Sun 11 Jan 2009
In case you were wondering, “The Next Grain” is — ta-dah! — buckwheat!
(Let’s see if next year it’s — ta-dah! — Spanky!)
Ha-ha, just kidding, but how do I know this amazing fact? Because of Food & Wine magazine’s “Special Trend Issue,” an exercise that F&W indulges in every January, the month during which many newspaper style sections and magazines that emphasize “lifestyle issues” make their predictions about what is going to be hip, cool and happening in the coming year. Doesn’t matter that in two months everyone will have forgotten what those trends were supposed to be and go back to their dark corners to eat what they always ate and drink what they always drank.
I mean, trends are so flawlessly trendy. For example, the movie Sideways pushed pinot noir consumption in this country to unprecedented heights, because the movie’s “hero” Miles — what a loser! — preferred pinot noir wines to all others. People who before they saw Sideways were saying, “I don’t understand pinot noir, I just don’t get it,” were drinking the stuff by the gallon. Now that the back-draft from that (deeply flawed) film has finally evaporated, everyone can go back to their dark corners and mutter, “I don’t understand pinot noir, I just don’t get it,” and leave the rest of us alone.
Anyway, right off the bat, my advice to the editors and writers of F&W is: Deep-six the term “über,” as in “über-chef Thomas Keller” and “über-restaurateur Danny Meyer.” In this Nietzschean carnival of hyperbole, I suppose Helen Turley would be an “über-winemaker” and a large blue potato would be an “über-blue-tuber.” Talk about a cold, dead slug of a cliché! (I’ll extend the hand of forgiveness if they want to write “über-blog BiggerThanYourHead.”)
You might like to know that, according to F&W, the “Menu Buzzwords” for 2009 will be Frosting Shot — “Cupcake frosting sold straight up in little paper cups”; Gibralter — ” Double espresso with frothy milk, served in a glass”; Gnocchi — “Made with whole wheat, rye, brioche, black olives, dill or bacon” (no buckwheat?); Mortadella — “On charcuterie plates; pistachio- or truffle-speckled”; Sablefish — “Flaky, buttery, sweet — and sustainable — black cod.”
Personally, I plan, for 2009, to boycott any menus that use any of those “buzzwords.” In fact, I would like the word “buzzword” not to come within 3,000 miles of my eyesight, lest I squash it like a gnat beneath my ink-well.
Other trends I will be wary of include restaurants where “customers order from touch screens that double as game consoles” — nobody has to talk to anybody! — and egg bars in gourmet grocery stores. That’s right, selected “Whole Foods locations in the Northeast and parts of Ohio” — parts of Ohio? — will stock ostrich eggs as well as the eggs of ducks, quail, pheasant and “deep-green emu eggs.” As if it’s not difficult enough standing in the grocery store in a dither trying to choose among organic eggs, free-range eggs and Omega-3 eggs from plain old hens.
O.K., here I’ll say that I actually enjoy Food & Wine magazine — but not the wine part so much because Lettie Teague is becoming the Gael Greene of wine-writers; “my friends” this and “my friends” that, sheesh — especially for the recipes, which we often use, but gee, when you combine the tendency toward archness and whimsy and aching cuteness and the almost unseemly yearning to be hip that F&W exudes, along with Bon Appetit and Gourmet, combined with the constant blurring of the line between editorial content and advertising, it’s a relief to turn to a publication like Cook’s Illustrated, which features no advertising, no color food-porno shots and no celebrity-chef-guest-contributors. It’s just a magazine for people who want to cook better. You have to love a publication that says, “We wanted to see what brand of oatmeal is really best, so we gathered 87 brands of oatmeal, including three from Bulgaria, and prepared them under precisely the same conditions in our test kitchens,” and then they tell you what the über-oatmeal is.