The 5 Most Moronic Food Trends Of 2016 (So Far)
Were you aware that food-trend prognostication is a job? It is! There are whole businesses that consult with the food and restaurant industry on what's going to be "in" over the next year. Though one always has to wonder whether something turned out to be the biggest seller of the year because the prognosticators were ahead of the trend or because they created the trend by telling people it was going to be popular. It's a bit of a "chicken or the shitty-tasting egg." But never mind that!
This year there are a handful of predicted trends that I want you all to get behind. Once you're behind them, position them near a cliff and push them off, because this shit sucks and you're not going to want any part of it.
Savory Things That Aren't Supposed To Be Savory
This isn't a new trend, especially if you watch Food Network, which is a black, heartless pit of pretentious pomposity and Bobby Flay. For some reason shows like Chopped insist on featuring savory ingredients in desserts and vice-versa all the time. It's weird and confusing and makes you wonder if there's more to food than you realize until you try a lavender chocolate one day and realize it tastes like someone poisoned you with air freshener. No, exotic flavor mixes are not necessary in the grand scheme of eating. Would you like a quince and jicama smoothie infused with turkey bacon and flax? None of those words makes sense, not to a mind that relishes sanity.
The futurists of food agree, however, that this could be big in 2016. And it shouldn't be, because it includes things like savory, vegetable-flavored yogurts and ice creams. These things have been slow to catch on over the last few years, but that doesn't mean large-scale manufacturers aren't willing to waste millions putting this shit out to market so we have to suffer through its existence for a few months until the brand goes belly-up and people realize savory unsavories are dumb as fuck.
Right now at places like OddFellows Ice Cream Co. in Brooklyn and the Bay Area's Humphry Slocombe, you can get flavors like tobacco, smoked chili and huckleberry (that's all one flavor), edamame, prosciutto melon, scallion, and delicious foie gras. In fairness, I have never sampled the ice cream at OddFellows, and maybe all of that shit is delicious. Maybe. Maybe somehow the food engineers at OddFellows are so advanced they made a foie gras ice cream that, upon sampling, would prompt me to say, "Ooh, what a delight!" instead of spitting it like snake venom across the room and cursing, "Fuck this vile organ-meat-flavored shartsicle!" It could happen. It's possible that someone made ground-organ-meat-flavored ice cream I'd enjoy. The world is full of wonders and shit. Let's all take a moment to jizz on a rainbow.
On the other hand, maybe the reason we have a distinction between sweet and savory, in general, is because some flavors really belong in the sweet category and others in the savory category, and they have no business crossing over ever. Just because I could make a pizza covered in artisanal sausage, thumbtacks, and old photos of Ricardo Montalban's chest from Star Trek doesn't make the damn thing edible. It makes it sexy and badass. But not edible.
Seaweed was invented approximately forever ago when Odin and Quetzalcoatl agreed the world needed oceans in which we could all pee. Since then it has grown on the ocean floor and given every swimmer who accidentally brushed against it a serious case of the heebie-jeebies. And then one day some dude was all, "Lemme taste this shit," and he did, and it caught on with about 400 other people. On average.
Fast-forward to today and those 400 people still enjoy dry, salty sheets of micro-thin seaweed wrapped around their sushi such that they can't even taste it and one guy likes it as a salad with sesame seeds on it, but only when you ask him. In private, he hates it as much as you assume he would.
"I love seaweed (when it's with fish, rice, vegetables, soy sauce, wasabi, and ginger)!"
Seaweed is supposed to be "the new kale." That's what more than one website I read says. The new kale. It's not. It's the old seaweed. And kale is the old kale. We don't get a lot of new vegetation on Earth anymore. But of course they mean it will be super popular like kale was the last few years, and by that they mean stores and restaurants will feature it and you'll make a face and order salads made with lettuce like a non-crazy person. And one day they'll sneak seaweed into your salad and you'll spit it out and threaten the life of the presumptuous chef who dared to slip it into you like a culinary dong in your most precious orifice.
You know how you can tell this is a food trend you need not care about? Every source mentions how it's a great source of iodine, as if anyone in the history of time has ever given half a flying shit about their iodine levels. Do you have any idea how much iodine you need? Or why? Or where you get it from, if not seaweed? I had no idea iodine was necessary for any part of my day-to-day life, but I assume I'm getting it from somewhere since I'm not dead. Is it iodized salt? That shit has my back, seaweed. You take the weekend off.
If one of the biggest selling points for a food is the levels of a nutrient that most people don't even know they need, you're selling bullshit.
I feel like this is a bit of smoke-and-mirrors here, some kind of bullshittery meant to obfuscate the fact that pickles are delicious and have been so for the 4,000 years pickles have existed. Pickles are older than Jesus, and someone has the balls to call pickling a food trend to watch in 2016. That's dumb. Like a new kind of ultra-dumb just discovered in the remote reaches of a South American forest where previously indigenous peoples had told stories of mythical dumb that science just assumed was allegorical or something, because obviously nothing that dumb could ever exist in real life, only now we know it does, and we have no idea how to handle it, because fuck.
