Let’s play a game. Imagine a juke box which, instead of listing the latest hits, shows the year with which a certain track is associated. 1977? Tonight's the Night (Rod Stewart). 1981? Bette Davis Eyes (Kim Carnes). 1999? Believe (Cher), and so on.
Now imagine the same juke box, in a foodie version. We insert a coin and ... 1979? Goat’s cheese (served warm!). 1997? Wicked coulant au chocolat. 2010? macarons. And so on.
We are more than familiar with the concept of musical hits that are all the rage for the space of a summer season, but the same also applies to food.
Hands up those 50-year-olds who cannot remember penne pasta in Vodka sauce, for instance, or those of you over 30 who have never been tempted to indulge in a Cosmopolitan (1999) à la Sex and the City, the launching pad of mixology, as we know it today. Of the distinctive dishes and flavours marking a particular period or another, here are just some of the last 45 years’ best food trends.
1970 - 1979 Food Trends
The '70s were the years of brunch and of French or Italian classics revisited or totally reinvented. But they also witnessed the first signs of a change of direction towards healthy eating. While, on one hand, there was no restaurant without its own version of the quiche – the unchallenged hit of 1970 – similarly to fondue in 1973, this was also the decade to come up with the first diktat in terms of light healthy food.
The symbol of this new trend (1974) was muesli, along with The Granola Cookbook. But not everyone followed its recommendations to a tee.
On the contrary, while 1971 ratified the success of brunch and eggs Benedict (a muffin with a poached egg and a slice of pan fried bacon on top covered with Hollandaise sauce is not exactly what you would define as light), on the other hand, there was a splurge of pasta dishes which gradually replaced tomato sauces with creamy concoctions (this was the time when cream was used on and with everything). So, hands up those who do not remember this hit: “pasta primavera”.
100% American, the recipe was apparently invented by Edward Giobbi who, in his Eat Right, Eat Well - The Italian Way, states that he conceived it for the Le Cirque restaurant in Manhattan. It was the year 1975. The seventies also consecrated chèvre chaud on crudités (1979) and tequila sunrise (1972), the long drink made of orange juice, pomegranate syrup and tequila ... endorsed initially by the Rolling Stones and then by the Eagles with their eponymous hit.
1980 - 1989 Food Trends
Today’s 40-year-olds will recall it well: the dawning of the '80s was gastronomically memorable for the advent of the kiwi. Previously enveloped in an exotic aura, this New Zealander fruit became immensely popular, not only for its beneficial properties (it is packed with Vitamin C) but, above all, for its versatility in cooking: it occupied fruit tarts, conquered salads and meat dishes and even found its way onto toasted bread and cold cuts. It seemed to have become indispensable!
Madonna and Bon Jovi’s decade was the age of many memorable dishes. Such is the case with vodka penne (around and about 1983: do you remember them?), in actual fact, they were already famous in the '70s but only became a bestseller in the following decade (even in Italy, the homeland of pasta where many purists, however, ostracised them on the grounds they had neither history nor soul).
The same can be said, to quote a few examples, of crème brûlée (1982), chocolate truffles (1987) and sushi (1988). Not to mention aspic gelatine, prawn cocktail, beef fillet in green pepper sauce and crêpes of all kinds...
1990-1999 Food Trends
Towards the end of the '80s, as purists turned their noses up at the veggie burgers (1989) that were starting to oust the traditional meatball filled roll, pre-packaged dietary foods were taking over the shelves of food stores and supermarkets, the catchword of the moment being "light" (1994).
Among the never to be forgotten hits of those years, how could we fail to recall tiramisu which, starting from 1990, became one of the most popular Italian desserts (especially in its classical version of calorific sensuality) and the little chocolate cake with the warm centre.
First conceived by chef Michel Bras, from 1997 onwards, coulant au chocolat had become so much of a regular feature on restaurant, café and bistro menus at all latitudes that it became practically impossible to avoid its seductive temptations.
And how can we forget that the '90s stand as the decade of workouts and aerobics? Physical fitness became a cult and brought with it a glorification of proteins, enhanced in their turn by grilled sliced steak served with an increasingly popular ingredient: rocket.
The New Millennium's Food Trends
From the smoothies of the year 2000 to the viral cuisine of 2016 (by the way: many other successful dishes, which have to some extent or another characterised the year in course, are to be found here), a lot of water has flowed under the bridge: we have had an all-embracing infatuation with avocado (2015), we have surrendered hopelessly to hummus and quinoa (2011 and 2014 respectively), we have indulged in cronuts (2013), cupcakes (2005) and macarons (2010) in a sugary orgy without compare.
If we add to all of this kale, ramen, matcha, organic and local grown foods in general, the list of crazes associated with the new millennium is extremely eclectic and confirms that the whole business of eating has truly undergone some radical changes.
Black is back in fashion (squid ink, black Venere rice, food blackened over an open fire which, if we think about it, is a revival of the mid-'80s “blackened fish” craze…) and there will definitely be a comeback for butter: we will follow Mexican cuisine and possibly that of the Caribbean.
The list is a long one, but let’s meet up again in 2018 to elect 2017’s best performer.