This is the time of year when all of the people who are in the business of watching how we spend our money will try to predict what we are likely to spend it on in 2013.
We call them trends.
But in reality, a trend is only trendy when folks embrace it. So that begs the question: What will we want in 2013?
Much of what we embrace will depend on what others choose on our behalf. A recent survey by the National Restaurant Association of more than 1,800 chefs, all members of the American Culinary Federation, shows that for 2013, the top three menu trends for restaurants this year will be locally sourced meat and seafood, locally grown produce, and healthful kids meals. It’s pretty clear that the eating local trend has been with us long enough now that it isn’t really as much of trend as it is an ongoing lifestyle choice.
Restaurant trends that are so 2011: Bacon in everything (especially desserts), foam and froth (no surprise here) and mini-burgers or sliders, although traditional hamburgers and cheeseburgers continue to be a high-scorer as menu favorites. I am only disappointed to report that the death of cake pops was not on any list that I received, except on the wish lists of fellow food writers.
The words “sustainable” and “healthy” and “nutrition” show up several more times on the survey’s Top 20 list for menus in 2013.
Those too, are lifestyle choices. Will we choose them? As the baby boomers age, a very large group of Americans will have to get serious about eating healthy because issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease are real and their lives will depend on it.
The same will hold true with our children. Look for the war on childhood obesity to continue and the pressure to increase on restaurants, particularly fast-food ones, to offer healthy alternatives for kids meals.
As food gets more expensive, all of us will have to look for ways to adjust our budgets. For some, that will mean eating less meat and finding alternative sources of protein. For others, it will mean making a conscious effort to waste less food, or simply eating less.
When it comes to the grocery store, there are a few new products that promise to be the “it” choices for 2013: coconut oil and chia seeds.
I suspect the coconut oil trend will ride a high wave, as I recently saw bottles of it on the shelves at a Walmart Supercenter. If it’s mainstream enough for Walmart stores, we’ll all be trying it before the year is out.
Chia seeds, yes, as in “cha- cha-cha-chia” have been named the new superfood for 2013, with protein, antioxidants, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids all rolled into one. That is, if everyone isn’t too busy humming the commercial and thinking about bushy plants in the shape of the president’s head.
Gluten-free also appears to be here to stay so look for it to go from trend to mainstream over the next few years. But how long will we have to wait until someone comes up with a really, really good gluten-free bread?
So now I want to know: What will you embrace in 2013?
Will you eat less meat? Will you embrace grains other than corn and wheat? Will you eat out more often or less? Where will you dine? How will you deal with higher grocery prices? Where will you shop? And what new tools will you be using to feed yourself and your family?
Let me know. Write to me or send me an email (my contact information is at the end of this column) and tell me what and how you hope to be eating and/or cooking in 2013.
Make sure to include your name, address and telephone number so I can call you to follow up if need be. Then check back in a few weeks to find out what our community plans to make trendy in Culinary Year 2013.
Until then, Happy New Year and Happy Food Year!