As the food editor at Vogue India, one of the most common questions I’m asked at social dos, parties, office meetings, or even in random conversations with friends is, “What’s the next big food trend?”. And despite my profession, and being a self-confessed food nerd and custodian of good food, it feels like a huge responsibility to be able to accurately predict what’s to come on your plate next.
In order to find an answer I’m probably going to end up repeating for a long time in the recent future, I decided to use the platform of Terra Madre Salone del Gusto 2018 by the Slow Food network to assess what lies ahead. Considering the festival took place in Turin, Italy, last month and had over 800 stalls from 140 countries around the world, it seemed like a good representation of the global culinary world at large. Here’s everything I noticed.
Beans and legumes are the new food obsession
Beans and legumes of all shapes and sizes are being celebrated around the world, in the form of bean-based dishes of African, Peruvian and even Italian descent, like the fava. Thanks to their high protein content and the slow release nature of energy, these will be a big part of your kitchen in the year to come. From eating them as a side with your pasta, as a mid-day snack (sun-dried beans and legumes make a good option for this), or even as an addition to blitz into your soups, these will be consumed in every form.
Alternate ingredients are the future
Oat and nut milk can take a hike—alternate, more intense ingredients are all set to take centre stage in the coming year. Expect nut flour or red wheat flour instead of the regular wheat variety; chickpea or lentil pasta instead of durum pasta; and donkey, goat or raw milk instead of the common pasteurised version. The focus is on lessening the burden on the already overused ingredients in the world, while creating sustainable alternatives that are at par in nutritional value.
Sour is the new sweet
Tart, Vitamin C-enriched fruits are the flavour of the season this year, and even sweet desserts will now come with a sour tinge. Besides citruses dipped in chocolate, dessert barks dusted with citrus zest, and lemon and orange marmalades, fruit liqueurs and syrups will also get bigger and better this time around.
Corn to be incorporated in newer forms of food
Corn is having a big moment right now. Firstly, it is becoming increasingly evident that the crop is monopolised by a handful of multi-nationals around the world, who are only offering few varieties of corn, with most being hybrid and transgenic versions. Corn is one of the earliest vegetables known to mankind, and therefore needs to be conserved. But there is the larger conversation going on around it as well. Discussions about ancient varieties of corn and encouragement to incorporate the heirloom vegetable in daily cooking will be championed in the coming year. Expect to see the crop in everything from bread, polenta, biscuits and pasta, to even beer.
Climate change affects the food industry too
Talks and conferences about climate change won’t stop until something substantial is done about it. The theme was prevalent as an undercurrent at Terra Madre Salone del Gusto 2018, but it could also be called as one of the main topics of discussion. Most, in fact, spoke about it as an ‘emergency situation’. That the climate has changed and is going to continue to do so is known, but it’s important to consider what can be done about it, whether you’re a professional chef, farmer, food writer or even just a home cook. Beginning a conversation about it and committing to make a difference is of vital importance today.
Insects crawl into your plates
Whether you like it or not, the insect eating game is only going to get stronger in the coming year. Packed with vitamins and nutrition, everything from ants and silkworms to crickets will be eaten fresh, or blitzed into a flour, toasted, roasted and so on.
Sustainability is the need of the hour
Stories about how to sustainably cook, breed and grow ingredients were prevalent throughout the festival. From coffee growers from Colombia and Brazil and chocolate growers from Peru to oyster farmers from France, preserving old techniques and encouraging heirloom ingredients has always been key to being sustainable in the food world. Besides, effective disposal of food waste is a conversation that needs to be had urgently. The increasing amount of food waste in the world is not only alarming, it is also unethical from the environmental point of view—as its disposal requires massive energy consumption. So what can be done about it? Conscious consumption of food, followed by segregation of waste, ban on plastic and bio-degradable, recyclable disposables seem to be the most effective options at our disposal at this point in time.
We find that fermentation, pickling and foraging are the best ways to savour flavours
From fermented chocolate, beer and cheese to vegetables and vegetable leaves, there is a turn towards natural ways of preserving ingredients. The ancient methods not only lead to beautiful flavours, they also add an extra dose of good bacteria into your system. Eating foraged ingredients, plucked from hills or from down under the sea, are the new gastronomical pathways to discovering newer variations of vegetables, algae and fungi.
The discussion about women in the food industry picks up
The celebration of womanhood, and the path of dissecting their challenges and opportunities across all fields, is a hot topic of discussion today. And the food industry is not behind in this either—the biggest conversation around food right now is the involvement of women. Traditionally, women have been transforming raw ingredients into daily meals across the world, yet they notably face limited access to resources, technology and opportunities when compared to men in the food industry. To discuss this irony and come up with creative solutions seems like the thing to do for culinarians in the coming year.
Atypical flavouring comes to the fore
Give za’atar and togarashi a break—next year’s going to be about unique ingredients being sprinkled on your foods. Think about options like carob powder, which is a healthier alternative to cocoa powder; arima sansho, a Japanese mix of sake, sugar and shoyu that tastes similar to Indian tirphal spice, and has flavours that open up minutes after you have savoured it. Chefs will use these on your poke bowls, salad dressings, sushi toppings and more.