Think about it: Our food components haven’t really changed since Eve allegedly first bit into the apple. We’re all still living off the land, consuming products derived from plants and animals. Of course there are tremendous advances in what we consume and how we prepare it, many leading to better health and longevity. And trendy “new” items now seem to appear on an almost daily basis, making food as fad-driven as fashion.
Consider the endless iterations of exotic spices, grains and fruits that purportedly offer us essential nutrients. Now that we’ve all learned that quinoa is pronounced KEEN-wah, for example, the culinary cognoscenti have come up with even more obscure ancient grains they say are just as good or even better: farro, spelt, teff, fonio and kamut (a.k.a. Khorasan wheat), to name just a few coming to local markets.
And there’s a slew of new tools with which to prepare it all: slow and fast cookers, masticating juicers, air fryers, outdoor and indoor steam convection ovens. Foodies who recently spent a bundle building massive masonry pizza ovens as focal points for their outdoor kitchens are now presented with the newer trend toward lightweight, unimposing stainless-steel models. The Uuni 3 wood-fired oven claims to reach 932° in just 10 minutes and “can cook an authentic wood-fired pizza in an incredible 60 seconds.” Better yet, it’s portable; you can tote it to your boat and your beach house!
Some of these new items will make it onto the list of enduring kitchen classics. Others will fade as fast as the micro-mini. Here’s a sampling of new food trends that may or may not hit the big-time — along with one truly significant game-changer that’s at the top of our list.
Neither fad nor trend, this is a revolution. Also known as “in vitro meat” or “cultured meat,” it’s meat and poultry grown in a lab from stem cells extracted from live animals, and it could start appearing on high-end restaurant menus by 2020. So-called “clean meat” is not fake or simulated meat, like the soy protein or veggie-based products in stores now. It’s the real deal, produced using technology from the medical field, and those who’ve tried samples say it tastes real because it is real. The only difference is that no animals are killed in the process.
Bill Gates and Richard Branson are reportedly heavy investors in some of the startup companies now working to make the world change from live to lab-produced steaks, chops, chickens, duck and other animal products. There are tech and regulatory issues to surmount, but industry experts predict that affordable clean meat will be in supermarkets by 2023. According to cleanmeat.org, the lab-grown product is “100 percent real meat, but without the antibiotics, E. coli, salmonella or waste contamination that comes with conventional meat production.” And, according to United Nations scientists, this new method of meat production would eliminate the huge environmental hazards and extensive depletion of natural resources that come with raising animals for food.
Anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, lessened immunity and low energy are just a few of the ailments that cannabis proponents say the superweed can help alleviate. And now that about 30 states have legalized recreational or medicinal marijuana, dozens of cannabis-infused foods and drinks are flooding markets. The Specialty Foods Association calls cannabis edibles a top food trend for 2018, with teas, olive oils, nuts, energy bars, coffee, crackers, honey and alcohol-free wines and beers among foods being compounded with cannabis. There are even cannabis-infused dog and cat treats for four-footed family members.
Most of the new hemp-infused products contain one or both primary cannabinoids (CBD and THC) that are said to provide health benefits. Edibles with only CBD are legal in all 50 states because they are non-psychoactive, which means they won’t give consumers a high. Those with THC will produce a buzz, depending on the amount. (One package of Mota Beef Jerky delivers 100 mg of THC; compare that to a Leafly Cherry Almond Tart, which has 13 mg of CBD and only 5 mg of buzz-producing THC.) The Los Angeles restaurant Shibumi has a CBD cannabis menu that includes tempura fried cannabis, cannabis kimchi and pork smoked with cannabis branches.
If you’re unimpressed with nondairy milks made from almonds, rice, soy, coconut and cashew, there’s yet another replacement for cow’s milk that’s trending now. It’s called “pea milk” or “veggie milk,” and it’s made from peas, potatoes and tapioca. Makers say it’s a boon not just for the lactose-intolerant, but also those with nut allergies. A number of brands are available, all claiming to be dairy-, nut- and-soy-free; they’re also not genetically modified. Why peas? Because veggie milk–makers say peas are packed with protein, a good source of calcium and vitamins D and B12. Pea milk reportedly has a consistency close to that of two percent milk, and it comes in flavors, including unsweetened and chocolate.
The folks at the Terra Via company in San Francisco have come out with Thrive Algae Oil for cooking, baking and salad dressing. Algae may sound icky to those who learned in science class about its contribution to pond scum. But there’s a vast and varied world of algae, some of them not just helpful, but critical, to our existence, thanks to the role they play in food products, pharmaceuticals, fertilizer, bioplastics,biofuels and more. The company calls algae “the mother of all plants and earth’s original superfood.” It claims their algae cooking oil has 75 percent less saturated fat than olive oil, and the highest levels of good, monounsaturated fat of all oils used for cooking. What’s more, it has an unusually high smoke point, which makes it great for frying and sautéeing. Sourced from the sap of a chestnut tree, the algae is fermented in huge sterile vats where it’s converted into oil.
Long a staple at salad bars and the backbone of hummus, the garbanzo has now been elevated to an elegant snack food and has also found its way into all sorts of edibles, from protein bars to pasta and peanut butter. Like other legumes, such as beans and lentils, chickpeas are high in fiber and protein and contain several key vitamins and minerals. Considered a healthy snack substitute for chips, bags of crispy, roasted garbanzos are spiked with wasabi, ranch, honey and other flavors. And now garbanzos have even gone sweet. Biena Snacks coats the crunchy beans in light or dark chocolate or salted caramel. Their newest is the Thin Mint chickpea snack, with flavor licensed from the folks who make Girl Scout cookies. The crisped beans are coated in dark chocolate and Thin Mint cookie dough.