Ana Veciana-Suarez

Like clothing styles, food 'fads' come and go

A bowl of tabouli.
A bowl of tabouli. Miami Herald File

Is it my imagination, or are more meals now being served in bowls?

I’m no foodie, and my plebeian palate can hardly be considered discerning, but I have noticed that bowls are no longer reserved for soup and cereal. They’re also for noodles, for meat, for fish, for fried chicken — for anything, really. There are restaurants devoted exclusively to bowl-eating, and I know this because a son took us to one. It was packed and noisy and also quite stylish, but The Hubby and I managed to bring up the median age of the diners by a decade or two.

Turns out that bowls are the headline attraction for those seeking the latest and the healthiest. There are Buddha bowls, burrito bowls, harvest bowls, smoothie bowls, poke bowls. In fact, I read that there was an almost 30 percent spike of bowl entrees in restaurant menus during a five-year period. So, no, I’m not imagining things, but using this receptacle in lieu of the perfectly functional plate nevertheless takes an attitude adjustment

Of course bowls are just the latest in a long and ever-changing list of food trends, where the old is suddenly new and the forgotten rediscovered. Consider: Black tea. Avocado toast. Chorizo. Not-for-breakfast pancakes.

These “fads” are also a sign of our particular time and place in history — that is, a time of plenty in a developed country where grocery store shelves are stacked yea high with a dizzying variety of comestibles and obesity has become a national epidemic. Most of us no longer worry about where our next meal will come from, only how it’s prepared and delivered. I suspect that in past eras and other regions the vessel that held food was not nearly as important as the gruel that quieted the grumbling tummy.

Another interesting food-related item that has caught my attention: skyr. It’s advertised almost weekly in the Publix circular, one of those foreign foodstuffs introduced to the U.S. market with the idea that anything imported must be healthier. I had no idea what skyr was until I read the fabulous novel, “Burial Rites,” which is set in Iceland. Skyr, for the uninitiated, is a dairy product that looks like yogurt but tastes milder.

Because I want to be thought of as forward-thinking, skyr is now on my list of Try-It Grub. So is kefir, a kind of drinkable yogurt. Don’t expect me to switch from the Greek, though. I already gave up the fruit-at-the-bottom yogurt because it had too much sugar.

While on the topic of yogurt, I must include another fad that has caught on, though it probably never really lost its luster elsewhere. Fermented foods is all the rage these days, much like the reintroduction of ancient grains — quinoa, farro, millet, bulgur, amaranth — was hot-hot a few years back. The other week, close friends who know their way around the kitchen served us mugs of kombucha.

“Kom-what?” I asked, showing the full splendor of my ignorance.

“Kom. Bu. Cha,” my friend replied, in the tone reserved for children learning to count. “It’s good for your gut.”

Indeed, it is, and it has to do with biotic-something or other. The tangy drink also happens to be surprisingly tasty, maybe due to the flavoring of herbs and fruit. The alcohol content probably doesn’t hurt either.

Then there’s the venerable kimchi, the Korean fermented cabbage that’s very popular. If you don’t do spicy or Asian, you can always go German with sauerkraut. Either way you’ll be fabulously au courant.

For a long time a side serving of skepticism accompanied my experimentation with these chic nibbles and drinks, but now I’ve wised up. Like clothing, food fashion is cyclical. It’s only a matter of time before we go retro with fried food, fruit cobblers and chocolate-covered toffee candy bars.

I’ll be waiting for that comeback.

Ana Veciana-Suarez writes about family and social issues. Email her at avecianasuarez@gmail.com or visit her website anavecianasuarez.com. Follow @AnaVeciana.
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