1. The Rise of Local and Regional Foods
Horrifying gas prices and increased press attention for such topics as local farmer’s markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) the slow food movement, as well as the revival of community dinner clubs in 2008 all helped bring the concept of eating local home.
Additionally, renewed interest in local restaurants (and home cooking) is likely to increase in response to the economic downturn, even as ssuch generic restaurant chains as Bennigans and Steak and Ale ended up declaring bankruptcy earlier this year.
Another recent restaurant chain to face bankruptcy this year was R.J. Gator’s (with locations in Florida, Texas, and North Carolina), while the Cheesecake Factory experienced disappointing earnings. In addition, such food chains as Ryan’s Family Steak House, Krispy Kreme, Boston Market, and Waffle House had to shutter some locations.
2. Fear of Food
2008 was also the year where the bogeyman was found in the kitchen cupboard, instead of under the bed, due to dozens of widespread food scares and recalls.
Tainted foods distributed by a wide variety of companies rightfully came under scrutiny, as such foods as tomatoes, pork, lettuce, hot dogs, ground beef, etc. all became part of massive recalls and product alerts for reasons that ranged from melamine contamination to listeria.
2008 was clearly the year of the superfruit. One could hardly go anywhere without coming across breaking news about the myriad health benefits of pomegranates, acai, and goji (also known as the wolfberry).
The good news: most of these superfruits are easy to love once one tries them, are fun to cook, and are considered to be high in phytonutrients.
4. Food Blogs
Are you passionate about food and cooking and love to write? Then you might want to join the thousands of food bloggers (both professional and amateur) who find the time to share recipes, cooking tips, food photos, and local restaurant reviews several times a week on their food blogs.
As books from some of the best food bloggers continue to end up in bookstores and grow in popularity, watch for independent food blogging to become more and more accepted by the mainstream press.
Books written by food bloggers so far include:
- Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julia Powell (soon to be a movie starring Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, and Stanley Tucci)
- Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found the Food That Loves Me Back…And How You Can Too by Shauna James Ahern
- Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris by Clotilde Dusoulier
- Chocolate and Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen (also by Clotilde Dusoulier)
- The World Is a Kitchen: Cooking Your Way Through Culture edited by Michele Anna Jordan and Susan Brady
- Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip–Confessions of a Cynical Waiter by Steve Dublanica
5. Molecular Gastronomy
Both controversial and thought provoking, Molecular Gastronomy’s (sometimes bizarre) marriage of food and science has both intrigued and confused gourmets for years.
However since such Molecular Gastronomy proponents as chef Grant Achatz of Alinea’s 2008 James Beard Award win and El Bulli chef Ferran Adria’s frequent mentions in the press, Molecular Gastronomy has truly hit the mainstream this year.
6. Cooking for Kids
From the Food Network, to childrens’ cooking camps and kid friendly cooking classes, both boys and girls are finding it easier than ever to develop a passion for good food and the culinary arts at an early age.
7. Organic Food Goes Truly Mainstream
Sure, if you’re a regular shopper at your local health food store or farmer’s market, organic food is nothing new to you.
However, even those who do most of their food shopping at conventional supermarkets outside of major metro areas couldn’t help noticing increased choices for organic food were popping up this year; from organic baby food to organic wines and beers.
Unfortunately, due to the economy, this trend may lessen somewhat in 2009.
“The sales volume of organic products, which had been growing at 20 percent a year in recent years, slowed to a much lower growth rate in the last few months, according to the Nielsen Company, a market research firm. For the four-week period that ended Oct. 4, the volume of organic products sold rose just 4 percent compared with the same period a year earlier…”
“Organics continue to grow and outpace many categories,” the Nielsen Company concluded in an October report. “However, recent weeks are showing slower growths, possibly a start of an organics growth plateau.”
8. Farm to Table
As organic food hit the mainstream, the farm to table movement also took hold as more people became interested in both where and how their foods ended up on their tables. A corresponding interest in quality over quantity led to a boom in artisanal cheeses and heirloom meats.
James Beard Award nominated chef, Sean Brock of McCrady’s in Charleston, South Carolina started a farm on Wadmalaw Island to grow fruits and vegetables for the restaurant’s season based menu. A proponent of the farm to table movement, Brock regularly gives lectures encouraging the next crop of chefs to do the same.
9. Probiotic Foods
As the baby boomers get older, there has been a renewed interest in the use of probiotics (friendly bacteria) to help maintain their digestive health, a practice already popular among those in Asia and Europe.
Such food manufacturers as Dannon, TCBY, Attune Foods, Stonyfield Farm, and Lifeway Foods have started to take notice, offering everything from probiotic yogurt, snack bars, cereal, shakes, and (oddly enough) even energy drinks.
According to a 2008 report by Global Industry Analysts, Inc., San Jose, CA, the global probiotics market is expected to reach $20 billion by 2010.
10. Bacon Everything (and We Mean Everything)
Here’s a disturbing trend that must keep cardiologists up at night; bacon on everything and in everything.
2008 saw such foods as bacon brownies, bacon vodka, bacon and egg ice cream (from triple-Michelin-starred restaurant, Fat Duck) and perhaps most alarming of all, a product called Uncle Oinker’s Bacon Mints.
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