Discovering Food Trends

How do you spot the latest food trends? And will this spice before the next big thing?
How do you spot the latest food trends? And will this spice picture here  be the next big thing?

 

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

and

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:

  1. 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.
  2.  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:

1. Lemon brownies (Sept 5-11 2015)
2. Squash with chorizo (August 28 – Sept 4 2015)
3. Zoodles ((August 21 -27 2015)
4. Fresh Fig and Goat cheese tarts (August 14-20 2015)
5. Cinnamon Roll Waffles (Aug 7-13, 2015)
6. Three-Ingredient Peanut butter cookies (July 31 – August 6 2015)

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!

My Discovery

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.

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Another One Bites The Dust

Garlic adds a sharp flavor to almost any dish, but what if you find out you can't eat them?
Garlic adds a sharp flavor to almost any dish, but what if you find out you can’t eat them?

“So, what can you eat?”

After I’ve covered my lengthy list of things I cannot eat due to food allergies, sensitivities, intolerances, and Celiac Disease with the person who is eating with me for the first time, I get asked this question. A lot. It’s valid, and I wish the answer would stay static, but it doesn’t. I can only say, “For today, this is what I know.”

Last weekend at the start of the International Food Bloggers Conference (check out the agenda, as I’ll be sharing more about my experience there as a Citizen Journalist), I sampled some food that had been freshly prepared in front of me on a clean, uncontaminated surface.

I sampled. I consumed. And I nearly fainted, vomited, and gasped about ten minutes later. How could this be? I was so careful! There wasn’t a crumb of gluten around. My brain began to spew reasons to explain why I had just heaved my guts out in an office garbage pail. Nothing made sense.

After narrowing down the ingredients, it was determined that I may have developed a reaction to alliums. Alliums include garlic, onion, leek, shallots, scallion, and their related wild versions. As far as I know, I have not been allergic to them previous to this incident, but I had noticed about two months ago that sometimes when I eat garlic in a pasta sauce, I would feel a bit queasy; I could eat plain tomatoes on a green salad without incident. Something shifted.

Presently, I’ve eliminated alliums as a precaution. For the next three months, I have to avoid them completely, and then follow up the period of elimination of alliums with a food allergy panel, of which the link provides one sample of the types that are available.

As it dawned on me that it was time to go through another cycle of elimination and testing, I drifted into mental shock. Not again! And then, oh well, I’ve done this before, and I can do it again.

And then it hit me.

No more fresh Sriracha sauce! F@ck! Sh!tty sh!t sh!t! And no garlic mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner. No salsa! No garlic fries! No this, no that, f@ckity f@ck.

Once I stopped spitting out all my “no’s”, I let it be. Another one bites the dust. And you know what? I always, always, ALWAYS, come up with something tasty, something better, something healthy, and something I would eat again, not just as the “substitute” food for the thing I can’t have, but something I would share with someone else. Can you say, Cauliflower mashers with lavender salt? Yes, you can!

Every moment of desperation I have faced regarding my food allergy and Celiac Disease journey has nudged me onto the path of creativity and vitality. 

This moment of realization is no different from the three hundred others that came before it.

How do you handle these surprising food issues, especially when you think you FINALLY got a handle on things? I personally, document, call my doctor, eliminate, test, and return to basics. Then I get busy in the kitchen and create my super duper Imei version of the foods that fuel me, heal me, and taste good enough to repeat. Wait until you find out what I’m doing with race gummies!

And yeah, I weep in a corner for a moment, until I remember, as I always do, there is always BACON.

[Update: in January 2016 my allium allergy response was positively confirmed by ELISA test, along with hazelnuts, soy, chickpeas and other legumes, and an intolerance to sesame and sunflower seeds. This goes to show, we just can’t even make this sh!t up. Listen to your body, respond appropriately, and your body will thank you. That is all.]

Hungry?

Are you hungry?

I figure you came here because you heard about MyAllergyAdvocate. I’m getting ready to launch, so in the meantime, I completely empathize with you because one or more of these things are true for you:

  1. You are hungry, and you need something safe to eat that doesn’t taste like cardboard.
  2. You or a loved one have been recently diagnosed with a food allergy, intolerance, or an autoimmune disease, and you need to find foods you can eat.
  3. You have struggled with a food issues for years, and you’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.

Before MyAllergyAdvocate.com can launch, I decided to start up the WordPress.com blog, so you didn’t have to wait any longer. These posts are honest, less research-oriented, narrative, and spiced with my unconventional thoughts. Unlike the future MyAllergyAdvocate.com website, the posts you’ll see here are a bit more cheeky and use NSFW humor. While I’m not meaning to offend (omg, that woman has a sailor’s mouth!), I hope you see that I tell it like it is.

Please set up your notifications to receive my fresh posts to your inbox. And happy eating!

Certified Gluten Free granola with goat yoghurt, dried fruit, fresh strawberries, and a dollop of jam.
Certified Gluten Free granola with goat yoghurt, dried fruit, fresh strawberries, and a dollop of jam.