Sunday, May 3, 2009

fashion in food

This started with a comment this week in my techie group at work...

It was about foam, as it's been 'fashionable' recently... (and the comment was take it off the food please! Or maybe the please was omitted?)

Not one for 'fashion' (in couture perhaps yes though not cuisine) au contraire, I've always been one to put flavour first. While I enjoy thoughtful and new food combinations, and I revere craftsmanship I cannot create at home without the restaurant's brigade of chefs, I tend to the honest, not the fashionable. Over the years I have observed a number of food trends. Nouvelle cuisine, comfort food (sticky date pudding, lamb shanks, boeuf bourguignon), food from different regions of the globe (Moroccan, Italian, Vietnamese), different fashions in plating (piped sauces, stacked food, food served in bowls that make it hard to eat) ... The trends absorbs us ...

Some of the latest flavour combinations (unlike those by the truly inspired such as Alain Passard) are enough to send you running out of the restaurant fast. There is good reason that certain food combinations have been historically married for such a long time (mostly because the food grew in the same region, and was seasonal at the same time). The unflavoursome combinations have ended (and should end) quickly in divorce. Some other combinations are classical and have just been buried; now rediscovered, hidden treasure are again reigniting our palates!

Food produce has also moved in and out of favour; take the humble beetroot, rhubarb, quinces, and figs. Until recent years I felt at times isolated, having been weaned on these foods, they were favourites. They were certainly not food to serve to my guests, or food I would find at the restaurant table. That table has turned, and I feel like I've come of age now my favourites are in fashion (the benefit is this makes them available). Stepping back even further is fascinating too. I've also got quite a collection of vintage cookbooks that proudly display aspic covered chicken, in fact jellied everything! Ruffled white overcoats for rack of lamb, vandyked oranges, cubed cheese the list goes on ...

Each decade has had its own food presence, the statement that has matched the other fashions in architecture, clothes, art and design. Changes in economy are enforcing new thinking, and will encourage new 'trends' too. The return to fresh and seasonal that many of us have been promoting for sometime, will now be the way forward for other reasons. What will the new decade bring? To my colleagues, I propose that foam will not last. Will we see a return to honesty in all things including food?

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