Top five food predictions -- Indian spice! meatless Mondays! --that I'll be pushing in 2013

A food nerdie's wet dream -- a wall of pickles.
It's a new year, and so a clean plate for all food nerds is in order. We can forget the memories of past food flubs and start this year fresher than a bowl of baby spinach (triple washed, of course.) I've been studying other food forecasts for 2013 -- including those that stretched through Cafe Society last week -- and I found some trend predictions that I not only agree with, but I will enthusiastically trumpet until my tooter runs dry.

Here are the top five food predictions that I agree with. And praise the lard, "awesome" new weight-loss strategies are not included.

See also:
-Four top wine trends for 2013
-Seven Colorado food and spirits producers emerge as finalists for a 2013 Good Food Award
-Five chain-restaurant trends that should continue in 2013

Seriously--this stuff will get you hooked like a trout.
5. Being artisanally cheesy.

When you were a kid, cheese was uncomplicated: there was the yellow one, the white one, the kind that came in slices and string cheese. And that was it -- unless you were raised in the Midwest, where there was also squirty cheese in a can. But when you became an adult, people began to slip you melted Brie on ham sandwiches, restaurants put goat chèvre on the starters menu and Maytag blue cheese dressing on your salad, and before long your C-card was officially stamped.

You aren't a virgin anymore, so why not resolve to satisfy your cheese lust and take this relationship to the next level? It's predicted that the interest in artisan and upscale cheeses won't slow down, so jump on this trend and ride it.

Anyone who thinks that eating cheese couldn't possibly be as good as really good sex hasn't tried enough cheeses. Try a mouthful of Spanish Caña de Cabra with its bloomy rind and rich, milky, salty quicksand center, or a bite of French Ossau-iraty with its firm, creamy, bright hay-colored paste that tastes like grass and sweet honey. Or a smidge of a savory artisan cheese like Lagrein, which is soaked in wine and rubbed in spices to produce a beautiful garlicky, wild onion flavor. Or perhaps a thin slice of one of the holy grails of cheese: Oro Italiano; a super-rich cow's milk cheese made with saffron and black truffles.

Feeling intimidated by all the fancy-schmantzy choices? Make your first pick Drunken Goat -- it's a perfect gateway cheese.

Seitan even looks quite meaty!
4. Making meatless Mondays matter.

The campaign to make Mondays meatless was started in 2003 by a marketing whiz named Sid Lerner -- remember that "Squeeze the Charmin" ad back in the day? -- as an initiative to get people to do a hard reset after weekend indulgences and begin each week with a healthy zap of veggies and tofu. Contrary to popular belief, vegetables and soybean curd are just a small part of the options available for meatless meals, and the popularity of going meat-free one day a week will offer the chance to do what all good food nerds adore doing: experimenting.

Crazy and delicious things can be constructed from seitan, eggplant, avocados, nuts and potatoes, and tucking shreds of carrot or a handful of greens into a sauce will add both nutrition and depth. Root vegetables are predicted to be the new go-to veggies for both meatless meals and side dishes, which comes with another bonus: root veggies are generally cheap. With the price of a nice roast of beef these days necessitating two trips to the plasma center AND hocking your plasma screen TV, taking one day out of the week to cook turnips, parsnips, rutabagas and carrots will lighten both cholesterol and wallets.

Hing powder smells terrible, but tastes great.
3. Thank you, India.

It's been suggested that Indian spices and seasonings are going to hit as a hot trend in 2013, bringing curry to the masses.

But that's just the start. I would love to see more use of cardamom than the occasional Turkish coffee. Star anise has an exotic, licorice flavor and is quite decorative; tamarind lends a distinctive tangyness; adding mint can completely change a dish in a good way; and if you've never had a dessert like ice cream, custard or cake made with rose water, then you are coming late to the party -- but will be welcomed nonetheless. I'm especially looking forward to seeing asafetida, or hing powder, become more mainstream -- kinda like how Sriracha used to be mysterious, and now you can buy it at Wal-Mart.

Hing powder is a dried gum extracted from the root of an herbaceous plant native to Afghanistan, and the powdered form smells like a hundred pounds of oniony, garlicky sh*t. But when cooked into soups, rice or vegetable dishes, it adds a layer of flavor that resembles fine leeks and aromatic vegetable matter. And hing powder makes you fart less, which is another thing for which we can all thank India..

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Ed Haas
Ed Haas

Animal shaped marshmallows spiked with vodka.

Mantonat topcommenter

I respect people who have made a decision to become vegetarian or vegan for moral reasons; they've made a decision for themselves about what they choose to put in their bodies. There are also people who can't eat meat because of allergies or other issues with digesting meat problems. 

Avoiding meat for weight-loss reasons or for general health is probably not going to get you very far. I'd rather see a No-GMO Monday or a Ban-Big-Ag month. Soy is one of the most industrialized crops in the world and one of the top 5 GMO crops. Many people who switch to a vegetarian diet end up filling the space in their meals with pasta, bread, soy products, and other calory-dense, relatively nutrient-poor, processed foods that have their roots firmly planted in ConAgra, Monsanto, and Cargill.

Good meat is not cheap, but you don't need to eat a lot of it. Look for grass-fed, humanely raised and slaughtered meat. Avoid food made in factories. 


@Mantonat it is a good point to put meat-eating in a larger context of the overall impacts of food, but you don't _need_ to eat any meat; i eat a small amount of meat, but as a luxury, not as a requirement; i also don't believe that vegetarians rely more than average on processed industrial food; a few might, but i think for most vegetarianism is an aspect of a broader thoughtful relationship with food

if you want to take personal action in the world, look to your most impactful activities, such as eating, driving, producing trash, etc.; personally i give some respect to moral positions, but when it comes to food i have greater respect for informed choice-making based on issues of sustainability, worker conditions, side-effects of trade, health and humaneness; i don't hope for this to become trendy, i hope for it to become normal

Mantonat topcommenter

@sporobolus @Mantonat There's probably not one single food item that humans "need" to eat. We're omnivores and we thrive on a combination the macronutrients protein, fat, and carbohydrates, along with a multitude of micronutrients that can really only come from a varied diet. I'm in favor of getting those nutrients from the most bio-available sources while still considering the impact on the animals, soil, and communities where food is produced.

I think we're mostly on the same page, except that I don't necessarily think of meat as a "luxury," but rather as the best possible source for the building blocks that make us human. There are certainly other ways of fueling the human body, building cells, and energizing the brain, but they are not optimal. A strictly carnivorous diet would not be advantageous, nor would a strictly grain-based diet or a fruit-based diet.

When I referred to "moral reasons" for making food choices, what I really meant was "informed moral reasons," because believing something without educating yourself about the ramifications of altering your behavior is a pretty poor excuse for morality. So, I think your phrase "informed choice-making based on issues" is exactly what I mean by "morals." Maybe "ethics" is a better word choice, given the religious baggage carried by the word "morality."

In the long run though, people should choose what feels right for themselves and what makes them feel most healthy. Meatless Monday is just a feel-good campaign with no moral weight and certainly no objective health benefits.  

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