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0906 PD: Trends in Food Fashion

Baxter Black Published on 21 September 2006

It may come as a shock that I, a man who cannot fry eggs without searing an impermeable layer of formica on the bottom, who still has not mastered Minute-Rice and whose idea of a salad is a jalapeño and Miracle Whip, would keep abreast of the latest trends in haut cuisine.

Many of you are aware that sous vide (plastic vacuum sealed gourmet meats for boiling or simmering) has now jumped from the convenience store bean burrito you put in the microwave, to the Anazazi frijóle blue tortilla wrap with Santa Fe red chile and mango sauce you buy at Trader Joe’s for $12.99. It just shows you can paint racing stripes on a Geo and fool some of the people all of the time.

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Another trend, according to reports, is that 27 percent of adults surveyed said they’d like Internet access or a small television set at their table in full-service restaurants. How wonderful, take your family out on the town to celebrate a birthday or anniversary and ignore each other just like you do at home!

Sommeliers noticed the movie Sideways created a phenomenon of people getting in touch with their more elegant side, rushing out and buying Pinot Noir! We can look for producers of commodities to start backing movies that promote their products, i.e., Potato Head Meets the French Friar (rated PG for heresy and excess gluten), The Vegetable Wars (fish and asparagus fight with sticks and spears) or The Pork Confessions (Babe discovers he likes BLTs!)

Another trend that may have a significant effect on those of us meat producers is the fine-tuning of the definition free-range chicken. Cutting-edge chefs finally decided to check out what that means. It turns out free-range chickens don’t just “run free” like buffalo used to. I assume they had envisioned flightless Leghorns living the wild life of Riley like quail, ruffed grouse or jack rabbits, enjoying quality of life characterized by fighting off predators, parasites, flood, famine or fire. To their chagrin, they found out that farmers actually raise them! So now they serve “pastured” chicken.

The new scrutiny of naming commodities will put pressure on producers to be more accurate. Branded beef will require us to be more specific, i.e., Branded-on-the-Left-Hip Beef or Branded-on-the-Pine-Ridge-Indian-Reservation Beef or Branded-in-a-Tilt-Table-with-Electric-Iron Beef. Standing Rib Roast would be renamed Reclining Rib Roast. We’d start seeing the Cornish Tame Hen, the Lamb Choppette and Corn-fed Buffalo.

Ah, but presentation is half the meal, and a tantalizing name adds to the dining pleasure so I hope this truth-in-advertising stops before it hits the Sushi bars. After all, who would order off a menu that simply read, “Stuff that crawls on the sea floor!” PD

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