If you like eating vegetables, dig Filipino or think we waste too much food, 2017 is shaping up to be your year.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been reading as many food trend predictions as I can get my hands on to see what people have conjured up in their crystal balls for 2017. After reading dozens upon dozens of articles and studies from food writers, marketing companies, and trade associations, some interesting trends emerged.
The big overarching theme for this year is best summed up in a Mintel report that says people are looking for “food and drink with authentic connections to history or tradition (that) provide an inherent element of trustworthiness that many consumers yearn for in a tumultuous world.”
The idea that people are seeking comfort from their food, both in what and how they eat is layered throughout the dishes and ingredients people are highlighting for the year ahead. It’s a theme that pairs well with people’s desire to know the story behind what they’re eating and their expectation that what their eating should be good for the planet. These last two trends have been around for a while, but are expected to become more prominent this year.
Of course, there’s always the question of whether food predictions are a reflection of what people are cooking and eating or if the predictions drive the trends. It’s like asking what came first the spatchcocked chicken or the 63-degree egg. The thing is when you start looking back at predictions from past years: bubble tea, smoothies, and goji berries all came from somewhere and had an impact on what we ate.
Whole Vegetable Cookery
Just about everyone is predicting a lot more interest in eating vegetables in general and a strong desire to find ways to use the whole vegetable. Driving this trend is people’s desire to eat healthier and their belief that a more plant-based diet is better for the environment.
One thing you’ll be hearing a lot about is leaf to root cooking, which is the vegetable equivalent of nose to tail cooking. Leaf to root cooking, as the Fiscal Times says, has chefs “turning to other ‘waste-not’ greens, such as leftover beet, turnip and mustard greens, chard and carrot tops, which customarily were thrown out. Some chefs may even pickle these trimmings and use them as condiments.”
Some of the vegetables people are predicting we’ll be eating are cauliflower, jackfruit, sorghum, and seaweed, with cauliflower being the big breakout star. The New York Times has called cauliflower “the It vegetable for 2017” and the James Beard Foundation has said, “cauliflower is the new kale.”
You can expect to see cauliflower charred, riced, pickled, and used in all sorts of different ways; its versatility is part of why the expectations are so high. And if Whole Foods is right, you can expect your cauliflower and a lot more of your food to be purple.
What We’re Going to Eat
Since no one wants to eat cauliflower morning, noon, and night, here are some of the ingredients and dishes people think we’re going to be eating. Jackfruit “has the most potential to go mainstream because of its meaty texture and ability to absorb the flavors in which it’s cooked” (Market Watch). If you’re not familiar with Jackfruit, it has a spiky outer shell and is primarily grown in South America and Southeast Asia and is becoming more common in the States.
We’ll also be eating: sorghum which is a green that resembles Israel couscous; harissa, a North African hot chili paste; fresh turmeric whose sales have been rising quickly in England; and octopus, both grilled and sous vide.
A few of the dishes everyone thinks you’ll be talking about include shakshuka, shawarma, and fry bread. Shakshuka is a rich, spicy egg and tomato dish from Israel that is often eaten for breakfast. Shawarma is a Middle Eastern dish of spiced lamb, chicken, or beef that is stacked and roasted on a vertical spit, sliced off, and served with things like pita, tabbouleh, tahini, etc. Fry breads celebrating Native American cuisine are starting to show up on more menus and are a trend people expect to grow.
The cuisine most frequently predicted to break out in 2017 is Filipino, with its mix of Malaysian, Chinese, and Spanish influences, it has been referred to as the original fusion food. There are also a few predictions that we’ll be eating lots of fruit soups, but I’m not sold on that one.
Techniques to Learn
Fermented foods are at the intersection of a lot of this year’s trends, the James Beard Foundation says the combination of health and waste reduction from fermented foods “will likely play into the growing notion that older, bubbling, cultured, and fermented foods are better for your health, for flavor, and for the planet.”
Fermented foods are also an excellent way to preserve and eat all that fresh produce from the farmers market in a way that lets people eat local all year round.
It also looks like there is going to be a lot more people cooking sous vide, Pinterest featured it in their top 100 pins for 2017, and a few writers highlighted how it’s being used to make high-tech cocktails. We’ve been big fans of sous vide cooking for years for the way it lets us control temperature and develop flavors, but the thing that really convinced us this was sous vide’s year was when a friend texted us that Target is selling sous vide machines in its stores, which is the very definition of mainstream.
Quench Your Thirst
Where people can, drinking local seems to be as strong the eat local movement, with a number of stories emphasizing the continued rise of craft beer and local distillers. An ongoing question asked by lots of writers is whether or not craft beer is approaching a bubble or if there is still room for growth.
Driving the rise of craft beer and local distillers is a willingness by drinkers to try new things coupled with the rise of mixologists who thrive on experimenting with new ingredients and new techniques.
In addition to drinks made with turmeric, infusions from sous vide machines, and interesting lemonades, we’re likely to see more mocktails on drink menus this year. The idea of more interesting nonalcoholic drinks makes a lot of sense since so many craft cocktails are based on a multitude of ingredients that don’t contain alcohol, and there are lots of people who want to go out but don’t drink or may not want all their drinks to be alcoholic.
Waste Not Want Not
It looks like all the cool kids are going to be eating ugly fruit and vegetables and composting this year as part of an effort to reduce the amount of food waste. With stories in the Atlantic, Guardian, and others about how “scarred vegetables (are) regularly abandoned in the field to save the expense and labor involved in (the) harvest,” you can expect to see lots of stories about why you should eat ugly.
There also will be some cool new ways to try and help people reduce food waste, including apps that let people buy food from grocery stores before they throw it out and stores that have specials on food that is fine to eat but may not look perfect.
Predictions You Can Safely Ignore
There always are a few trends that seem pretty far fetched, whether they make sense or not in theory. For instance, I’m not so sure people are ready for home-based aquaponic setups in their houses. Growing greens and fish together may make a lot of sense for the environment and be a great way to reduce waste, but I have a hard time picturing people running down to their basements to grab a still wriggling fish and some fresh greens for dinner.
It’s the same with cellular agriculture, while manufacturers may be able to produce proteins that are molecularly identical to meat, dairy, chicken, etc. I think it’s going to take a while before people are comfortable with better food through chemistry.
What makes cellular agriculture interesting to watch is how it resides in the middle of opposing trends. As people strive for a more plant based diet people are likely to be drawn towards it, just as people who seek out more traditional dishes and local ingredients are likely to resist lab prepared dinners.
The silliest prediction we read was from the Food Network, who predicted that “surprise is poised to be the flavor of the moment,” because if there is one thing I’m pretty sure people aren’t interested in for 2017, it’s a lot more surprises – which we all know was so 2016.