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News / Life / Food

Welp, nobody ate the kelp … and other false food predictions

By Daniel Neman, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Published: January 6, 2024, 6:02am

ST. LOUIS — Have pity for our poor brethren on the East and West Coasts.

Yes, they look down on us as provincial and dull, they see us as uninspired and uninspiring. Mostly they just ignore us.

But it’s not their fault. They can’t help it.

They’re so busy trying to latch onto the latest trend, staying ahead of the next trend and disgorging themselves of the last trend that they don’t have time to think. Terrified that they will find themselves on the wrong slope of the trend curve, they automatically and reflectively look down on people who are constitutionally untrendy.

Which is to say, us.

That’s why those “Top 10 food trends of 2024” stories generate little interest here in the Midwest. Our social standing does not depend on which trends we follow and when we start to follow them.

We’re content to eat our mac and cheese and look at those predictions with amusement.

Do you know what Whole Foods predicted would be a huge food trend this year? Mac and cheese.

“Mac and cheese, pizza bites, classic old-school cereals and more — we all crave the occasional comfort of a meal from our childhood,” they wrote after consulting their Trends Council.

It took a Trends Council to prognosticate that hipster Americans are going to be eating what we Midwesterners have been eating nonstop for the last 80 years.

And they think we are untrendy.

Do you know what else the mighty Whole Foods Trends Council predicted would be huge in 2023?

Kelp. Yes, kelp — the ingredient found on the menus of apparently no restaurants in the St. Louis region. You can, however, buy it in fish food and fertilizer (it’s a brown algae or seaweed).

“Kelp-inspired foods are gaining popularity,” they said, and the trendies can keep it.

Admittedly, the folks who predicted food trends, like a broken clock, did get a few things right last year. Southern Living Magazine, as well as Whole Foods, predicted that no-alcohol drinks would soar.

Soar they did. Bars and restaurants everywhere are creating such mocktails as tangerine no-jitos (Retreat Gastropub), Wolves in Cheap Clothing (Planter’s House) and Dry 75s (The Lucky Accomplice).

So, give credit where it is due. They got one right.

But did dates become big this year in desserts, as predicted? Maybe in trendier parts of the country, though I kind of doubt it. And I’m someone who loves dates.

Dates were going to become the next big dessert ingredient, according to Whole Foods, because a TikTok video went viral. It showed a woman slicing open a date, removing the pit and filling the middle with peanut butter. She sprinkled in some chopped peanuts, closed the date and refrigerated it to set. Finally, she dipped it in chocolate and added more chopped peanuts.

Admittedly, that sounds pretty amazing. But is it enough to spark an actual trend of restaurants and ordinary people using dates in desserts? Apparently not.

Meanwhile, the prognosticators thought that avocado snacks and avocado desserts would be huge last year, and that there would be a huge explosion of foods with caviar in them.

It’s enough to make you wonder if these predictions do not come from serious study and contemplation.

So what are the predicted food trends of 2024? You don’t want to know.

Actually, they’re not as bad as kelp, or honey alternatives, or everything coming in tamarind flavor, which were also predicted for 2023.

The Food Network thinks that sake will be the next “it” drink, that frozen food will be getting ever better and that white chocolate will become a gourmet ingredient.

Food & Wine predicts that chicken á la king will make a comeback, that ranch dressing will be everywhere (isn’t it already?) and that Caesar salads will be huge, but made with such non-Romaine ingredients as kale (been there, done that) and asparagus.

Southern Living suggests the food trends “you’ll see everywhere” include French toast prepared in casseroles and muffins, tahini being used in non-dip ways and a resurgence in Italian foods.

Italian foods. Midwesterners have been eating that for 125 years.

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