcakes. After trolling through several different food trend reports dating back to the 50s, I got to thinking - whatever happened to past trends? Are they forgotten or have they re-emerged at theme parties like your old fondue set? My research yielded some nostalgic trends:
Back in the 70s, the crock pot was all the rage. Crock pot or slo-cooker meals are designed for the time-challenged cook who wants to set and forget. This allows unattended, slow cooking at low temperatures resulting in tasty, flavour-packed meals. This trend was such a hit that in 1975, ‘Crockery Cookery’ outsold ‘Joys of Sex’ as the No.1 selling paperback, yet these days, as people still believe in sex being joyous, it is a challenge to find a kitchen that is equipped with a crock pot.
Think you know gelatine? When gelatine was all the rage in the 50s, it wasn’t to set a pannacotta or other show stopper desserts. Instead, it was the main ingredient. People would be serving big slabs of gelatine with bits of turkey meat and a moulded gelatine salad. The latter is made up of a tomato aspic and cranberry salad ring. These days, much like the 70s rock star that has been reduced to opening acts, the gelatine is now strictly used as a setting agent rather than a dinner table centrepiece.
When Neil Armstrong took his first step on the moon, little did he realise that space-age snacks would soon be made popular. Powdered nutrition became a trend, the most popular being the powdered fruit flavoured drink – Tang. Originally formulated by food scientist William Mitchell, the sales were poor until NASA used it for John Glenn’s Mercury flight and subsequent Gemini missions. While powdered nutrition these days are relegated to the gym-buff, chefs around the world are regularly introducing elements of powdered creations in their meals aka soils and dirt.
No article on the culinary where-are-they-now is complete without a mention of the fondue. The word fondue is derived from French and literally means ‘to melt’. The earliest recipe of this Swiss dish dates back to 1699 but it wasn’t made popular until it was recognised by the Swiss Cheese Union to be a Swiss national dish in the 1930s. The United States jumped on the trend wagon in the early 70s and the rest of the world followed suit. Sadly, the fondue has now become more of a theme at parties than a trend as more people these days are opting for a fon-don’t than a fondue.
Some other food fads that are worth mentioning: 1. the deep-fried-everything fad – oh, how we all have a fond memory of that deep-fried mars bar from the local fish and chippery, 2. TV dinners – this much loved meal in compartmentalised boxes are now reserved for the Simpsons and airline food. Do not get this confused with the much loved bento box, and 3. The low carb diet – something everyone is familiar with thanks to the Atkins diet.
So what do people think of past food trends? Is there room for them in our modern lipophobic society that is so focussed on grazing and acquiring organic produce? Or are they like any form of faddism – hot one day, gone the next? The answer to these questions could well determine what you do with that fondue set you got for Christmas back in the 90s.
Alvin Quah is a former MasterChef contestant from Series 2. Check out his website www.cinnamonpig.com.au
* Image courtesy of pedro_cerqueira on flickr