Wow! Even I needed to be reminded about where some of the biggest culinary ‘trends’ of the past 45 years fitted into the big picture. I was there for all of them. But a recent refresher from Food & Drink magazine dropped me deep into nostalgia territory…
Quiche: A European classic, and an on-again, off-again North American fave…
The Food & Drink story is about a year old this month. But that makes little difference when you’re talking the biggest food trends of the past 45 years!
I had a lot of fun revisiting these historical culinary gems. But I’m not going to list them all. (That’s why I’ve linked to the F&D story). What I want to do is share my personal picks of the best and worst!
My Top 10 fave ‘trends’
Another European classic, which débuted bigtime in North America in the mid 60s. Real, traditional fondue is a Swiss invention. They’e been enjoying this liesurely dining style there since the 1700s. Authentic fondue is a blend of melty blonde cheeses such as Gruyère or Emmental and dry white wine, with a little garlic, a dash of Kirsch (cherry brandy) and a little cornstarch to thicken to a creamy, velvety consistency.
Was it Julia Child and her love affair with Quiche? Or the 1975 edition of The Joy of Cooking? One way or the others, there was a major revival of the perennial ‘egg and cheese pie’ in the 70s. And, yes: By the end of the decade just about everyone agreed that real men do eat it.
A trend with real staying power! First rose to prominence in the late 80s – early 90s. Sun-Dried tomatoes are still, to this day, front and centre on every deli and supermarket olive/antipasti bar. There’s nothing like them to add rich, concentrated umami flavour to any dish. Chop them coarsely to sprinkle onto pizza or pasta. Whizz them in a blender to stir into soups and sauces. And don’t tel anybody that’s your ‘secret ingredient’!
One of the first breads we made in culinary school was the Italian classic, Focaccia. It’s a really authentic, hands-on experience! Depending on how you top it, you can make it the best buddy of almost any Mediterranean meal. Slice it sideways and use it for burgers and sandwiches!
Sliders (reprise) 2010
Sister Erin tells a tale of yore, when (decades ago) she and friends would drive from Vancouver to northern Washington State just to get a couple of bags of White Castle Sliders. But the little bitty burgers really took centre stage on bar food and fast-casual menus everywhere in the 2000s. They’re fun finger food that might come stuffed with anything you could imagine. Still a go-to, limited-time special offering at many Fast Food joints.
Not since Sushi came to North America in force had there been another Asian specialty with such immense acceptance. Until Ramen hit the menu in the mid-2000s. I first experienced Ramen when I was in university – in the early 70s. But it was still very much an oriental secret. Then came Cup Noodles, and everyone was eating it. Most recently, real, authentic Ramen restaurants have started to show up in major North American cities. It comes in a real bowl. It’s made fresh while you watch. And it’s a real meal in itself – like Vietnamese Pho.
‘Fancy’ Mac and Cheese
I’ve always loved Mac and Cheese. But since I started cooking for myself, in my university dorm, I’ve experimented with what I’ve always considered ‘fancy’ versions. Apparently, though I’ve been making it all along, ‘fancy mac and cheese’ experienced a revival around 2010 on both Fast Food and fine dining menus. In the past, I actually posted an overview, designed to get readers’ creative juices flowing, and re-imagine their mac and cheese! Change up the cheese. Add meats and veggies. And experiment with toppings!
Got one of these 3 or 4 years back, at Christmas. That coincided with the peak of Instant-Pot mania. I hadn’t really caught the fever for an Instant Pot, but Sister Erin had. So she bought herself one, thinly disguised as a gift for me. But I quickly started using it – and loving it. And our particular model doubles as an air fryer!
Ah, yes… One of the most useful gadgets of the new millennium! I have been on cholesterol control meds for about 3 decades. My family – on both sides – has a lengthy, woeful history of oldsters succumbing to heart attacks and strokes. But I – and millions of other folks in the same pickle – are vying to beat the odds. The air fryer really does produce authentic fried foods without all the oil and fat. And there’s no better way to heat or re-heat frozen or leftover fried treats. Simple as that.
