When the 2015 International Food Blogger’s Conference offered a “Citizen Journalist” discount for participants willing to write three posts about the IFBC, I jumped at the opportunity. While I wouldn’t have defined myself as a food blogger, the past two years of dealing with Celiac Disease, plus all the years previous with revolving food allergies and intolerances have made me more interested in talking about food in general, food safety in specific, and culinary delights to obsession.
I am a hungry, sometimes ‘hangry’, but ever Sensible Celiac. And I like food!
And so, I found myself at a food blogging conference for the first time. What surprised me most was that while I was looking for the latest in food trends, what I found was so much more. But I’ll leave my discovery for the end of this post. For now, I’ll share with you a little bit of what I saw about food trends from two speakers, Katie Ayoub (Managing Editor of Flavor and Menu), and Judith Dern (AllRecipes.com).
Ayoub spoke to identifying the pathway of food trends, such as:
Chipotle —> Jalapeno —> Sriracha
Tacos —> Sandwiches —> Savory Waffles (with bacon!)
Now, if you thought what I did when I saw these two examples, you too would be thinking, “Well, I already knew that, so how is that a food trend?” It’s such a great question, even for a newbie like myself. According to Ayoub, when we see a food trend, we’re really describing what used to be one part of a twelve-year cycle of a food idea moving from “conception to ubiquity”. Part of the reason you know it’s a food trend is because the cycle has been shared multiple times before it becomes mainstream and even “old.” Only, now that cycle has been diminished to something closer to a five or six -year cycle, since Social Media proliferates these concepts much more quickly. Blink, and you miss something, right?
Two current trends Ayoub mentioned in this breakout session are worth disseminating:
- Butter. Fat is no longer a dirty word, thanks to the FDA changing its recommendations on the kinds and amounts of fat that are considered healthy. It makes sense that part of the response from food creators is to put full-fat butter and flavored butters on just about everything.
- Harissa. Harissa is a hot chili paste made from several types of chilies, garlic, seeds like coriander or caraway, and oil. I would often find Harissa served in Middle Eastern restaurants that specialize in spicy dishes from the MIddle East. Seattle even has a restaurant named after this pungent, mouth-watering paste.
[Note to self: I still can’t have milk dairy, Now I can’t have alliums. Damn it. Move along, these are not the food items you are looking for…]
In the second half of the seminar, Dern talked about how Allrecipes.com uses its massive database of recipes to track the most popular trends in food. How can you argue with the data, right? Dern listed these popular trends from their database:
The big question, of course, is whether or not tracking the past trends can help you identify the future ones — the ones no one has heard of…yet!
So what happens if you think you know what the next new food trend is? Is it DIY Indian cuisine at home, like making your own roti? Or is it vegetarian sushi as appetizers, served with tamarind sauce (gluten free and soy free)?
The takeaway: if you think you have a good idea for a new food concept, you can and do have the potential to influence the food community and see your idea get shared at the speed of the Internets. You can use a search engine to see how many Indian roti recipes are shared, adapted, and reinvented, and how many of them grace the insides of popular food publications. And you can take a stab at calling it before most everyone else receives their first waft.
I felt that as a newcomer, it’s a great idea to sit back and study how food trends are conceived and shared, and learn from the process. The world isn’t going to get bored of food any time soon!
At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that I made a special discovery. Because I have Celiac Disease, I usually pack my own snacks, and during this seminar on food trends, I felt a bit peckish. Seated at a large but mostly empty table, I pulled out my bento box and attempted to discreetly slip food from the container to my mouth. Within a few moments after the seminar ended, several ladies had moved over to my table and asked if they could look at and photograph my bento box. It turned out that the bento box became a topic of interest among a group of ladies who create bento box meals for children.
As I soon learned, bento boxes for children and adults are a hot trend. Parents are interested in getting their children to finish their lunches, only to find out that school lunches are not always the healthiest or tastiest choices available. Bento boxes packed at home are also a great option for food allergic people like myself, who need a safe way to carry large amounts of food to the office and keep the foods free of cross contamination when stored in a shared refrigerator with other co-workers.
I wonder how long it would have taken me to learn these facts if I hadn’t attended this workshop on food trends. I’m not sure I would have thought to try tracking it as a trend in itself on Google, even though I’m wont to track other kinds of subjects, such as cats with hats, and best pet costumes.
In the midst of tracking down the latest food trends, I discovered something else.
I had found my tribe. That discovery itself was worth it’s weight in gold and harissa.
P.S. My tribe thinks I’m smart.