The last several decades have seen food trends come and go. Some of those trends were true flashes in the pan, while a few have stuck around to become enduring favorites. Over on Instagram, writer and illustrator Mari Andrew offers this look at food trends through the decades defined by luxury.
Many of these food fads are based on traditional ingredients or materials (potatoes, mason jars, donuts), but all have been reimagined in some kind of twist meant to make the trend seem special by being luxurious and different (Mac and cheese - with gruyere! Cocktails, but in jars!).
Often these trends are attempting to capitalize on something that a particular region or cuisine uses as a staple ingredient. Several of the trends that Andrew highlights take "rustic" (also known as inexpensive) ingredients and spin them into fancy concoctions.
Trends in Regional Cooking
For example, polenta has always been a staple of Italian cooking. Like grits in the American South, corn is cheap and plentiful and can form the foundation of so many meals. But in the 80s, polenta started to show up on fancy restaurant menus and in cook books as a fashionable food.
Regional cooking is its own source of trends. Even within one regional cooking school, trends change over the years. French cooking was once based on complex recipes (a la Julia Child), then a new school of thought, nouvelle cuisine, began emphasizing fresh ingredients and simple preparations.
Mango salsa is another example of a twist on a well-known dish. What restaurant didn't have ahi tuna with mango salsa? But at that time, mangos weren't readily available in your local grocery store, so restaurants could serve it as an exotic flourish on a known recipe.
Another way trends have become popular is to take well-known comfort food and add more expensive ingredients, such as mac and cheese with gruyere. Pasta with melted cheese has been around for ages (fun fact: Thomas Jefferson popularized macaroni and cheese in America and actually had his own handwritten recipe for the dish).
While some trends focus on taking an ingredient and making it seem exotic and unique, other trends are built on making food more accessible. For example, burgers have never been hard to fix for dinner, but their popularity soared with the advent of fast food at places like McDonalds. Things like instant mashed potatoes made it easier to get dinner on the table.
In fact, trends become popular in part because they are things we like. Roast chicken is popular because it's good and easy to make. TV dinners (which have morphed into hunched over your desk frantically answering email lunches) were a hit because of the convenience. In rural Appalachia, the popularity of Jell-O marked the arrival of readily available electricity in individual homes.
Sometimes it's how far the trend goes that makes it a target. And laughing at some of these trends became a trend in and of itself. One of the best examples is the movie Sideways and its throwaway line from one of the characters about refusing to be around anyone who drank merlot. That one instance seemed to embody a movement against that one variety of wine.
However, food trends aren't a bad phenomenon. We should all eat more kale, whether it's in the trendy kale caesar salad or a snack food like baked kale chips, and if kale being offered everywhere encourages people to get their greens, that's overall a healthy thing. To celebrate some of these food trends through the decades, below are five favorite recipes from 1980 through 2018.
Use it on pasta, pizza, chicken, fish, or in any number of other dishes. Pesto is simple to make and freezes beautifully.
The Instagram post notes that mango salsa was served with ahi tuna in the 90s, and you'll still find it that way. However, my personal favorite way to serve mango salsa is on fish tacos (another excellent food trend).
With all due respect, I'd argue that there's no such thing as an unnecessary cupcake flavor. Cupcakes are the perfect dessert--individual, easy to eat, customizable--and I back anyone who wants to create a cupcake with interesting ingredients.
Mason jars are another genuinely used item that has been turned into a fancy trend, and the trendiest of the trendy are cocktails served in mason jars. But sometimes these handy vessels are really the best thing for a drink, like in this concoction.
No, really -- turmeric is a wondrous spice. Prized for its taste and healing qualities throughout South Asia and India for centuries, turmeric is beginning to catch on for healthy eating here in America. With anti inflammatory and antioxidant properties, one of the tastiest ways to get a daily dose of this amazing spice is in a tea.
Which of these trends do you secretly love?