One last fave trend.. Sourdough baking came back into style during the COVID lockdown, when everyone was stuck at home. Baking in general experienced an amazing renaissance. And sourdough breads invaded resto menus as the lockdown tapered off. They’re still there. Some fast food joints even offer sourdough burger buns and sandwich rolls…
My Top 10 least-fave ‘Trends’
Cheese Logs and Balls
A fun idea when they first appeared. But more a fad than a trend, as such. They quickly peaked in the 70s – at the peak of the nouveau cocktail party fad. Today’s younger crowd (anyone younger than Boomers) looks upon these once-popular party ‘features’ as boat-anchor curiosities.
From the early 90s: The fruit drink that dared to satirize itself! We all remember at least a couple of the brand’s crazy flavours. Anybody for a Ralph’s Cantaloupe Cocktail or a Kiwi Teawi? On the plus side, they were among the first ‘pop’ makers to switch to 100 percent recyclable plastic bottles, and drop high-fructose corn syrup in favour of traditional sugar.
All kinds of snacks – from potato chips to cookies – went ‘fat-free’ in the early-mid 90s. It was a time when the cholesterol scare was peaking, and many folks – even experts – still thought there was a direct link between dietary fats and blood lipids. Notably, Olestra – a much touted replacement for traditional fats – was dumped on the market as a magic bullet against high cholesterol. Trouble was, it cause stomach cramps and diarrhea in many folks. Olestra didn’t last long on processed food ingredient lists after the US FDA mandated warning labels for products that contained it.
Do Californians have to stick their fingers in everything? They’ve insisted, over the years, on ‘inventing’ their own versions of just about every food we hold dear. And who hasn’t heard them crowing about ‘California Pizza’? F&W sums it up best: “There was a time when people balked at the idea of putting anything other than pepperoni on pizza, but experimental toppings like barbecue chicken and peanut sauce began to take off in the ’80s. By the time the ’90s rolled around, California-style pizza (thin, wood-fired, loaded with gourmet extras) was a full on thing.”
I love them. But the ‘thing’ for them that ruled the early 2000s got old for me pretty quick. With everybody in the baking world trying every variation they could think of, my love went… Stale. But now that the trend (fad?) has subsided, I’m courting again…
Red Bull and Vodka
This is a downright dangerous duo! Red Bull contains many times the amount of caffeine that a cup of regular coffee does. And Vodka is (usually) 40 percent alcohol by volume. One might balance out the other, but they both put a tremendous strain on your system. The viral ‘cocktail’ was relatively short lived, as ‘legal pressures mounted surrounding the health and ethics of combining caffeine and alcohol’.
You gotta love how good kale is for you. (See photo, top of page.) When I was diagnosed with an iron deficiency, the doc said to switch from lettuce and spinach to Kale to fortify my iron ‘naturally’. I tried a lot of different kale recipes, and even went through a period where I used it on sandwiches and in salads the same way I had previously used lettuce. Nothing I tried could submerge or ameliorate that signature ‘kale’ flavour. So , I went back to spinach, which it turns out is almost as good, iron- and vitamin-wise. I’ve suggested this ‘fix’ to others who can’t stomach Kale. And I’ve come to realize that’s a lot of us!
I resisted the craze for Avocado Toast when it first arose. It was easy, as I was already boycotting avocados over the high prices and poor quality that we endure here in Canada, especially in winter. Prices have not moderated. I’m still resisting the urge to buy an avocado or two, now and then. But I’m a sucker for a bowl of fresh Guacamole and a pile of Corn Tortilla Chips…
They aren’t anything like real milk – whether it comes from a cow, a goat or a sheep. Or even a Yak. They’re plant-based substitutes trying desperately to masquerade as milk. And the ones I’ve tried never did match real milk for flavour or mouth feel. In fact, I’ve completely eliminated from my diet some foods I used to endure because they were ‘good for me’. My experiments with Oat Milk on Shredded Wheat and Wheaties were nothing short of disastrous. So traumatic was the experience that I no longer eat breakfast cereals – with the exception of Oatmeal – at all any more.
I have my likes and dislikes. You have yours. I’m more interested in how you, dear readers feel about my nominees for best and worst ‘trends’ of the past 45 years. Let me know. We’ll talk about it…
~ Maggie J.