By A. Jacobs & R. Jhaveri

The American diet has gone through many transformations. From eating homegrown fruits and vegetables to eating convenience and fast foods, each new invention brings a new wave of food trends. Today the trend spirals back around toward eating more local, less chemicals, and home cooking old-fashioned comfort food. The dinner of tomorrow will continue to be health driven, more local, seasonal and people will cook more. As people continue to immigrate, traditional food will continue to inspire new cuisine and teach traditions of the past. Using Indian cuisine as an example we found that religion has a great impact on the food trends. New technology, food prep, and sustainability will impact of all aspect of food trends of the future.

Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
The 19th century was one of new trends, invention and growth in the American food culture. Mills and Factories such as Hershey and Wrigley came into being and other icons of American food.  Inventions included Coca-Cola and tootsie rolls. Patents were taken out for the tin can and canning jars. By the early 1900’s, Americans became accustomed to eating milk, fruits, vegetables, and meat from cans or out of freezers, they also became willing to eat cereal out of boxes, bread from sealed packages, and pies that were made by machines. Americans bought more products in stores rather than produced at home, and simultaneously more gadgets, such as toasters and chafing dishes, became available for preparing food within the household. The first 50 years of the 20th century saw the industrialization of the American diet.

Image Courtesy of Library of Congress
The 1950’s were an era where American food staples were introduced.  Fast food became common, with chains such as Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s spreading across the country. Foods of convenience, such as TV dinners and instant drink mixes, became prevalent as products aimed at the American housewife sought to streamline housework.The 60’s brought the evolution of food. The century began with Julia Child and her TV show, “The French Chef”. She reintroduced the country to the luxuries of French cooking; some popular dishes included Beef Wellington and Swedish meatballs. The late ’60s brought the vegetarian movement. Vegetarian restaurants were cropping up throughout the United States. Frieda Caplan introduced then-exotic produce like mangoes, kiwis, and shitake mushrooms. Cuisine of the 1970’s seems to be punctuated by middle class dinner parties and the invention of fondue, crock-pots and slow cookers. Restaurants featured new cooking techniques (chop, julienne and whip) and present old ingredients in new ways. Chefs adopted the “Robert Coupe” or food processor into every recipe. The health food industry received a very large boost from the ecology movement; new natural products were introduced, natural whole grain cereal, granola, carob and new types of yogurt. The 1980s focused on Easy Family Favorites, the microwave was now apart of most households. The other big change that really started to affect how Americans ate was the death of the housewife.

Women in the work force went up from 15-71% by 1985. We became a fast food nation. Pizza, which 40 years earlier was largely unknown outside of some neighborhoods in large cities, was the most widely consumed “American” food by 1986. Restaurants focused on international cuisine. Chefs integrated ingredients and techniques from more than one international region into a single dish creating fusion cuisine. Braising is a combination cooking method that uses both moist and dry heat. Typically the food is first seared at a high temperature and then finished in a covered pot with a variable amount of liquid, resulting in a particular flavor. This became a popular technique along with the practice of cooking sous vide, French for “under vacuum”, a machine for poaching many eggs at one time. This was used to slowly cook sweet potatoes in butter to balance out cooking temperature. This method helps to retain the thickness and flavor concentration. As a result of braising and sous vide familiar foods have emerged with new textures and flavors.

Image Courtesy of New York Magazine
The 1990’s brought a mix of foods and trends, some genius like the gourmet ‘catered’ take-home meal business, and some horrendous like chips made with Olestra, a fat substitute that adds no fat. Heston Blumenthal brought a scientific approach to fine dining with molecular gastronomy, liquid nitrogen and calcium chloride. Liquid nitrogen will flash freeze any food it touches. As it boils away, it gives off a dense nitrogen fog that can add atmosphere and drama to food preparation. Calcium chloride is a firming agent used in canned vegetables. It is also, commonly used as an electrolyte in sports drinks and other beverages. The end of the 1990’s came with the news are food could be full of diseases. Diets and low fat food became the fad at the end of the decade.

