Blog Dishing It Up

The Food Trends Fallacy And What To Do About It

January 5, 2018

To prepare for the New Year, I did what all conscientious food writers do. I Googled food trends and although a bit blown away by the more than sixteen pages, I scrolled through the litany of food trend predictions. This meant wading through a pea soup fog of what was hot and what was room temp, evaluating which cuisine would waft aromatic in 2018.

This is a requirement of being a food writer. Food trend predictions are expected busywork for the ten day span during the holidays for any writer worth their salt — which is out this year, per my inability to find salt blocks on any Top 10 list. Late December is slated for reposting old blogs and sipping eggnog — which is perennially IN. Don’t tell me otherwise, unless you’re angling to be labeled “Grinch”. And early January is only for cleansing, which means that reading time is scarce, limited to available slots between bathroom breaks.

After all this prep work, including a gander at a paper version of the venerable Farmer’s Almanac where I learned the winter of 2018 will be cold and wet and spinach would trump kale, I feel competent to make this similarly all-encompassing pronouncement:

Food trends are a fallacy.

Realize there was some work involved to make this statement. Note taking was required for meal concepts to discard. This included drab, uninspired dishes bereft of exotic Middle Eastern spices and any food stuff that had traveled farther than ten miles from where it had been raised or cultivated. Anything presented on a large plate was also decreed “out.” All of these concepts are so leftover from yesteryear they are only ripe for the trash can.

These trends are what we cooks and eaters all want confirmed. It establishes we’re in the know and on top of the foodie mountain.

But there is no such thing that can predict a food trend with success. The problem is a trend is temporary, never becoming ingrained in our collective conscious. Trends are not traditions; they evaporate into the ether when the next trend is spotted.

Given this truth, I decided my time was better spent reviewing the year’s photos to see how I can improve both as photographer and recipe creator. It’s an educational exercise I’m willing to share with you.

So, here are the top 5 reasons why I decided my time could be better spent improving what I do, rather than chasing what may not exist tomorrow.

1. Don’t try so hard that you lose sight of the essence of good food.

Lobster with Candied Ginger Thai Beurre Blanc Sauce

The poached lobster in beurre blanc sauce tasted fine and was a healthy preparation. I missed the classic lobster and drawn butter, though.

When I scored a bottle of cheap Muscato that I knew I didn’t want to drink, it was a clear signal that a recipe was in the making. Unwisely, I ignored the wine connoisseur’s mantra, “Only cook with wine that you’d drink,” instead researching options to the nth degree for what to prepare with it. The only foodstuff I could come up with was lobster. Who knew that one of the world’s most romantic foods could be paired with cheap wine?

Hours later, I had concocted a dish that drowned two lobster tails in clam juice, deluged them in the cheap Moscato and disguised it all with a swiff of crystalized ginger. The poached lobster tails perched delicately atop exotic rice noodles accessorized by (trendy) micro greens, swirled with a beurre blanc sauce.

While it tasted fine, anyone worth their salt can see that the butter saved the day!

Which is why, on second thought, the dish left me wishing I’d just broiled the lobster tails and served them up with drawn butter with a hint of lemon juice and a nice, green salad. Sometimes the classics really are better.

2. Don’t lose sight of why you’re cooking and for whom.

While I no longer cook from Betty Crocker, it was the basics that got me started.

Nearly 35 years ago, I gifted Dr. K with a Betty Crocker cookbook in response to his question, “What do other people cook for dinner?” That simple guide started my pursuit of all things culinary, beginning with two batches of charred and blackened picnic chicken because common sense was won over by a mistaken belief that it was necessary to follow directions as written.

Over the years, I’ve learned that recipes aren’t always correct and it’s more than fine to alter them to meet your family’s preferences. Particularly if there’s a burning smell coming from the oven.

3. Don’t attempt this at home.

Sous Vide Filet Mignon with Mushroom Cream Sauce

Flaming brandy is beautiful and dangerous. Do it off heat with a long-handled lighter and stand away from the stove until the flames die out.

When Dr. K — who is the King of all gadget whores — decided he “must have” a sous vide machine to play with, I looked the other way. I was hopeful his experimenting with low temp cooking for hours on end would either become tedious or he’d realize some things are best left to the professionals who spend their days in the kitchen. It isn’t that the food tasted bad. It just took forever to prepare. When you’re trying to get dinner on the table, simmering a filet mignon for hours in a water bath set at 133°F can get old.

I played along and developed a sauce which required flames. Face it. With dinner on tepid, I was in need of some kitchen heat.

Dinner was wonderful, the filet butter-tender. But he hasn’t played with his sous vide machine since last Valentine’s Day so the jury is out on the sous vide stick in our kitchen. I think the recipe rocks. Let me know if you try it.

4. Shrimp wontons aren’t happening — I recommend ordering takeout.

Practice makes perfect, but I’m convinced my shrimp wantons will always be funny looking.

The hottest food trends — if you do take it seriously — are supposedly all things ethnic. For me, that could encompass a broad spectrum, from my mother’s beef brisket to dal. The idea behind the trend is inclusivity and learning about other cultures’ cuisines. I’m all in and plan to showcase as much that isn’t white bread and mayo on Feeding the Famished in 2018 as possible. But that goes without saying. If you browse through my recipes, you’ll see there’s very little white bread. Probably zero. So, we’re on track to continue the theme.

