Thursday, January 6, 2011

Food Vogue

I've said it plenty of times that food can be a medium to express art. This depends on both the artisan making it, and the person eating it to be discriminating enough to expect expression as well as nourishment. If you want to get really nerdy and pedantic about it, think of another form of art that stimulates all five senses. See your food, smell your food, taste your food, feel it's texture, and maybe even hear it crunch or sizzle. I'm not making some bid to make food more or less than it is, but even if we're not talking about haute cuisine, we can still have a dialogue about changing food trends.

Even for relatively young folks like myself, I can remember a time when eating a bit of strange involved three flavors: Italian (generic red sauce over a mound of spaghetti and...meatballs, remember them?) Chinese (chop suey and fortune cookies are as American as apple pie, guys), and Mexican (Hamburger meat and plastic cheese on a pre-formed Dorito). In relatively short term, we've evolved.

My God, have we evolved. Now we've got sushi available at almost any grocery store and college dining halls, my workplace cafeteria serves gyros, and my alma mater's strip of bars and restaurants adjacent to campus has the bizarre distinction of having a Thai restaurant across the street from - wait for it - another Thai restaurant. When was the first time you tried hommous? Now, it's arguably a bigger mover at grocery stores than the ubiquitous french onion dip. I tend to follow these things a bit and nerd out, so I'm hip to little trends like people putting strange foods in arrangements that look like tiny ice cream cones, which Thomas Keller pioneered. Two years ago, sliders became "in". Last year, everybody made fancy hamburgers. This year, it's predicted that hot dogs will be the next gussied up street food.

Sometimes I have to wonder whether it's awesome this is happening, or if I'm becoming a slave to fashion, just of another kind of fashion. Am I going to find myself in a cold sweat at 3AM trolling Urbanspoon for some new local restaurant to land on the scene? I don't want to be that guy. I'm no Patrick Bateman. Patrick Bateman was a serial killer, and that ain't cool. But this kind of stuff does interest me, and does find me wondering where the trends will go, and if they'll be worth following. You probably won't find me pulling hairs out over molecular gastronomy taking a shot at a Moroccan tagine, but you're kidding yourself if you don't think we'll be looking at an even more diverse food scene even in five years. Welcome to flavor country.

12 comments:

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Kristen said...

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Dino said...

I remember when my mum would have to ask carefully if everyone coming over could handle hot spicy food. Nowadays, it's quite common for the answer to be a resounding "YES!" And I'm not just talking the young folk, but also the elderly. Puppy's great aunt, who never left her area of the midwest in her long life, loves the stuff I throw chiles at, and eats it with great relish. It's one of those things that as Americans, we're starting to expand our horizons, but good.

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