The Present

In the twenty-first century, the American foodscape remains vibrant. Immigrant populations and émigré chefs continue introducing new foods to America’s table. Global trade has given Americans wider food choices than ever before and inspired a dizzying array of places to buy and enjoy that food: chic restaurants using exotic ingredients; fast-food chains serving vegetarian alternatives; and old-fashioned food sources such as farmers’ markets, local artisan bakers, and farmstead cheese makers.

There has been resurgence in home cooking.  With grocery prices going up and income going down, consumers are realizing that cooking at home adds value to their dwindling budgets. The home cooking craze has also spawned a renewed interest in old-fashioned comfort food, such as meat loaf, and macaroni and cheese.  Easy to make, delicious and extremely affordable, comfort food is showing up on the tables of today’s homes almost as frequently as haute cuisine. Crock-pots and slow cookers, the popular 1970-era countertop appliances, are back, after families realized that they provide a great way to cook tasty and economical meals with minimal effort. Today’s slow cookers have many improvements, but even the very basic units from 35 years ago do a very credible job. Cast Iron Skillets are the original, inexpensive non-stick frying pans. These heirloom pans are also being discovered in basements, in Grandma’s attic and even at yard sales.  Home cooks are just realizing the usefulness of a cast iron skillet, which is one of the most versatile cooking implements in the kitchen.  Easily going from stovetop to oven. With a return to basics, also comes a renewed focus on going “green,” with an emphasis on eating locally produced, seasonal and natural foods.  Not only are local agricultural products healthier because they are usually less than 48 hours from harvest, but they also have not been shipped thousands of miles across the country, which helps reduce the carbon footprint. We are also seeing restaurants and NYC Food Vendors Turning Greener- Utilizing solar power and biodegradable serving ware to dish out organic food and complete the food chain.

This last year America was introduced to:

1. The Moving Food Truck Revolution – Boldly decorated, eye-catching vehicles that serve far more than your standard hot dog.

2. Mom & Pop Shops:  partners are opening self-financed and self-built restaurants. These are small places with fewer than 40 seats, designed by friends or family.

3. Pharma-foods which are used for lowering cholesterol, relieving stress, fighting aging, or curling your hair.

4. Men in the kitchen, two possible causes are that unemployed men are cooking while the wife’s at work, and competitive cooking shows are drawing men to the stove.

4. Consumers are finding more bread made with ancient grains in supermarkets. Grains include spelt and Kamut (a branded variety of wheat), as well as grasses like quinoa and amaranth. These grains are called ancient because they have gone unchanged for thousands of years and have retained high nutritional value and healthful fiber.

5 Pickling has become popular, again, as a way to preserve local, highly seasonal foods to be eaten during non-seasonal periods.

6. Urban foraging, the gathering of edible foods from nature. Chefs are going beyond the farmers markets, and heading to quiet pastures or untrammeled forests in search of wild greens, nuts, berries, and even bark they serve on their menus.

7. Food Halls bring the customer to one place to enjoy all their favorite foods.

7. Raw foods and the food dehydrator. A food dehydrator is the equivalent of an oven for the raw foodist. Dehydrators work by warming raw foods at very low temperatures to gently remove the moisture, creating new textures, variety, and color to your raw food meals.

8. Gluten-free foods is on the rise, with increasing numbers of people being affected by celiac disease, while others are eliminating gluten from their diets through personal choice. Creating quality gluten-free foods is not easy, as glutens have many important properties in the baking process. Finding a suitable replacement has been a challenge for bakers.

9. Culture has a significant impact on food trends. Indian culture which dates back to 500 B.C. has a global impact on food traditions.Religion has played an influential role in the evolution of trends in Indian food.  However; we see different cuisine across India which has evolved as a result of the subcontinent’s large-scale cultural interactions with Mongols and Britain making it a unique blend of some various cuisines. Click here for more information on the history of Indian food trends.

