As a species we are confounding. We queue overnight for the latest iPhone or all afternoon for the latest, most Insta worthy and quickly forgettable food fads. Meanwhile on the other side of the world people slave for miniscule pay to produce goods for western consumers.
According to Toronto food columnist Corey Mintz, an “actual food trends represents a lasting shift in how we eat. Like people caring how food is grown or online grocery delivery”. Trends can make for profound change. We all want to eat local and seasonal because it makes sense. We all want to eat tasty food that is nutritionally balanced although Instagram would make us think otherwise.
We’ve seen it all recently from decidedly messy Frankenshakes, drip cakes, monstrous burgers, churro ice cream cones, mermaid toast, anything that doesn’t belong in a mason jar and unicorn everything. At least the quinoa, chia, kale and most of the ubiquitous avocado toast ‘on the gram’ are not unhealthy. But do these food trends change your life?
Much of this could be written off as light-hearted fun. Or is part of a more disturbing err… umm trend? I like most food writers are guilty of snapping the odd avocado toast. Hey, I even commemorated my first slice of the world’s most instagrammed cake – Black Star Pastry’s Strawberry Watermelon Cake. Because I make the choice not to eat enormous, messy milkshakes or technicolour foods you won’t seem them in the ThisMagnificentLife feed. Photography of fresh food works for us. Last autumn at the Palm Beach Farmers market we posted a pic of figs – plain and simple. 178 likes and 8 comments later it was one of our most ‘liked’ Instagram posts.
The four outposts of London based restaurant mini-chain Dirty Bones serve ‘NYC-inspired dishes’. The soundtrack is hip-hop and the décor faux New York dive bar. The neon signs that adorn their walls include platitudes like ‘Food is Love Cooking is Foreplay’ and ‘It was all a Dream’. But more importantly, the menu evolves depending on what’s ‘trending’ on Instagram and they’ve recently introduced ‘foodie instagram packs’ at their Soho location.
The free kits are issued to ‘influencers’ and include a portable LED camera, a multi device charger, clip-on wide-angle lens and tripod selfie stick for the overhead shot. According to the press release, it “wanted to put together something that made it easier to get that perfect shot regardless of lighting, time or day”. It’s key for us to make sure that people are getting the best possible shots of all our dishes and drinks.”
Savvy? Yes. Who needs PR or advertising when your customers do all the work for you? The social media manager is the only one guaranteed a job. Milky Lane Bondi hasn’t handed out kits but it seems their business model is predicated by Instagram. What’s next?
For acclaimed American chef David Chang it has become all too much. He eschewed the quest for Instagram worthy food and then realised its value in attracting buzz. His empire stretches around the globe but he’s now more comfortable with food that is less about plating and more about taste. He even created the hashtag #uglydelicious.
The rise and rise of food culture – food writing, food media, and food influencers might be to blame. Chefs and restaurateurs can and are reviewed on a daily basis. Pity the poor chefs. What other profession attracts constant performance reviews the way chefs do? Certainly not accountants or politicians.
I’m sick of reading of ‘guilty pleasures’, ‘indulgent’ this and that and foodporn. Food is sustenance and to think of it as inherently bad only helps to foster eating disorders. Balanced eating has always been what it should be about although we now call it 80/20 thanks to Gisele and Tom.
Eating insects, nose to tail or fermented food might be less fad and more trend in that they are good for the planet and us. Sustainability is not a trend and it means alternative proteins, vertical gardens and finding more water-efficient crops. Sobering docos like Sustainable take a serious look at US agribusiness that produces unhealthy food that harms the environment. It also looks at the farmers and chefs who are fighting back: http://sustainablefoodfilm.com/
All the supermarket ugly fruit and Meatless Mondays are a start. Eating healthy and sustainably and cutting back on food waste for those who can afford it is on the rise. Much of this is due to food media and influencers who get a more sustainable message out there. Perhaps shooting the messenger is not the answer; maybe we just need to change the message.