As ever, this is late. By the time I click publish, the chances are that the article will already be irrelevant. Fortunately, as a mandatory 2018 food trend prediction piece, relevance was never part of the criteria. For, as proven by Google’s 2017 Year in Search, no one really pays any attention.
Way back in 2016, Eater predicted EVERY SINGLE upcoming food trend for 2017. The list was gargantuan, exhaustive, double-figures. It was as specific as ‘mastiha liqueur’, as vague as ‘Italian food’. But at no point did the word ‘stroganoff’ feature. Nor, for that matter, did ‘apple crisps’ or ‘corn casserole’ and yet, inexplicably (and totally unpredictably), these were the top three recipe searches from the American public over the past year. Globally, you’ll be relieved to learn, ‘chicken breast’ was still top dog.
So far, William Sitwell has marked Din Thai Fung on the 2018 map, Suze Olbrich has been trompette-ing about miracle mushrooms and Eater London has enlisted the entire UK food scene to ensure it really doesn’t miss a beat this year. There’s a consensus that the vegan train will not be experiencing any delays, that there are hard times ahead for independents and chains alike and that, happily, comfort will be sought in carbs. And still, above all the crystal ball gazing, I’m drawn fondly back to India Knight’s shocking expose on how Brits still prefer 1970s fodder to contemporary in-out trends (the hokey-poke, anyone? Anyone?).
She was right, too. Coming in hot as the UK’s top three recipe searches are: chilli con carne, spaghetti bolognese and beef bourguignon. Oh, how far we’ve come. As far as globe-trotting goes, four of the top ten dishes were French, one Russian (stroganoff was really in), I suppose hot cross buns and millionaire shortbread count as British (as must spag bol), I assume chilli con carne to be some sort of American mash-up and I won’t attempt to attach a nationality to chicken thighs. A brave new world it is not.
The foodieverse, though growing exponentially, is still a microcosm of the population at large. So, if I were to speculate that hand-pulled noodles will be big this year, this is still very much in the shadow of microwave lasagne. Never mind, here are a couple of things that I’m expecting/hoping for in the months ahead – very much personal predictions for when I’m not sat on the sofa with a slice of toast and marmite with the rest of you pagans.
Turning the vege-tables: Suze and the gang are correct. There’s no stopping the meat-free movement. Whether this is through vegan junk food or fine, Ceremony-style dining remains to be seen.
Crisps will continue to be great: You can keep your truffle flavour Torres. What I really want is Iberico Ham flavour Torres. But what I really really want is Mccoy’s Chip Shop Curry Sauce crisps. The revolution is coming.
Various authentic Chinese things: I’ve already mentioned hand-pulled noods but there are other important things, like hot-pots, dumplings and duck to consider. Chinese food varies greatly from region to region, just ask my brother, he’s been there. Let’s wait and see.
Wine: Again, there’s a vested interest because I got a new corkscrew and decanter for Christmas. And also because fuck Mezcal. Wine is delicious, interesting and good for you (according to, like, two news stories per year, probably funded by the French) so drink up. It also looks good on a shelf, FYI.
In the interests of thorough, responsible journalism, I ran my thoughts past industry expert Sophie Orbaum, Director of Comms for the Harts Group, listed in CODE 30 under 30 and, by chance, my sister. She, naturally, had some thoughts of her own:
“I’m with you on wine. We’ve been able to compete on food for too long and there’s so much untapped pleasure and joyous one-upmanship to be had in the new and old world, sulphitey and ‘sulphiteless’ bottles. Surely this is the year it spills out of the wine columns and into general food news. On the other hand, I disagree strongly with fuck mezcal.” – she would, it’s her job to.
“I don’t think anyone is betting against the rise of vegetarianism and veganism, but I think this is really part of a bigger swing in the zeitgeist towards conscious consumption. We’ve had enough of Billy big balls restaurants (and politicians/producers/chefs) and want a bit more substance. This encompasses animal welfare, sustainability, provenance and whether the receptionist is getting motorboated by the man in charge. Trust and dependability will become sexier words than ‘new’ and ‘on trend'”.
So, there you have it. She’s never tried chip shop curry flavour crisps.