It seems silly to write about food trends—after all, if something is delicious on December 31, isn’t that still the case a day later?
But as David Sax writes in his book The Tastemakers, food culture is about so much more than what we put in our mouths in order to not die. In fact, it’s not just food culture anymore but popular culture, reported on in the news, tied to movies and television shows (think cupcakes and Sex and the City), and all part of how we signify who we are and what we value.
Food trends are also part of how we open ourselves up to the wider world around us. Maybe you can’t afford a trip to Peru, but you can try ceviche and understand a little bit more about that country’s culture as a result. When a regional cuisine has its moment in the pop-culture sun, the world gets a tiny bit smaller. And when a traditional ingredient or technique is rediscovered, our past seems a bit less far away.
Here are seven of the food trends you’ll see a lot of in 2015. Take them as an opening to try something new, not just as a sign that you need to find a new favorite dessert because cronuts are over. (Cronuts are totally over, though.)
The New York Times covered bone broth—a more substantial cousin to stock—this month, so you know it’s about to go big with foodies everywhere. But we’re not just talking about simmering poultry, meat, or seafood bones with seasonings in water in order to create a vehicle for soup. The point of this nutrient-rich broth is to drink it hot, the way you would tea or coffee. Paleo dieters consider bone broth a staple, and chef Marco Canora opened a broth take-out window at Brodo in NYC. Or just take the DIY route and make it at home in a pressure cooker. If cavemen could make stock, so can you.
“This year is sort of a tipping point for changing attitudes on fats and oils,” said Daniel Levine, a trends expert with the Avant-Guide Institute. We’re increasingly moving away from the low-fat regimes of the past as we learn more about the ways in which fat is good for us, from omega-3 fatty acids to HDL cholesterol. The result is what Levine called a “sea change,” where we start actually embracing fats and oils for their health benefits, like Woody Allen’s Sleeper come to pass. The real proof? Food retailers aren’t putting out as many low-fat versions of products, Levine said—it’s just not a compelling selling point anymore.
It’s hard to imagine, but bug cuisine is about to have its moment. Several American restaurants are already serving dishes made with insects, Levine said, appealing to adventurous patrons. Granted, North Americans aren’t about to start buying cockroaches laid out in Styrofoam trays at the supermarket, but Levine predicts we start to see “hive to table” products like insect-based flours, protein powders, and energy bars hit the mainstream this year. After all, bugs are an excellent source of protein.
For those who think rooibos is old news, matcha is the tea to watch this year. This powdered green tea, used in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, is particularly rich in antioxidants. Its strong, grassy taste may be an acquired one, but the relaxing ritual of making the tea—boiling your water, measuring out the frog-green powder, whisking the liquid until a thin froth forms—will help sell you on it. Visit MatchaBar in NYC if you’d rather let someone else do the work, or visit a Japanese tea room for the full experience.
Related to our new embrace of fats and oils, people are increasingly interested in eating for brain health, Levine said. It makes sense: the overall population is aging, and no matter how many years you’ve clocked, most of us are stress-addled and sleep-deprived. Our noodles could use the help, frankly. With that in mind, there’s growing interest in nutrient-dense sources of unsaturated fat like avocados and seafood (think wild salmon—apparently your parents were right to call fish brain food.) And major companies are pushing the potential brain-boosting benefits of antioxidant-rich ingredients like blueberries, tea, and dark chocolate.
As pot legalization (or at least a loosening of restrictions) continues to spread in the United States, chefs are getting in on the action. But these are not dorm-room pot brownies we’re talking about here. Inventive chefs are treating the marijuana plant as they would cheese or wine, considering terroir and the ways flavor notes can vary in different strains of the plant. The Specialty Food Association says that edible marijuana products represent an important new market for specialty foods, and ad agency the Sterling Rice Group predicts we will see pot-laced beverages and syrups hit the market this year. If your state hasn’t loosened those laws yet, there’s always hemp seeds.
Chefs today have access to more ingredients than those at any other point in history, but some of them are going back to the farm in order to create tastes to their exact specifications. Increasingly, chefs are working with farmers to breed and select for taste, from vegetables to livestock. Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill in New York is at the forefront of this trend; while dining at his restaurant, Levine recently tasted an “898” squash Barber has been working on. The trend is definitely high-end and small-scale, but reflects our consumer desire for more variety within individual ingredients in the produce and meat aisles. Chefs have that same desire, and this is one way it shows. “They want to manipulate flavors before the ingredients get to the kitchen,” Levine said.
Terri Coles is a freelance writer living in St. John’s, Newfoundland. She’s a recovering picky eater.