Foods, Trends and the 2010s (Part 1)

In a few days, we will be stepping into a new decade, ripe with opportunities. But before we do, it is worthwhile to stop and look back at the decade which saw the Gangnam style and Ice buckets, memes and instalikes, two royal weddings, Modi and Trump and so much more. From a shy kid stepping into class 10 in a school in Howrah at the start of the decade to a slightly less shy adult frantically writing down CT scan reports in a hospital in Rohtak, a lot has changed in my life too.

The 2010s saw some radical food trends that took the world by storm, and in this two-part series, we will look back at the highlights. There’s veganism, an increased awareness about gluten and a craze for quinoa that gave rice the middle finger. Lifestyle choices like veganism and gluten-free foods will have to wait for later. This time, we will take a look at certain dishes and food styles that broke the Internet.

Let’s start with A, for avocado toast. It ranks near the top of the millennial foods list. Although it has been on café menus since the 1990s, it became incredibly popular in the 2010s. The older generation tends to look down on avocado as a quirky, millennial thing. But, think about it. Avocado toast makes sense, so much sense. There’s the crispy toast contrasting with the creamy avocado. Add a poached egg and you’ve got yourself a pretty decent breakfast. Jayne Orenstein of the Washington Post reports “avocado toast has come to define what makes food trends this decade: it’s healthy and yet ever-so-slightly indulgent”.

Avocado toast

The coffee list has seen some interesting millennial additions to its list. There is the incredibly polarizing pumpkin spice latte that takes the world by storm every Halloween. Some lattes take the word literally and totally remove the coffee, replacing it with ingredients like turmeric to make a yellow turmeric latte, or matcha powder to make a green matcha latte. Which brings us to the most outrageous coloured drink of the 2010s.

Pumpkin Spice Latte

Starbucks created unicorn Frappuccino in April 2017. It was made with milk, ice, pink powder, spur blue powder, crème Frappuccino syrup, mango syrup and blue drizzle. It was a part of the unicorn food trend that was in full swing at the time. The New York Times describes unicorn food as “any food item jazzed up with dye or cute accessories like fruit cut into little shapes or mountains of pastel marshmallows. The highly committed may add a horn, ears and a mane made of sculpted sugar”. The unicorn food trend brought into limelight the ube, a purple yam that makes some great desserts.  

Unicorn frappuccino

The trend for rainbow foods; dishes, usually baked goods, brightly coloured with garish food colours, was a gross distortion of the “eat the rainbow” claim by nutritionists, who claimed that the colour of a food can tell you its nutritional value, and eating foods of a variety of colours is a sure method of getting as many of those nutrients as possible. Instead, we now have rainbow bagels, rainbow cake, rainbow pancakes and rainbow grilled cheese sandwiches, also called unicorn melts. From the US elections to stringy pink and blue cheeses, 2016 has not been a good year.

Rainbow grilled cheese

And in 2017, just as the Unicorn food craze was on its way out, enters the goth food, “the perfect antidote to the parable of edible technicolor”. Using ingredients like activated charcoal, squid ink or even black food colour, the world saw a parade of black dishes, from activated charcoal soft serve to sushis made with black rice and burgers made with black buns. When TBBT’s Howard guessed vodka with cranberry juice was the ultimate goth food trend way back in 2009, he was so, so wrong. And if you thought that dyeing a burger bun jet black was the most rad thing you could do to the burger…. smh. Four years before the unicorn craze, NYC had been hit with the ultimate East-West fusion.

Goth Icecream

The sandwich world’s interpretation of what constitutes a bread became widely liberal in the decade. And 2013 saw a burger that took the world by storm. The ramen burger comprises a beef patty sandwiched between two pan-fried discs of ramen, toped with arugula, green onions and a secret sauce. “Its like half burger, half bowl of ramen, but put into one”, explains Keizo Shimamoto, its creator. “You might think its crispy because I pan fry it. But when you bite into it, the inside is chewy like ramen noodles”. Around the same time, another Japanese-inspired food trend started in Japan and then spread all over the world.

Ramen burger

In 2013, the Kinseiken company in Japan wanted to explore the idea of making edible water, and in 2014, the mizu shingen mochi (meaning water rice cake) was created. Made from just mineral water and agar, it is basically a zero-calorie dessert. It is served with kuromitso (a molasses-like syrup) and kinako (soybean flour). The photogenic look and the zero-calorie claim made it a global sensation. In 2016, Chef Darren Wong introduced the raindrop cake to the USA at the April ’16 Smorgasburg food fair, the same place which had seen the inception of the ramen burger three years ago. Wong describes it as a “light, delicate and refreshing raindrop meant for your mouth”.

Raindrop cake

In part 2, we will take a look at some more millennial trends, iconic 2010s creations and finally, a brief look at how the 2010s have shaped the food trend of Kolkata.

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