All it took was a quick scroll through my Facebook feed to find verification of a food trend we identified years ago: regional and global flavors. Right there, mixed in with friends’ photos, ads for Rothy’s shoes, Portal, Freshly, a few pet photos, birthday postings, a scary looking recipe for crockpot spaghetti, and an interesting one for millionaire’s bacon, were recipes that fit the following cuisines:
Mexican, Thai, Filipino, Cajun, Korean, Spanish, and more. Epicurious.com was right out there with Tajin-Seasoned Vegetable Spears, and Cucumber Raita* with Black Mustard and Cilantro – spooned over basmati rice, and Kashmiri Hot Sauce. NYT Cooking wasn’t far behind with recipes for Potstickers and Chinese-Style Barbecued Ribs, plus one for Sweet Potato Coconut Curry soup. Our local organic market even posted about its African Market Baskets—not food, but great for carrying food in a reduce & reuse world.
Our world is now international in a way many would never have expected. New cooking techniques and equipment, access to spices, spreading knowledge of the flavor combinations and favorite recipes that, until recently, weren’t widely known except for the elite travelers of the world. Now we are busy bringing the world to us.
It’s satisfying to see so many of our call-outs move into the mainstream. Back in 2014 we contributed to The Food Channel’s 2014 Top Ten Trends in Food, saying, “We’re seeing the flavor profiles of India coming out more and more, which is part of the globalization of food. We expect to see more global flavors, forms, and more and more “melting pot” foods that retain the authentic flavors and forms of a global society.
That same year we identified regional flavors as a starter, as we talked about the Midwestern Food Movement, “with a match-up of slow food and convenience—sort of a fusion of comfort food and ethnic recipes.”
By 2015, while the world was still calling it “ethnic,” we wrote:
What’s ethnic when it’s all one big mash up? What we’re seeing is that The Next Big Thing in ethnic food is a non-starter. While we’re happy to introduce new global flavors to our palate, the tendency is to mix them into something we already understand. Perhaps we’re just too ADD around taste these days to do anything less than infuse new flavors with others. The single flavor palate is gone; long live the global palate. Along with this, we are looking at what we call Edible Geneology™, where we hang onto parts of our history by incorporating them into our foodstyle. Right now the flavors getting mashed into our culture are heavily Asian and Brazilian, but it’s a moving target.
By 2016/17 we updated our thinking, saying:
For a few years now we’ve called out regions as opposed to “just” countries. However, even region isn’t niche enough anymore. It’s no longer Northeast. Now it’s coastal Northeast, or the Catskills. Hawaiian food differs from island to island, and even from part of an island to another, depending on the dominant culture of an area. Take Rick Bayless’ latest restaurant that opened in Chicago, Lena Brava. It’s Baja California-style cooking with a narrow focus on menu items that would be available seaside. Not just a seafood restaurant, but also a restaurant inspired by live-fire cooking in the style of a specific region.
We even called out Appalachian cuisine, and by 2018, we were saying,
Consumers’ demand for unique cuisines has driven them to turn their attention to regional specialties and better defined regional cuisine. Instead of simply “Southern” flavors, now we have Nashville hot or Carolina sweet. Instead of “Northeastern,” we have Appalachian. This is not just limited to menus, but also to what people are planting and growing—raising regional crops in order to explore heritage and heirloom flavors and ingredients.
Our next food trends report will undoubtedly have “global” as a common denominator, because it’s continuing to grow and change—worth watching, and worth our time to dig in and see what it will bring with it. If you needed evidence that we see things early, there you go.