Nevertheless, some things are — once again — better left to the experts. While these shrimp wontons with lettuce tasted great, they’re not particularly pretty. Yes, practice makes perfect, but perfection can be found in under 30 minutes. All I need to do is order take-out from my favorite Japanese restaurant.

5. When photos get artsy

Interesting angles don’t make haggis taste any better.

Our big trip in 2017 was a vacation in England and Scotland. Friends weighed in: to haggis or not, that was the looming question. We were intrepid haggis eaters, trying to find its best version. After tasting 4-star haggis elegantly plated and sauced, haggis egg rolls — also known as mush encased in fried wanton wrappers —, haggis and fish balls at a seafood spot, and haggis and eggs, we retired from the quest valiantly.

All that remains of the attempts to like haggis are these tilted photos, an artsy statement that they were destined for the trash can.

After reviewing the nearly 9,000 photos I took last year, I’ve decided the best advice is to cook what you like. Experiment and explore when you’re inspired. Take time out of your day to make meals happen. You can take the trends that make sense and turn them into healthy traditions to create the foods you and your family love to enjoy together.

The bottom line is, there is no one answer to what tastes great. It’s up to you to discover it.

Award-winning author Emily Kemme writes about human nature, illuminating the everyday in a way that highlights its brilliance. Follow her on her blog, Feeding the Famished,  https://www.facebook.com/EmilyKemme, or on Twitter @EmFeedsYou . Life inspired. Vodka tempered.

Interested in reading Emily’s new award-winning novel, Drinking the Knock Water: A New Age Pilgrimage? Find it on Amazon and in Indie bookstores.

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Award-winning Chick Lit author Emily Kemme writes about the quirks of human nature. Find musings, recipes, and satire on her blog, Feeding the Famished. Novels | Drinking the Knock Water: A New Age Pilgrimage | In Search of Sushi Tora | Other works in progress

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20 Comments

  • Reply Debbie Peyton January 11, 2018 at 9:06 pm

    I eat the same food regardless..

  • Reply Christine Jensen Richardson January 11, 2018 at 11:56 am

    I love to read cookbooks, but we eat “clean” and somewhat healthy.

    • Reply Emily Kemme January 11, 2018 at 12:14 pm

      For sure! The less processing, the better.

  • Reply Carolyn Mannon January 10, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    Joy, I found a cookbook at Mom’s home which was put together by the people at Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church in the 1960s. I was so excited that I was going to find some yummy recipes of Mexican foods. The majority of the congregation was primarily hispanic, yet I found only one mexican food recipe written by a non-hispanic. I was surprised! I guess at that time, Mexican food wasn’t in high demand. It would take a few years for Mexican food to get out of the hispanic kitchen and into books and restaurants. I was amazingly surprised!

    • Reply Emily Kemme January 10, 2018 at 1:24 pm

      Cookbooks are such a great window into what the world was like at the time they were printed!

    • Reply Lelia Maguire Oster January 10, 2018 at 1:25 pm

      I think: What goes around comes around.

  • Reply Betty Letts Stutz January 7, 2018 at 7:31 pm

    I have a Betty Crocker cookbook that was published 69 years ago. Fun to read it. Found it in a antique shop.

    • Reply Emily Kemme January 7, 2018 at 7:32 pm

      I enjoy reading vintage cookbooks, too. It’s a great way to get an idea of life in that era. But it also amazes me that the Betty Crocker cookbook is still relatively current.

    • Reply Sue Pike January 8, 2018 at 5:46 pm

      I still use the Betty Crocker cookbook that I bought used in 1971. Since I have a garden, I use the canning/freezing section a lot.

      • Reply Diane Nickless January 9, 2018 at 1:37 pm

        I use mine.

        • Reply Lelia Maguire Oster January 10, 2018 at 8:54 am

          I still use Better Homes & Gardens and my Good Housekeeping cookbooks from 1965 or so a lot. But bought a newer version of BH&G at the old Penney’s store downtown….not much is the same!

          • Emily Kemme January 10, 2018 at 8:55 am

            It would be fun to compare the two and see what’s changed over the years.

          • Lelia Maguire Oster January 10, 2018 at 1:29 pm

            There’s a lot of change between the 2 BH&G. Some of our favorites are gone and mine happen to be oil-smudged and such!!

  • Reply Esy Ray January 7, 2018 at 3:07 pm

    I ignore cooking fads but love checking out different Food Network Chefs for new recipes to add to my tried and true Betty Crocker recipe line-up that my family loves. One of my favorites is Ree Drummond aka The Pioneer Woman.

    • Reply Lelia Maguire Oster January 10, 2018 at 1:20 pm

      Mine too.

    • Reply Lelia Maguire Oster January 10, 2018 at 1:25 pm

      I wonder if it was the lady from Boston who made the first Toll House cookies.

  • Reply Lynne Hugo January 7, 2018 at 10:01 am

    I love this, Emily…now I have to go look up what haggis is (are?)!

    • Reply Emily Kemme January 7, 2018 at 1:21 pm

      Haggis is a Scottish specialty, a mixture of “sheep’s pluck,” aka; the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep mixed with oatmeal and assorted spices. You either love it or hate it, I guess.

  • Reply Frances Paris January 7, 2018 at 9:58 am

    Like the reference to Betty Crocker! Wonder what was the first cookbook for people that went professional?

    • Reply Emily Kemme January 7, 2018 at 9:59 am

      Great question! I might make that a research project.

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