The first time I heard of sushi was long before it had a dedicated section at Pick ‘n Pay. It was in the mid-nineties and, something that always fascinated me, was that people who had recently gone out for lunch or dinner to eat this raw fish delicacy didn’t merely say they went out, they would clearly make a point of saying we went out for sushi. Clearly, more so than other food groups, sushi warranted a special mention.
Since then, over the past few decades, I’ve noticed many other food groups pop into our culinary consciousness in a similar manner gaining similar mentions. There was the veg phase, when everyone seemed to either be going vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian as well as the rise of Dim Sum restaurants that started popping up around the city.
It’s not just foods from specific ethnicities that break out and become trendy, these trends also lend themselves to the very way we seem to consume food. Take, for example, the worldwide food truck trend that has grown over the past years. Now, street food is nothing new per se (cities all over the world have always offered some form of street food), however, with the arrival of the food truck trend, it became a thing. Suddenly, faux gourmet versions of street foods were available and street food festivals, to my taste buds delight, grew in popularity.
Most recently I am fascinated by the spread of the near-universal love of Sriracha. A garlic, vinegar and chili sauce (of Thai origin) made popular in the States by Mr Tran of Huy Yong foods. It has gained huge international popularity over the last few years. I first spotted it at a trendy Cape Town dive bar, frequently visited by so-called hipsters. My ‘with it’ friends would always go crazy for it, as though they’d found a rare type of chill gold. Now, local retailer Woolworths has gone all out on Sriracha, not only offering this sauce in its regular form but also offering Sriracha seasoning and Sriracha mayo.
Don’t even get me started on the war on gluten (that’s a whole subject for a piece on it’s own) but you won’t find a restaurant that doesn’t offer gluten-free pasta or bread as carb-conscious option. In a past issue of ELLE I wrote about how we are all influenced by trends, even if we think we aren’t. If an item is in the store, it is there because it stems from one trend or another – so, no, you’re not off the trend hook.
The influence of trends on our thought and consumption has become a hobbyhorse of mine. Noticing how something as basic and instinctual as our nutrition has become influenced by trends, my view that trends impact every aspect of our lives has become more entrenched. Ultimately, as humans, we are a species largely constructed by influences that surround us. We should never feel that we are any less individual because our choices are guided or influenced by our environment – to deny being influenced by trends, whether conscious of them or not, is to deny a part of what makes us human. So go ahead, embrace the tasty trends around you and have fun at the new ramen restaurant that recently opened.