the appetizer:

Kate Heyhoe reviews current culinary trends, comparing them to twenty years ago, as demonstrated by an archive of cooking magazines. She also chooses a selection of stew recipes from our site—the perfect winter comfort food.

Kate Heyhoe  

Stewing Over Two Decades

by Kate Heyhoe


One particular news story in 2006 caught my eye: Laura Chenel sold her goat cheese company (which she started in Sonoma with $5000 and a small herd of goats) to a French conglomerate, for a price, as she says, "in the millions."


Million Dollar Goat?

Chenel's first big break came in the early 1980s, when Chez Panisse's Alice Waters put in a standing order of 50 pounds for Chenel's chèvre, causing Chenel to quit her day job. Today, her cheeses are sold everywhere from Sam's Club to Whole Foods. And as diverse as these two retailers are, they also were born in the early 1980s.

So, instead of looking ahead into the new year, I thought I'd take a glance back, a full two decades to 1987, to see how we chewed our way to this point in time. Somewhere along the line, we became a nation of mass market gourmets. When shopping carts leave Sam's Club, Safeway, and Whole Foods with not just goat cheese, but sun-dried tomatoes, organic greens, and fresh portobello mushrooms, you know our taste buds have changed.

I expected to see a dramatic shift in the foods we cook, but 1987's big food editors (Bon Appetit, Food and Wine, Gourmet) were churning out dishes we might consider commonplace today. Like smoked mozzarella fritters, Gorgonzola and hazelnut salad, and ancho chile mayonnaise (which now comes ready-made, off the shelf.) Twenty years ago these dishes were novel concepts that leapt off the page. But the readers' own contributions may better reflect how people cooked back then: Fruit cocktail cookies and salmon puffs with canned salmon, for instance.

Forecasting Trends

Prognosticating is risky business. Trendcasters can be just as feeble as weathercasters, as these 1987 reviews illustrate:

Tasteful Pearls—There are some new eggs appearing on the menus of many of the world's greatest restaurants. They are called Brut d'Escargot and they are, in fact, snail eggs. Taken only from the prized petit Gris French snails, the eggs look like gleaming little pearls...the eggs are lightly aromatic with no lingering aftertaste. And they have the same pop-in-the-mouth quality as fish roe caviar. Sold at Fauchon in Paris, Fortnum & Mason in London, these are being imported now from France. Watch for them in specialty food stores.
          —Bon Vivant column, Bon Appetit magazine, December 1987

But Time magazine's Mimi Sheraton had a wholly different reaction, writing that

"Le Brut d'Escargot, from France, proved to be ghostly, ghastly white snail's eggs that tasted like salty paregoric." (July 27, 1987)
Illuminating the future by looking at the past

The number one recording hit in 1987 was Walk Like an Egyptian, by the Bangles, but it didn't extend to eating like an Egyptian. Strut Like a Cajun would have been more appropriate. A snapshot of the food beat in 1987 takes some of us down memory lane with both memorable and forgettable items like these...

Hot stuff in 1987 food magazines:

Common advertisers in 1987 food magazines:

The Cooking & Crafts (Book of the Month) Club selections, 1987:

Things you won't see in major 1987 food magazines:

Pork Stew

Pork Stew

Finally, the most obvious contrast from 20 years ago: no email addresses or websites (no @ or www) anywhere! Or cell phone ads, for that matter. Free recipe booklets from Prince pasta and companies like Kraft were popular in 1987, but today these brands merely point us to their websites.

I did find one thing that endures every winter: stews. Traditional seems to trump trendy when it comes to comfort foods, whether it's from Tibet or Tallahassee. So as 2007 greets us with products that promise to save time (from bagged salads to cup-o-soups), I leave you with a pot full of stews, to stir, slurp and chew on slowly. Put them on the back burner while you race into the new year.

Here's to a world of happy eating in 2007!

Stew Recipes


Copyright © 2007, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.

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This page created January 2007