Not so long ago, before the web played such a big role and the explosion of food-related TV shows happened, the genesis of food trends were fairly straightforward.
People turned to cookbooks and acquired recipes from friends, and restaurant reviews were written by “expert” reviewers in the media.
Of course, the food world is not quite like the fashion world or the music world. There are no runways to strut down, no award shows, or any “Top 10” charts for hit foods. So, how did these trends come about, who defined them?
In the early to mid 60s, Julia Child’s first cooking show “The French Chef“ introduced Americans to the intricacies of French cuisine, and the iconic dish, “beef bourguignon”, promptly took off as a result. Similarly, “The Galloping Gourmet”, hosted by Graham Kerr (a charming, engaging host who brought a flair of flamboyance to his recipes), was known to bring seafood risotto into approval. The introduction of television sets to the living room, in turn meant that ways to learn about new recipes didn’t just come from your mother and grandmother anymore.
While some food trends stayed strong into the 1970s, like fondue, Jell-O (and really anything from a mould) also became popular, and new recipe contenders stepped into the ring as a result. There was also more of an emphasis on fresh vegetables and fruit in supermarkets during the 70s.
Beyond incredible dance music and neon outfits, the 80s offered up some new and sometimes surprising developments, including the rise of nouvelle cuisine, and the beginning of the reign of Lean Cuisine meals. But of course, no matter what you were eating you had to wash it all down with a wine cooler. Sushi became trendy in the 80s, while pasta salad, and blackened Cajun seafood became in vogue among the horde. Chef, Paul Prudhomme, of K-Paul’s Restaurant in New Orleans, can be given a lot of the credit for popularising Cajun-style cooking in America. The dish that became his signature, was “Blackened Redfish”, for which he created a new, simple but brilliant technique for cooking fish. This method involves; cooking fish dipped in clarified butter and sprinkling it with Creole seasoning in an iron skillet over incredibly high heat, thus creating a blackened crust and preserving the natural juiciness of the fish.
Speaking of fish, what’s the difference between a fad and a trend anyway? An online source explains that, “A fad is a flash in the pan. It is here today and gone tomorrow. For example, in the 1980’s the increased concern about heart disease and blood cholesterol levels lead a company to introduce oat bran as a product to reduce blood cholesterol levels. Although heart disease is still a concern, we do not hear much about oat bran. A trend is what is about to hit. It is big, bold and just beginning to impact consumers buying habits. Trends indicate real and widespread change. A true trend is enjoyed by a few today, practiced by many tomorrow, and practically all next week.”