As a writer who covers food and cooking, I’m always scouting other food websites, chatting with local farmers, interviewing chefs and producers, and generally scoping out the food scene. Like design (the other much-loved subject of my freelance writing career), food is constantly changing. Here’s what I’m most looking forward to in the coming months (and years):
foodie trends for 2013
farm to table
Maybe this prediction is premature, but I think that, increasingly, farm-to-table isn’t a thing anymore — it just is. Chefs are sourcing good ingredients (as are home cooks); they just aren’t squawking about ‘Blah Blah Farm heirloom vine-ripened just-picked baby tomatoes’ on their menus. Instead, they’re simply serving high-quality goods without fuss. And home cooks have embraced the explosion in the number of farmers’ markets in the U.S. (up from about 3,100 in 2002 to more than 7,800 in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture).
the evolving food economy
I think we’re midway along a continuum:
industrial > organic > local/regional > healthy/sustainable
In other words, we’re evolving from a food system that’s dominated by big brands and national scale, past the organic movement (which has its benefits, to be sure, but isn’t the final solution for our mass-produced-over-processed-long-haul-trucked food economy) to the locavore trend … to, I hope, a point where we’re talking about how healthy a food is and how sustainably it’s produced, and not just its source. Health-conscious, food-loving consumers are in Phase 3 of the continuum, and they’re starting to drag more mainstream eaters in that direction.
We’ve encountered heirloom varieties of vegetables in seed catalogs and restaurant menus for some time now. Next up: dried heirloom beans. California grower/producer Rancho Gordo really started this trend, and now I’m seeing it locally, as dried beans have just recently appeared in my neighborhood farmers’ market. These heirloom varieties can be challenging to grow (and they’re likely a pain in the neck to pick and process), but they’re deeply flavored and wonderful in all kinds of cooking.
old-fashioned cooking methods
Similar to the trend in heirloom vegetables, restaurant chefs and home cooks alike are returning to time-tested methods, including fermenting, canning and wood-fire cooking. A recent interview with chef Michael Paley of Cincinnati’s highly anticipated Metropole restaurant, confirmed this 2013 food trend for me. Paley cooks on a custom-built wood-burning hearth — not because it’s cute or trendy, but because he loves the challenge of creating top-quality dishes that truly leave an impression on diners. Likewise, I can’t see culinary trends like canning, preserving and fermenting tapering off any time soon.
Not only are we cooking in old-fashioned ways, we’re embracing old-fashioned recipes. My own Clara Project here is a personal example of this interest in vintage recipes; Paley’s resurrection of generations-old German sausage recipes for Metropole’s charcuterie program is another. Comments I’ve received on The Clara Project seem to indicate that fellow home cooks are returning to much-loved family recipes.
the new homemade trend: yogurt
Last year, I ran across so many posts and recipes about making simple homemade cheese like mozzarella and ricotta. The DIY dairy product trend for 2013? I’m betting on homemade yogurt. I’ve done it; it’s beyond easy and super delicious. Here’s my recipe for homemade yogurt.
For this new restaurant trend, we’ve gone past molecular gastronomy, with its foamy, freeze-dried laboratory experimentation, back to foods that taste like what they’re made of. When you’re sourcing great ingredients, the best preparation method is to cook simply and get out of the way. Of course, simple is harder than it looks, particularly in a restaurant. As chef Paley told me: “What keeps me up at night is that this stuff is way too simple. You don’t want fall on your face doing something super simple.”
I’ll take the challenge of keeping food simple, welcome the continuation of retro cooking methods and embrace a food movement that goes beyond local.
Here’s to a healthy and delicious 2013!