It's that time of year. In January, all writers and journalists become soothsayers, trying to predict what's going to show up on your plate in the coming year. Sigh.
Recently, New York Times writer Julia Moskin asks the important question: After pigs' ears, then what? and goes on to list what she sees as the up and coming foods of 2013: long-aged meat–practically to the point of putrefaction; smoked everything–including cream; sunflowers; artisanal soft-serve; chicharrones; raw winter vegetables–we used to call this crudites; barrel-aged hot sauce; pig tails; fermentation; and salumi.
I ask the counter-question: Are you kidding?
Food writers and editors in search of quick hits turn to easy tricks like lists because they're easy to read, easy to swallow (you don't have to think too hard) and generate lots of comments. I know. I do this for a living. But before we all start hanging our poultry by the necks until they fall off, think a sec. Is this a trend? or a fad? or an attention-getting aberration?
A fad is a practice or interest that is followed for a time with exaggerated enthusiasm.
A trend is to veer in a new direction.
An attention-getting aberration is foie gras ice cream.
Fermenting food indiscriminately is a fad. (See Portlandia: We can pickle that.) Exploring new ways of preparing food is a trend, one which American chefs have been following for the last 25 years, ever since they shook off European kitchen rules and started making their own.
Part of that trend has been a rediscovery of ancient ways of preparing and keeping food–smoking, curing and aging meats, fermenting vegetables–and eating foods–like sunchokes, pigs' tails kim chee–that used to be beyond the bounds of the middle class American meat and potatoes diet.
I accept all of Moskin's list as fads that we'll see come, and go, in the next year. And a few of the "trends" listed will leave behind some fabulous new foods that will become a permanent part of American culinary culture. Like pizza. And pasta. And goat cheese. And sushi. And pho–all listed as top new trends during my food-writing lifetime, along with blackening, Caribbean food, and foam, RIP.
What I see from the top 10 trends list is one trend: Americans are getting less xenophobic, less classist and more patient at the table: pulling flavors from immigrant cultures, realizing that ingredients don't have to be expensive to be excellent and understanding that time is one of the most valuable tools in the kitchen.