I am always amused at this time reading about all the predicted food trends for the coming year by so called culinary experts and how the public will have to switch on to the newest foods, recipes, restaurants, cuisines and gadgets or they will be so left behind by the gastro Joneses. Food fashion used to be something that occurred naturally over time as society evolved, technology advanced and generational tastes were ready to try something new. You certainly did not receive a media diktat decreeing the running order of what you will eat and drink.
These days a December deadline must be met and long lists of concocted directives need to be submitted to editors and producers so that the foodie consumer is hit with an array of exiting new things to eat and buy. The first one listed that caught my eye was sustainability. I would have imagined that the food and restaurant sector was already one of the first on this topic years ago going right back to GM crops, food miles, packaging and seasonality, all subjects that are at the heart of production since the nineties so a bit of old news there.
Another one is customer loyalty; this one has been around forever. If a place does what it promises, giving you an experience of good decor, ambience, food, wine and service then it is not as if you will never set foot in the place again. If it fails on any or all of these fronts then I think there will be zero chance of any loyalty. It is the same across all products or services you spend your hand earned cash on.
Buckwheat is another one that will be trendy as if it never existed before and this already popular, versatile and ancient nutritious plant which is not a wheat or cereal but with its high starch gets treated like one and it conveniently has no gluten. When made into flour it can have a dark tint when the shell is left on or plain white flour when it is dehulled. It is used in the likes of bread, pasta, pancakes and porridge and even makes a honey as well being turned into beverages like whiskey, beer and tea. This year it will have its official time in the spotlight by those in the know.
Greater advances in technology will help us cut even more corners in cooking and robot kitchens which have been going for years in China and Japan will start appearing more in the West. A career in cheffing never looked so dubious if you were starting out and there are prospects that you might be made redundant by a mechanical cook just as you have trained up and are about to apply for your first real job. I wonder what the head robot chef will be programmed to say or do when the apprentice robot malfunctions and messes up an order. Some voiceover work for Gordon there perhaps.
Then there are the more specific ones like vegan tuna made from chick peas with soy and pea protein. There will be menopausal energy bars, organic protein bars, savoury cocktails, even more non alcoholic drinks and the cuisines to try are Peruvian and Caribbean if there is one near you. Big breakfasts and late snacks will be the times to eat.
The in ingredients are even more spices and tahini of all things with pavlova and pineapple upside down pudding making sweetie comebacks after years in the wilderness apparently. So there you have your instructions for 2024 hot off the various presses and foodie websites who desperately want to set the culinary agenda. I will probably ignore all of it as usual and just follow my own instinct, nose and palate through the year and see what works and doesn’t. It reminds me of when I often browse all the shiny new cookbooks and speed-read the dishes and recognize about ninety per cent of the recipes and techniques from my old 1980’s hotel school curriculum. Plus ca change.