[Note: This post is a bit of a rant in reaction to the Food Channel list of trends for 2009.]
The Food Channel announced its predictions for foodie trends in 2009. (See The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch for the whole story, based on a press release from the Food Channel.)
1. Home on the Range — Downsized economy breeds new generation of home chefs, more food-savvy than their predecessors.
2. Foodie 2.0 — Growth of virtual and non-virtual food communities.
3. Going, Going Green — Kitchens go eco-conscious.
4. Living La Vida Locavore — Eating locally and seasonally, both at home and in restaurants.
5. TMI? — Is seeing the calorie count on the menu Too Much Information (TMI), or will it lead to healthier choices?
6. FrankenFood — The rise of bioengineering and genetically modified food; the next evolution of last year’s Functional Food trend.
7. Food Philanthropy — Individuals and companies address world hunger.
8. Food Insecurity — The call for tighter food controls, after the tomato and jalapeno scares of 2008.
9. Brewing Business — Striking a balance when cost is an issue; the divide widens between the exotic and day-to-day food needs.
10. Where in the World … — is the next flavor trend coming from? It’s all about globalization and variety.
I hate to say it, but I’m yawning wide. And grimacing at the same time.
BORING. That’s all I can say.
And disturbing, too.
While I know we face an unprecedented time in food and culinary history because of globalization and other issues, we need to remember some important truths. And keep issues in the right perspective.
The locavore trend bothers me the most.
For starters, we should be glad we even have food to eat. So many in the world, and even in this country, can’t say that about THEIR food, for they haven’t got anything to eat. These are the food insecure, those for whom food security is more than clean tomatoes and jalapenos.
In the rush to embrace locavore culture, sometimes I think I’m seeing the ghosts of John Harvey Kellogg and Sylvester Graham lurking in my peripheral vision these days … Let’s not forget about our ancestors, locavores all for the most part. Don’t forget that people were not all that healthy in the olden days, and poor nutrition played a big part in that state of affairs. Remember, too, the often quick acceptance of foods and goods traded from the Silk Road and elsewhere, indicating that people have always craved more than just what a locality could provide. A plus for local lies in the fabulous foods that we often term “exotic” these days. Like cheeses and sausages and breads.
Sure we need to be watchdogs and vigilant when it comes to anything we put in our mouths. We do need to help those less fortunate, regardless of culture or country, to be certain there’s enough food on their tables or plates. Food security really means whether or not people have enough to eat, enough nutrients and calories to maintain life.
And yet, I see a disturbing trend within these trends.
I know people now who won’t even eat food at someone’s house if the food isn’t 100% organic. What a burden to put on a host whose wallet might not stretch far enough open for the expense of organic food. Or maybe who cannot find good organic food locally.
But let’s not ape the Victorians or the Renaissance Italians, who went to great culinary lengths following food fads and wild beliefs.*
I recall once reading that for many of us enjoying bountiful food that there may come a day when we will be unable to eat, due to a lack of food or — more likely — an illness at the end of our days. We might well be left with only memories of food. Perhaps a few regrets, too, if we refused food for vanity’s sake or because of food fads endorsed by “experts.” (Just think of all the eggs we passed up because the “experts” said they were bad for us … .)
So where in this sterile Food Channel list is the pleasure we should feel when it comes to food? Nowhere. Epicurious’s list is a bit better in this regard, but not as socially conscious.
Enjoy food. Savor it. Relish it.
And be grateful to those who grow it, sell it, and cook it.
(*On food manias in the Renaissance, see Ken Albala’s book, Eating Right in the Renaissance.)
© 2008 C. Bertelsen