Happy 2020 to Just A Thought readers. I had almost decided to turn in my word processor
and stop writing this column. Too much commuting. Too little time in any one place. Then I
read New York Times writer Kim Severson’s article on what foods we would be eating in the
upcoming year. This was a subject that needed to be explored.
First and foremost, the specter of saving Earth will be sitting at the table with us every day.
Baby Boomers and their children are huge consumers. They grew up hearing horror
stories (some actually true) about dolphins tangled in nets with plastic straws lodged in their
snouts. Who wouldn’t wince at the thought? Fish must be caught humanely. All food sources
must pass the is-this-good-for-the-environment test.
Also, Japan is big. Maybe it’s the 2020 Olympic Games. Maybe foodies are tired of Brazilian
cuisine (last year’s fad menu item) and want to go farther east for satisfying chow. Enhancing
nutrition continues to be a goal for the new year. Blue is big too. More on that later.
The Earth: Because peas and buckwheat are good ground cover crops and actually
regenerate the soil and sequester carbon (whatever that means), farmers are planting them
with a vengeance. Eco-friendly marketers are desperately trying to figure out ways to use
them. So far pea and buckwheat flour are the primary developments. Almond flour, once the
darling of cutting-edge cooks, is passé (unless, of course, they find it sequesters carbon). A
hidden fear is that DuPont will put these products to nefarious usage. Remember what they
did with soybeans and corn—turned them into plastic and internal combustion fuel. Gasp!
Although they’re not to be eaten, reusable cups, napkins and utensils are the way to go now. It
is almost mandatory for Starbucks customers to bring their own coffee mugs. Metal straws are
trendy. If any item used to expedite a meal is biodegradable, it might pass muster. Huge NO
to anything headed to a non-recyclable landfill.
Japan: This holds promise. Especially since American diners tend to lump all Far East foods
into one giant wok or sushi bar. Rice, beef strips, chopped vegetables, clarified butter, exotic
spices, fresh fish, etc. The assortment of delicious ingredients and cooking methods are
endless when you head across the Pacific. Curry will be big (okay that’s Indian, but gourmands
are not overly geographically picky). A nice cup of sake or cannabis-infused tea will be the
perfect accompaniment for your plate of sashimi, thit kho or yakatori.
Nutrition: An innovation aimed at improving nourishment value is ice cream with puréed
veggies. For example, they hope that if they add enough mint flavor and chocolate to a gallon
of puréed spinach-laced vanilla they can pass it off a Peppermint Chip.
Hemp pasta may solve the too-many-carb problem. Broiled salmon balls instead of fish sticks
may soon appear on McDonald’s menus. Also new, and aspiring to get as many vitamins in
the system as possible, are snacks made from peelings. Think Beet Puffs or Kiwitos. No joke.
Now for the blue trend: If you’re suffering from insomnia butterfly pea powder in moon milk
(cow’s milk with honey and cinnamon) is a natural sleep inducer. Butterfly peas are a delicate
shade of blue, although no mention of carbon sequestration.
Ubes, purple yams, are hot, hot, hot. That is to say, in great demand—not tossed around the
room in a child’s game, although they would probably work for that too. Ube is the root
vegetable of choice by forward-thinking chefs and foodophiles.
Orach, aka mountain spinach, is not only a lovely shade of purple, it will soon be replacing
kale on salad plates across the land. The curmudgeon around the corner says nothing will
replace the kale on his plate because he had one bite of kale several years. One bite was
Fresh flowers, preferably blue ones, will not merely serve as garnishes. They will be eaten.
Possibly not in large quantities.
If a great deal of this is sounding rather unappetizing, take heart. The most up-to-the-minute
fashion food right now is pain de mie. There are several variations, but it consists of a large
hunk of heavily buttered, toasted bread that is hollowed out and filled with ice cream, custard,
honey, syrup, fruit, sugar sprinkles whipped cream or any other combination that will satisfy
your sweet tooth and warm your soul.
They did a quick poll to see which innovation was most likely to stand the test of time. The
smart money was on pain de mie. In fact, it did get every vote but two—one was for metal
straws and other for salmon balls. That pair obviously voted with their heads, not their hearts.