Over the centuries females have played the role of taking care of the household. Entertaining family guests during festivals is a part of Indian tradition. As an old saying goes “Athiti devo bhavaḥ” (English: ‘The guest is God’ or ‘Guest become God’) guests are treated with lavish meals which are homemade and prepared by the women of the house. The women took care of all aspects of meal preparation. It takes considerable amount of time in preparation of meals. A usual day in the kitchen starts with breakfast, which includes parathas and yogurt followed by lunch, which is comprised of vegetable, roti, dal and rice and ends with a dinner including more than one vegetable and a sweet dish.

Rice pressure cookers have played a crucial role of meal in many parts of India. It has a very different flavor to it over rice cooked in a microwave.

In the last decade we have seen people traveling more and with globalization we see introduction of more westernized food such as American burgers and fries, Italian pizza and pasta, Mexican nachos and taco etc being cooked in Indian flavor. Technology and research has definitely helped in making cooking food quicker for the household. Lately we have seen introduction of packets of dry spices or pre packed curries, which has made cooking faster and easier.

Health consciousness is a big problem in India because of the poverty. However, it’s going to be a while before the health consciousness levels in India rise to western standards and people become conscious of what they are eating. And from the point of view of products, which sell on the health platform, they are still confined to a niche market.

It will be a slow-growth market since the concept is still comparatively new. This has already happened. A tiny section of city dwellers today are readily buying not just juices, but whole wheat breads and biscuits. Five years ago one had to go to special bakeries to buy whole wheat bread, but today everyone is selling it. Whole wheat bread at least seems to have become a mass selling item.

Companies known for their junk food are trying hard to launch ‘health’ products. All these are visible signs that the process has started. Even the way we eat breakfast has started to change. Kellogg’s, which had a shaky start, is now doing fairly well in India. It has in fact created a new market and even the Indian makers of ready-made cereals are cashing in on this trend. Some typically Indian good-for-health cereals like dalai (broken whole wheat) are now easily available in n easy to cook packets. And all these cereals sell on the health platform. This has resulted in a big change from some of the traditional Indian breakfasts, which consisted of parathas saturated in ghee or oil, and other fried goodies.

At this rate, products such as sugar free cakes, and jams, and fat free mayonnaise are likely to make inroads into the Indian market in a big way we already see some Indian foods being customized for the diet conscious. In some exotic bakeries you get fat free samosas, and baked namkeen and maybe one day soon we shall get sugar free jalebis and fat-less gulabjamuns!

With these new trends in India, we have also seen a surplus in Indian restaurants, grocery stores and spice markets flourish within the US.

The Future and Our Thoughts

Future trends in the kitchen will be affected by culture, science, health, technology and the sustainability of food. New technologies will continue to make rapid changes to the food industry and bring new challenges. Innovation in portion sizes and packaging are main themes for meeting convenience and quality demands while probiotics continue to gain in popularity for health conscious consumers.  You are what you eat, nutritional, healthful and good for you food will replace fried snacks and fatty foods. A continue interest in children’s nutrition will mandate a continue push for healthier school lunches.

We will see our favorite foods be made mini like ice cream sandwiches, brownies and donuts. Hyper Local food will flourish; we will see restaurants with their own gardens and chefs who do their own butchering. The trend of the food hall and community eating will grow in popularity. We will see supper clubs with group eating experiences. Fusion food will continue to break barriers, Kimchi quesadillas and Vietnamese chicken potpie. The Asian noodle craze will make its way to the family dinner table; imported flours and kitchen gadgets will help you make them like a pro. 17. Technology will continue to improve the way we prep and cook our food.  For example the rice cooker has come a long way. Since the first commercially produced electric rice cooker in 1945 that had no automatic off-switch (which is now a standard feature on all electric rice cookers), today’s crop of electric rice cookers look and work not unlike something from a Sci-fi movie made 10 years ago. A rice cooker will be available in the alternative choice of cooking method such as induction heating. What’s futuristic about this rice cooker is that it uses induction heating to cook the rice quicker and at a higher heat.

We will see pop-up restaurants, private label in grocery stores, and private kitchens grow in popularity. We will be looking at the past to improve our food trends for the future.

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