by Kate Heyhoe
Looking backward and forward, I've made a few observations on trends for 2011 (and just for fun, my past predictions are posted below). Here's what to expect in the big-picture of food this year.
Changing Food Habits—in the Army and at School: Maybe the rising obesity rate is finally meeting its match. Two formidable opponents are pushing back hard. Michele Obama's drive to revamp school menus through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is now law, and even the Army is waging war against obesity. (One in four young people are unfit for military service, making childhood obesity a national security issue.) New recruits are enlisting in terrible physical shape, and traditional Army diets don't help. The change: At several training sites across the nation, fried chicken, sodas, and doughnuts are out; lean proteins, Gatorade, and fresh fruit are in. So are yoga and yogurt. As one Army commander puts in, "we're fueling the tactical athlete." Will GI Joe become the new diet and fitness role model for kids?
More Meatless Days: Meatless Mondays are moving from home kitchens to some restaurants, and give cooks an opportunity to put fresh local produce in the spotlight. Families will further increase their meat-free meals overall, and their meat-free days will migrate from Monday to any day of the week.
Supermarket Brands Shake Things Up: Private label supermarket brands are increasing in sales, so name brand cereals and other products have slashed their prices to compete. This is good news for the consumer, and the trend will probably last through the year, but as the economy improves, expect the big brands to inch prices up.
Giving Back Sells: Paul Newman introduced Newman's Own in 1982, and the brand's success proves that philanthropy can succeed on competitive shelves. Studies show that consumers are more likely to buy a product that returns part of the profits to charity or the environment. Expect this trend to grow.
Chef Schools on the Rise: Laid-off workers from Wall Street to Waxahatchie are enrolling in cooking schools. Some do it to fulfill a lifelong dream or passion, others want a new job skill. But the tuition prices of vocational chef schools don't always match the real-world earnings a new graduate can expect to receive. Expect a population of better cooks, albeit some more deeply in debt.
More Men Cooking: Newly unemployed men are discovering how to cook and grocery shop. Expect more products, TV shows, and cookbooks aimed at men who may not have a lot of experience in the kitchen, but are finding they like it there.
Finding a Lost Generation of Cooks: More young people are cooking too, even though their parents went to work outside the home and never taught them to cook. Today, with social media and mobile apps in hand, cooking is instantly accessible and fun. Anything goes—and is on the go—with today's newest cooks, who bring up a recipe or video in one hand as they reach for tomatoes in the other. The recipe apps are getting better, too, and expect more focused ones to come (like ones just for vegetarians, or gluten-free diets, or even for pets.) Also, iPads will take residence in the kitchen, bringing videos and recipes to cooks on the spot.
Quick Merges with Quality: "Budget-friendly, quick, and easy" still dominate supermarket food choices, and food companies continue to create more products to meet this demand. No surprises here. But there's an increasing emphasis on fresh and green. The produce aisle is adding more choices with pre-cut, ready to cook vegetables. Also, canned foods are increasingly using organics as all or some of their ingredients (as in salsas, tomato products, dressings, and canned corn, for instance).
Downsizing Supermarkets: Smaller stores were tested by Walmart and other brands over the past few years, and the experiment was a success. Smaller supermarkets offer lower operating costs, less risk, and broader brand reach, and consumers can get in and out more quickly. Expect one or two small stores to pop up in a neighborhood near you.
Feeding One (or Two): One-person households account for 27% of the population, and two-person families amount to 33%. Another reason why smaller stores with smaller package sizes, and quality convenience foods, will continue on the upswing.
Eating Pie: To end this list on a sweet note, consider dessert. Pies are in, and cupcakes have cratered. Look for all sorts of pies to pop up: savory and sweet; bite-size and large; deep-dish and thin. Already spotted on the scene: Pie happy hours, pie-flavored milk shakes, and pie restaurants. Looks like we'll be rollin' in dough!
How have my trend predictions from past years worked out? Bring your hindsight to the links below (a few of my previous trend columns) and see what you think.
Wishing you a happy, tasty and healthy new year...
—Kate Heyhoe and the Staff of Global Gourmet
Woody Allen's 1979 film Manhattan opens in Elaine's restaurant, where Woody laments the trials and tribulations of dating a 17-year old. He revisits the restaurant in 1993's Manhattan Murder Mystery, and in real life has been one of Elaine's most devoted customers.
It's not surprising that Woody would bond with the owner, Elaine Kaufman. She was a domineering Jewish mother-type (a tough old broad, according to some) who stopped at nothing to protect those near and dear to her heart: adopted family members who just happened to be the most recognized names in the world.
Elaine Kaufman died December 3, 2010, at 81. While researching my cookbook Great Bar Food at Home, I wanted to include a sidebar about Elaine and her celebrity-studded saloon, but frankly, her place was never noted for the food.
Based on solid Italian fare (with veal chop as the main attraction), Elaine's meals were never world-famous, but her clientele most certainly was. Her bar never hosted a "happy hour," nor did it need to. It was the table-hopping schmoozer, Elaine (also known as Mama), introducing the right people to the other right people, and bringing back the art of conversation, that made this place one of the most famous saloons of the era.
Elaine's opened in 1963, and drew its first clientele from the literary circuit: Norman Mailer, George Plimpton, Kurt Vonnegut, David Halbertstam, Tom Wolfe, and Woody Allen—almost exclusively men. Inevitably, smart and famous women infiltrated the testosterone-clique: Mia Farrow (who asked Michael Caine to introduce her to Woody Allen), Sex in the City's Candace Bushnell, Liz Smith, Lauren Bacall, Nora Ephron, Mary Higgins Clark, and the one-namers: Jackie, Liza, Barbra, and Martha, rubbing elbows with Dustin, Arnold, Dominick, Mick, and Yo Yo. Artists like Robert Motherwell and Helen Frankenthaler joined the crowd. Jocks came, too. Reggie Jackson celebrated his World Series home runs, and the entire Rangers team arrived at 3:00 AM, filling their freshly won Stanley Cup with beer from Elaine's bar tap.
As a writer's haven, Elaine's was the opposite of stiff and stuffy European literary salons. New Yorkers came to Elaine's for fun, good old-fashioned gossip, and camaraderie. For politicians, celebrities, and socialites, Elaine was a cozy confidante, host of an urban oasis pulsing with energy.
Newbies prowling for glitz and glamour are usually surprised at the simple, homey decor: red checked tablecloths, bentwood chairs, dark wood, and book-jacket memorabilia (and are usually ushered to the far back tables, known as Siberia). Entertainment Weekly hosted their annual Oscar party at Elaine's, but the nightly star power gradually dimmed under the brightening tourist glare.
In 2003, Elaine herself was named a Living Landmark by the New York Landmarks Conservancy. Most definitely, Elaine's was an icon of a particular era and epitomized a very different brand of social media.
Copyright © 2011, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page modified January 2011
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