Trends frequently have their icons and coastal grandma’s queen is Ina Garten, which means that this trend naturally embraces food and fine dining without the fuss.
Trends also have their meccas. Cape Cod, New Hampshire, Connecticut, the entirety of Maine, Pebble Beach, Hilton Head, upstate New York. Most certainly the Hamptons. The entire country of Greece (have you noticed how everyone went to Greece this past summer? I also went to Greece this summer).
As of writing, the hashtag #coastalgrandmother has been viewed 224.5 million times on TikTok and this is not including the myriad of related hashtags, from ‘coastal grandma chic’ to ‘coastal grandma kitchen’ and ‘coastal grandma food’. Clicking on the latter leads to dinner party instructional videos involving fluffy bouquets of hydrangeas, cheese boards, mussels and pasta, and tomato tartines. There are countless videos pointing viewers to ‘coastal grandmother hotspots’.
The Kitchn rounds up classic coastal grandmother recipes. Glancing through them and any number of such listicles, you’ll catch my drift – coastal grandmothers consume a lot of oysters.
Sweet Amalias, Photo by Kiki Aranita
My inbox is flooded with suggestions on how to maintain my coastal grandmother lifestyle in Philadelphia, nudging me towards stocking up on dish towels and scented candles at my local gift shop. “After a leisurely afternoon strolling the art galleries in Old City, coastal grandmas can refuel with martinis and oysters at Royal Boucherie, a lively neighborhood bistro brasserie. Guests can pair a French 52 with Beefeater Gin, Crémant Rosé, Lemon, Rose Water with freshly shucked Oysters on the Half Shell, Chilled Lobster, or Cheese Board for the perfect evening treat. Diners can revel in the charm of Royal Boucherie and be transported elsewhere for a moment before walking home to The Parent Trap soundtrack and preparing some Scalloped Potatoes for dinner,” suggests another.
Philadelphians have also been flocking to Sweet Amalia’s, an hour’s drive outside of the city, for pristine oysters. Sweet Amalia’s is having a moment as Philadelphia Inquirer’s food critic Craig LaBan named it as one of our city’s best restaurants – despite being in New Jersey and technically a market.
Last week, as my husband and I were vacationing in Banff, I found myself in the town’s oldest building, the current home of Jolene’s Teahouse. Gazing around at its wooden rafters and wall lined with white crocks of tea, I asked its owner, Jolene Brewster if she’s aware of the coastal grandmother trend, because there is a clear aesthetic crossover. She isn’t. Jolene’s Teahouse is rooted in her family history. “Reading the history of Banff, it’s full of men climbing mountains and the history of women isn’t really talked about. But my ancestors, the women, had an incredible amount of freedom. They survived the long, cold winters. Jolene’s is a testament to the strong women of the Rockies.” Perhaps next month I’ll be telling you about the mountain cowgirl trend.
Brewster handed me a steaming mug of mint tea and referred to it as “a little bit of ceremony in your day”. This is something that coastal grandmothers also espouse – the ritual of celebrating each food moment with ceremony. And Brewster acknowledged the aesthetic overlap. “It’s like coastal grandmother is a picture and [jumping on the trend means] you’re putting yourself in that picture.”
Marigold Cucumber Gin, Photo by Kiki Aranita
Some brands find themselves unintentionally swept up in the trend. I reached out to Tamworth Distilling after tasting their hauntingly lovely marigold cucumber gin, and knowing that their series of backyard gins uses plants plucked from their literal backyard. Surely, they are milking the coastal grandmother trend they clearly embody. “If you only had one word to describe Tamworth Distilling, many people would settle on bucolic. Though we didn’t have the coastal grandmother aesthetic in mind when developing our spirits, we certainly see how our foraged ingredient-driven spirits fit seamlessly into this lifestyle. We take pride in our products’- particularly our botanical gins - strong sense of place, their classic New England identity. While hand-picking ingredients may seem laborious, it’s actually what gives our gins a sense of ease - as we say, if it grows together, it goes together. Think winding down on a plush couch after a busy workday with a G+T with lime, soft jazz playing in the background, about to start cooking dinner. Our gins transport you to the foothills of the New Hampshire White Mountains from wherever you may be,” said Jillian Anderson, director at Tamworth Distilling.
Margaret Eby, editorial lead of Food 52 (a virtual mecca for coastal grandmothers) has her reservations about how the trend has wound its way out of décor and fashion. “I love Nancy Meyers cosplay as much as the next person, but to me the ‘coastal grandmother’ aesthetic is just another example in a long line of fashions that are cool when young thin people wear them and frumpy when anyone else does it. I mean in food, it’s just everyone wants to be Ina Garten, right? No shame in that game. Who doesn’t want to open a bottle of red wine at 4 pm and only wear white linen and have a kitchen with double countertops. But as ever, these are mostly reserved for a very particular class of people. And that class of people is the usual players - very rich, very thin, overwhelmingly white. I don’t fault anyone for wearing linen pants to the farmers’ market. Go with God, that’s fine. But as ever, I question the class roots of a trend like this, because I don’t know about you, but that’s not how my coastal grandma ever dressed or lived. You come get me when its Gulf Coast grandma time. Then we can talk. Violent coral nails, leopard print everything, ingenious devices for keeping sand out of wine.”
That said, if jumping on the coastal grandmother aesthetic means to enjoy life a little slowly and emphasize backyard-grown – anyone’s backyard – food, hosting dinner parties with your closest friends, then please, open a tin of mussels, slip on some white linen pants, tie a sweater around your shoulders, and pour me a glass of wine in the afternoon.