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What does Buddha have to do with bowls? What does “the enlightened one,” as he is referred to in the Buddhist religion, have in common with round vessels that contain liquid or solid foods, can withstand high temperatures, and are often held in the palm of the hand?
A 1001 recipes under the generic name of Buddha Bowl, share the same harmonious balance between the aesthetic perfection of Buddha (the shape of the bowl recalling that of a rotund Buddha belly) and flavour.
Type Buddha bowl, or more simply “bowl recipes” into Google and a plethora of suggestions, often vegan, are returned, in which the ingredients are artfully combined in terms of colour, well-balanced nutritional properties and explosions of incomparable flavour.
The various bowl recipes, whose ingredients are prepared separately and then combined according to a set of rules regarding colour, calories, compatible and incompatible foods, special diets, allowances for food intolerances and so on, are practically infinite. What they all have in common, however, is the bowl itself.
Of various widths, hand-made by artists and craftsmen or industrially produced, they can either be held in the palm of the hand in street food style or appear on the damask table cloth of a starred restaurant. The bowl trend is a decidedly oriental one, since this vessel is perfect for certain dishes such as exotic rice varieties or ramen, noodles or vegetable soups, but as the trendsetters of international fine dining assure us, people have succumbed to it worldwide.
While bowl mania really broke out in 2016, spreading to all continents, with some very local interpretations, in 2017 it is forecasted to become a stable and continuing trend in domestic kitchens and restaurants, from breakfast to dinner.
So say Baum + Whiteman, the New York consultancy firm headquartered in Brooklyn, which publishes an annual report on up-and-coming fine food and wine trends, whose end of 2016 edition included bowls as one of the following year's trends.
The reasons for this are also psychological, as the same report states: “If you hold a bowl Buddha-like while eating, you are psychologically more prone to mindfulness about your meal. You'll also stand a better chance of catching all the flavors and textures with every bite ... and think you're full a lot faster, even if you chuck the white carbs.” This opinion is further endorsed by Baum + Whiteman in their Food and Drink Resources forecasts, which links the success of bowls to the Hawaiian trend for Poke.
Poke bowls (correctly pronounced “Poh-keh”) reflect the Hawaiian meaning of the word itself – slice and cut – and are actually composed of sliced or diced meat and fish accompanied by sweet and chilli peppers, and vegetables served together in a bowl.
In the West, acai bowls first sparked this food fad: healthy nutritious bowls of breakfast cereals, fresh and dried fruit and of course acai, the sweet tropical fruit low in calories whose consistency, when reduced to a puree, is very similar to that of ice-cream. Flavour and fashion apart, this trend is greatly boosted by the convenience factor: on one hand, consumers are starting to realise how easy it is to deal with a bowl, perfect for a quick lunch break in the office and, on the professional front, chefs appreciate the fact that bowls take less time to plate up, since they require fewer skills than a traditional flat plate, where the food not only has to be effectively presented, but where it is also often difficult to fill the “white” space.