“Those who dabble in the dark art of culinary prognostication have never faced a landscape harder to read than in 2021,” said Kim Severson in The New York Times. Tastes in food took a dramatic turn last year, as the pandemic restricted dining out and turned millions into avid home bakers. Such trends aren’t about to go away: no one thinks 2021 will be a year of “frivolous food”. Yet later in the year, as restrictions ease and restaurants reopen, some are predicting that a sense of expansiveness and innovation will return to our food scene.
New lines in preserving
In the meantime, however, “our food tastes remain humble”, said Clare Finney in The Independent. If sourdough bread was the mega-trend of 2020, this year it’s likely to be pickling and fermenting. A combination of having more time on our hands, combined with a wish to capitalise on seasonal gluts and reduce waste, are creating a “perfect storm” for experiments with sauerkraut, kimchi and preserves. Dovetailing with this is a new interest in Eastern European cuisine, to which preserving has long been central. Expect a light to be shone on the varied dishes of countries such as Bulgaria and Georgia, “upending the preconceptions about cabbages and potatoes”.
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Sherry, banana skins and giant meals
Nostalgia is already a feature of the food scene, and set to continue, said Bridie Pearson-Jones in the Daily Mail. Retro desserts, for instance, are seeing a boom in popularity: Waitrose has reported that sales of trifle, sticky toffee pud and cherry pie have increased 60% over the past year. Mutton is “having a moment”, as chefs and home cooks look to use older animals, which are not only tasty, but often more sustainable. In drinks, sherry is making a comeback, though less in its old guise of pre-lunch tipple than as an interesting pairing with food: dry sherries work particularly well with clams and oysters, while sweet ones are excellent with blue cheese.
It’s not all about returning to the past, though. With veganism now an established thing, we will see a focus on new ideas in plant-based cooking: in her recent TV series, Nigella Lawson made a curry from banana skins, promising to turn the usually discarded ingredient into the “latest substitute for pulled pork”. Meanwhile, the move towards home working is making mealtimes yet more fluid. “With the kitchen next to the desk, food is easy pickings – meaning many will wait until mid-morning to have breakfast, while having lunch in the evening.” Some are even limiting themselves to one big meal a day – a meal sometimes referred to as “dunchfast”.
Welcome back to the dinner party
Virtual cookalongs became a big thing in 2020, said The Herald, and they are “set to live on beyond pandemic life”. Kitchen tech will get more eco (think beeswax wraps and compostable cling film); and we’ll embrace ever more exciting forms of outdoor eating, such as “wild cooking over firepits”. But this – surely – will also be the year when it becomes possible to have an old-style dinner party again, one with chairs crammed round the table and people sitting shoulder to shoulder. Never again shall we baulk at the stress of hosting such an event. “There will be red wine stains, tonnes of washing up, and it will feel so, so good.”
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