The foodie version of Columbus "discovering" a continent filled with millions of people.
Naturally we're not just looking at pickled cucumbers this year; this is the year of pickled nonsense. Like french fries. Brine pickled french fries. That's not a shitshow, that's a real thing served at a real restaurant. Now hopefully this means they brine the potatoes, then fry them. But part of me wants to believe they just dump a bag of McCain extra crispy fries into the deep-fryer and then, once they're all golden, take them out and dump 'em in a bucket of pickle brine so you can enjoy the soggiest, pickliest potato of your life. For what it's worth, the same restaurant that features pickled fries also has "fish head under a brick" on the menu, which some of you may recognize as "wharf trash."
Other pickle impresarios are working on wonders like pickled pumpkin, pickled okra, and pickled eggs, which are usually available in real-life versions of Moe's Tavern and are often as terrifying as they sound. Go try one.
I'm not sure what makes one an artisan of sausage. I tend to equate the word with some kind of professional like Da Vinci or Michelangelo, but I can't imagine either of them hard at work on a chubby link of ground pork in an intestinal casing.
Despite the questionable qualifications of these pork slingers calling themselves artisans, as near as I can figure, an artisanal sausage is literally just a sausage you made yourself or is like 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon from a guy who made it in his own kitchen. An easier way to say that would be "not factory-made." Generally speaking, they're also chock a block with bullshit. Like a regular sausage might be "honey garlic," but an artisanal sausage might be feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and Ryan Seacrest's shin shavings.
"His tanning bronzer gives off a fantastic smokiness when grilled."
Now, I love sausage as much as the next guy. You invite me to a sausage party and I'm there with bells on. I can take a lot of sausage, is what I'm saying. But I'm also a sausage realist. Even if you made sausage out of guinea hen, scallions, and the fanciest of Bavarian mustards, it's still a salty, greasy pseudo-dong. This isn't the food trend of 2016; it's the shameful fatty secret you're going to be munching in between chest pains on a Sunday afternoon watching football.
The people who eat artisanal anything don't want a chubby meat wang. At best they want little niblets served on the fancy equivalent of Triscuits and garnished with a sprig of fresh mint. That's what sustains the artisanal crowd.
Incidentally, if artisanal anything needs to be crafted by an artisan of some kind, how many food items qualify as artisanal these days, anyway? Sandwiches? Pigs in a blanket? Sketti?
Some wahoo in a tweed jacket with an untamed beard has been claiming for years that bugs are the next big trend in food. Crickets have been touted as the greatest source of protein in the world. Of course, it's also been said that the study on crickets as a protein source is flawed and that the quality of the protein is vastly dependent upon the quality of the feed the crickets are given and, in fact, chickens can be a better source. A lot of it depends on circumstances. And your willingness to eat bugs.
And thus we break down the essential problem with bugs as a food source for the world -- most people don't want them. And why bother even trying to introduce them in North America in the first place? It's no small task to enact a cultural shift from "eew, gross" to "better than Olive Garden, I guess." We live in a country where cows flow like water and chickens hang from treetops. We don't need cricket burgers. We don't need Padma Lakshmi delicately chewing a deep-fried cricket and unconvincingly telling us it tastes vaguely nutty. No shit it tastes vaguely like nuts; you may as well be eating balls.
I'll have a porterhouse, if you please.
Now, this isn't to say cricket protein couldn't be a big deal on a global scale, but I feel like there's a notable difference between "food trend" and "method of staving off death by malnutrition." Food trends are new ways to stuff dumplings or fantastic new berries we can juice to make exotic, hipster sodas. So a cricket food trend would be something like cricket burritos or cricket and chervil ice cream, both of which can suck my mud flaps.
You can make all the artisanal sausage out of crickets that you want, or protein bars, energy drinks, Krusty burgers, and whatever else -- it doesn't matter when I can just as easily go buy a ham. Good, sweet, nourishing ham, just waiting for me around any corner. Fuck you, bugs; I have a date with a salty angel.
Which Sci-Fi Trope Would You Bring To The Real World, And Why? Every summer, we're treated to the same buffet of three or four science fiction movies with the same basic conceits. There's man vs. aliens, man vs. robots, man vs. army of clones, and man vs. complicated time travel rules. With virtual reality and self-driving cars fast approaching, it's time to consider what type of sci-fi movie we want to be living in for the rest of our lives. Co-hosts Jack O'Brien and Adam Tod Brown are joined by Cracked's Tom Reimann and Josh Sargent and comedians David Huntsberger, Adam Newman, and Caitlin Gill to figure out which sci-fi trope would be the best to make a reality. Get your tickets to this live podcast here!
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