2016’s Food Trends Predicted

Olivia Short ’17

2015 saw us put a lot of weird things in our digestive tracts. And not “ethnic food is weird”-weird, but “why is this even a thing someone thought about ingesting”-weird. Among them: chia seeds, cronuts, and fermented tea.

And sure, there are underlying themes (such as the use of local ingredients) that drive food trends, but it’s more fun to speculate what weird things we’ll be eating next.

So, all that said, what does 2016 have in store for us? Here’s a few completely non-professional Educated Guesses from the kitchen of Olivia Shortcake herself:

  1. African Cuisine

Think about the storm of Korean and Thai food that we saw this year– especially the hip, foodtruck-ified tacos on every corner. Western-world booms of certain cultures’ food tend to happen shortly after a good period of expansion for that country– kimchi tacos became a thing around the same time South Korea’s global economy really took off. The kimchi trend was even further propelled by American desire to eat simple, natural, and gut-bacteria-friendly foods.

Expect this from Africa next. The continent’s economic boom will be reflected in America’s foodie hubs– expect Moroccan food trucks dishing out couscous wraps. (If you do happen to see one, definitely try any dish involving meat and dried fruit.)

  1. Painfully Americanized Cuban food

Nobody seems to know exactly where new relations with Cuba will lead. I’m too young to even have a frame of reference, but I know one thing will surely happen: terrible, tragic, poorly-seasoned, Americanized Cuban food.

This is sad and inevitable. Cultural exchange will rear one of its uglier heads and produce watered-down Cuban food for sale in the US. Stupid, stupid things like Cuban sandwich pizza (greasy and overpriced, $8 a slice) will happen. Mourn while you still can.  

  1. “Hip Lumberjack” food

There are two seemingly-unrelated food trends currently underway: the glamorous, Northern-California vegan mom diet; and the rustic, apple-cider, home-smoked-meat culture. While these two habits are taken up by radically different people, they’re both based on an aversion to processed foods and return to old-world tradition.
I predict a blending of the two in 2016: a youthful, health-conscious version of the woodsy diet. It will include venison with cranberry compote, parsnip gratin, etc. It will be adopted by plaid-wearing 30-somethings who listen to Mumford & Sons.

4. Ube Desserts

It’s safe to say that 2015 was the year of the avocado. Its versatility allowed it to last as a trend, gracing the world with avocado ice creams, tacos, fritters, and more.

While avocado will always be a wonderful kitchen staple, I foresee another vegetable rising to popularity in 2016: ube.

Found in many Filipino desserts, ube is a species of purple yam that gives dishes a beautiful lavender color– read more about specific dishes here.

It makes sense given the visual nature of the food world– Instagram has become the foodie’s bragging ground and/or source of inspiration. Ube’s unique color gives it an aesthetic value that’s perfect for photos, not to mention the photogenic beauty of all desserts in general.

(I have some real confidence in this one, as ube has made recurring appearances on my feed recently via trendy west-coast eaters babyjojen and foodwithmichel.)

Keep in mind that these are predictions for the food world as a whole– there’s that saying about Cincinnati being 10 years behind the rest of the world, so don’t be surprised if these take a while to trickle in. Still, if any of these really come true, you all owe me a Diet Coke.

(Cover image: my own photo of goodies from Tokyo Crepes in Charleston, SC)

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