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A year for eating dangerously

Search for “food trends in 2014” on the internet and you will be told macaroons are out and éclairs are in, carbohydrates are out but lard is back, cauliflower is the new Brussels sprout, Thai is passé and the flavours of Latin America are set to conquer the world.

Where foodie trends lead, the food industy often follows – this great article looks at some international and local foodie moves…

Some tea-leaf readers are more “scientific” than others. For instance, the American National Restaurant Association took the trouble to survey 1 300 American chefs. Its findings were – well – predictable: preferences for what is local, environmentally sustainable and organic continue to drive trends. (Even if you have no conscience, it is now de rigueur to consult your smartphone WWF-Sassi app at the restaurant table to check whether the fish on the menu is harvestable.)

Ethical, “cruelty-free” and free-range meat are now routinely flagged on menus even at family steakhouses, and small, boutique butcheries are reappearing in the city.

Another trend broadening its reach is foraging. Expect to see far more South African chefs incorporating wild food and veldkos on their menus. In line with our democratic project, the desire to experiment, to rediscover indigenous plants and recipes, and crossover cultures continues with our intrepid chefs.

In fine dining restaurants, foams have lost their frothy novelty, but gels and playing with agar-agar remain popular. Sous-vide cookers and dehydrators are no longer rarities.

Affordable kits and new appliances are putting molecular gastronomy within the reach of domestic kitchens. Home cooks are generally taking a more scientific approach towards cooking, following such outfits as the American Test Kitchen and authors such as Harold McGee and modernist cuisine exponent Nathan Myhrvold. Chefs and restaurateurs have to keep ahead of the patrons.

The domestic cook is distilling liquor, making homemade ciders, and engaging in all kinds of fermentation, including making sourdough bread. Sour as a taste is finally being redeemed. With the growing number of Asian supermarkets some of us are even producing our own kimchi.

New Asian flavours are entering the West: sansho and Szechuan pepper, shishito peppers, gochujang (Korean hot chilli paste with fermented soy beans), and Japanese shichimi togarashi seven-spiceseasoning.

But fusion cuisine is giving sway to Netspeak “culinary mash-ups”.

Cheeses are mushrooming locally, with goat-milk cheeses top of the bill. Soon it will be seen as unpatriotic if your cheese board doesn’t also feature half a dozen local varieties.

North America is largely responsible for turning discoveries into global trends. Entry into the tea market by Starbucks is sure to give tea new prominence. I predict you will soon see tea leaves cropping up on dinner plates.

In the United States, calorie counting has taken a knock for being misguided and dangerously obsessive. Instead, John Durant’s palaeo diet (The Paleo Manifesto: Ancient Wisdom for Lifelong Health) went big. It cuts out processed foods, dairy and the grains of our Neolithic revolution – wheat, maize and rice – and favours vegetables, seafood, meat and bingeing on fat. There will be far less starch on restaurant plates in the year to come.

Wheat and gluten are still under suspicion and surveillance, and buckwheat is its latest usurper. As the bread baskets are increasingly left to slowly stale on tables, restaurateurs will tire of throwing them out and start providing alternatives.

Meanwhile, rediscovered ancient grains such as freekah and chia may yet go the quinoa route to fame…..

Mail & Guardian: Read the full article

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