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.
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."
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.
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:
- Scharffenberger sparkling wines
- Cajun and Creole—everywhere
- The Food Processor (a monthly column by Abby Mandel, in Bon Appetit)
- A reader's question: What to do with sun-dried tomatoes?
- Pink pancakes made with beets
- Szechuan and Hunan, big bleeps on the dining radar
- Corning Microwave cooking booklet, $2
- A fat phobia and an overabundant emphasis on low-fat, lite foods, and light cooking
- Santé dealcoholized wine debuts
- Celebrity kitchens of Henry and Ginny Mancini, Michele Lee, Sidney and Joanna Poitier (written by Joyce Esersky Goldstein)
- Chefs in the Spotlight Hot Light: Johanne Killeen and George Germon
- Michel Richard opens Citrus in Los Angeles, his first restaurant to put him on the culinary map. (In 2006, his book Happy in the Kitchen is acclaimed as one of the best cookbooks of the year.)
- Barbara Tropp's China Moon Cafe splashes into San Francisco
- Debuts: Cuisinart food processors in black; Surimi, also called krab (fake crab meat made from pollock); Taka Industries' roll your own sushi machine for $55
- Salt-free diets in every flavor, from Italian cookbooks to low-sodium bacon. Down with salt!
- Tilapia (aka St. Peter's fish) arrives from Israel, heralded as a boon to low-cholesterol diners
Common advertisers in 1987 food magazines:
- Dove bars
- Wolfgang Puck frozen desserts
- Hormel: Canned Chunk Pink Salmon ("The Casual Cuisine")
- Cybill Shephard promoting The Beef Council with Hamburgers, Cybill-Style
- Lite and Light: Hellman's mayonnaise, cream cheese, Marlboros and Virginia Slims; Mexican cooking; Creole light; Dreyer's and Edy's Grand Light ice cream debuts in 10 flavors
- Pork, the Other White Meat
The Cooking & Crafts (Book of the Month) Club selections, 1987:
- Marcella's Italian Kitchen, by Marcella Hazan
- White Trash Cooking
- 365 Ways to Cook Chicken
- Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen
- The Joy of Microwaving
- The Wolfgang Puck Cookbook
- I Hear America Cooking, by Betty Fussell
- The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook
Things you won't see in major 1987 food magazines:
- Scharffen Berger chocolates
- Chipotle chile
- Foamed sauces (a la Ferran Adria)
- Cocoa nibs
- Rachel Ray
- Fire-roasted tomatoes (canned)
- Newman's Own Organics
- An All-Clad tagine
- The word "blog"
- Botox ads
- Immersion blenders
- Pomegranate juice drinks
- Lowe's ads for kitchen design
- Starbucks (beyond Seattle)
- Food Network stars (or anything)
- Nestlé dark chocolate bars
- Crisco Olive Oil
- Coffee pods
- Sustainable seafood lists
- Vietnamese cinnamon
- Arugula, washed and sold by the bag
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!
- Beef and Potato Stew with Saffron from La Mancha
- Flemish Beef Stew in Beer
- Greek Chicken Stew with Rice and Feta
- Lamb and Tomato Stew from an Italian Farmhouse
- Marmitako: Fresh Tuna and Potato Stew with Smoked Paprika
- New Orleans Shrimp Creole
- Sausage and Rapini Stew
- Spicy Cuban Pork Stew
- Sumo Wrestlers' Stew
- Tibetan Lamb Stew with Daikon
- Tunisian Sweet Ragout of Quince and Lamb
Copyright © 2007, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created January 2007