|Sadly (or fortunately, depending on your point of view)
Polish Ham did not make our first ever list of trending foods
Not surprisingly, foods and beverages spike in popularity, seemingly from nowhere at times.
Gourmet coffee cafes and micro-roasters are pretty ubiquitous nowadays, but that was hardly the case just a mere sixty years ago, when Alfred Peet opened up his namesake store in Berkeley, CA in 1966. As it turned out, his shop’s beans provided the kindling for the company which broke lattes and cappuccinos into the American mainstream, Starbucks out of Seattle, WA.
How about what goes into a coffee? While many swear by black, dairy milk and non-dairy creamer were your only options for the longest time, until the arrival of alternate milks such as soy, oat, and almond. Now, those alternative milks are easily findable at your average grocery store, and are commonly used in baking as well. Artificial sweeteners are also a bit of a recent arrival, with Nutrasweet, Stevia and Monkfruit joining Sweet ‘N Low as options for those trying to avoid sugar-based substances.
Keeping in that mindset, we thought we’d look at some of the notable food trends of the past several decades, with a corresponding playlist that we hope will never fall out of fashion (playlist embedded at the end of this post.)
1) Crepes: Originating in Brittany, France, in the 13th century, these thin pancakes became the rage on restaurant menus in the 1970s, and has become a sneaky vehicle for hand-held food creations in the recent food truck boom. Starting off our musical tapas list is the Australian-band Crepes, whose dreamy pop/rock sound is in full effect on their 2015 single “Sexyland.”
2) Astronaut Ice Cream: The Whirlpool Corporation is the source for this 1960s phenomenon, which consisted of freeze-dried ice cream (the lack of moisture allowed for a lighter food product) meant to travel with NASA’s Apollo Program astronauts. As it turned out, these packets (which still can be found today) stayed completely earthbound; they never were included on any of the missions. This capsule of food history here is represented by Los Angeles’s Sir Sly, whose track “Astronaut” is included on their most popular album, the 2017 “Don’t You Worry, Honey.”
3) Upside-Down Pineapple Cake: This now commonplace treat was initially the collision of tradition with modern convenience – skillet cakes, in which fruit is placed at the bottom of a skillet before batter was poured over it, has been a thing since the middle ages. However, the advent of canning pineapple at the turn of the 20th century made pineapple a popular variation of this concept in the United States. Coming from a country that appreciates its sweets, the Philippines-based 6cyclemind shows off its modern romantic pop/rock vibe in their 2007 debut album “Home”, including their popular song we selected here in “Upside Down.”
4) Sun-Dried Tomatoes: Sun-Dried Tomatoes are a perfect example of a trend where too much was not a good thing – these simple creations had been on stateside menus as early as the late 1960s, but it wasn’t until the mid-1980s when these sweet, wrinkly textured gobs of deliciousness were commonly found on restaurant menus throughout the country. As it turned out, cheaply produced commercial versions (panned often as more bitter than less intensity than their naturally-produced cousin) pretty much put them in the home cook’s realm vs. the professional chef’s kitchen. Another Los Angeles-based set of performers, Jeremi and Jesse Brock aka the folk duo I Hate You Just Kidding mirrors the demise of this food item with their first set of lyrics from their song “Sun Dried Tomatoes”:
My heart is aching for a new sight to see/My heart is aching for a new song to sing/My heart is aching for this dry spell to end/My heart is aching for the music to begin
5) Quiche Lorraine: another trend which hit it big in the United States in the 1970s, the Quiche (originally, an egg base with creamed custard and smoked bacon) actually originated in what was then Germany in the 12th century; however, the French eventually acquired the region and renamed it Lorraine. The rest, shall we say, is history, though it took until the late 1970s and early 1980s for quiche to become a thing in the U.S. Unsurprisingly, Athens GA new wave pioneers The B-52s provide the musical napkin to wipe your mouths here, using their signature retro-1960s sound on their classic tune “Quiche Lorraine.”
6) Avocado Toast: Claimed laughably to be the wrecker of millenial’s bank accounts, the relatively recent comer to breakfast and brunch menus actually sports a multi-pronged origination story, with reports of the merging of avocado and bread perhaps originating to Mexico and South America countries as early as the 1500s. However, it wasn’t until Chef Chloe Osborne of NYC’s Cafe Gitane placed the item on her menu that this pairing started to take off stateside. Born in Savona, Italy, singer Annalisa has been a staple on the Italian music charts since she went solo in 2011, with her “Avocado Toast” single released in 2019.
7) Biscuits: When we think of biscuits here, we think of the light, fluffy creations of Southern cooking, which didn’t become a regional thing until flour became affordable for the average home owner as well as the creation of leavening agents such as baking soda. Similar to the hot chicken craze of a couple years ago, biscuits have made a similar trek north, with places in Columbus like Boxwood, Basic, Skillet and Dough Mama offering up their own versions, and places like fast food chain Bojangles finally making their way to Central Ohio. Offering up a very video-game electronica “jam” for our biscuits here is Evan King (appropriately, from biscuit country in Cary, NC) whose “Biscuits” track can be found his 2019 album “20XX”.
8) Crème Brûlée: This dessert has several origin stories, with a number of countries claiming to have spawned this uniquely crackly and creamy sweet treat, but the first documented recipe is dated to 1691 in France. Stateside, despite records dating back to the Thomas Jefferson, the dessert didn’t achieve its fame here until NYC’s La Cirque made it a dessert for the well-off in the 1980s. Appropriately enough, NYC is the home base of our featured artist, Sonic Youth, spearheaded by Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore, whose no wave alt rock creations proved influential for future artists and who provides us with their rendition of “Crème Brûlée”, from their 1992 long-player “Dirty.”
9) Cupcakes: Also called “Number Cakes”, the popularity of cupcakes was based on their time-savings – you could cook up a batch of cupcakes faster than a standard whole cake. Later, commercialization brought cupcakes to the grocery aisle, with companies like Hostess, Tasty Kake, Dolly Madison and others making the item a lunch box staple. However, it wasn’t until the 2000s when a combination of pop culture and tragedy helped the demand for nostalgic things like cupcakes go through the roof for a decade or so. Seemingly, cupcakes were as quickly not a thing as they emerged as a thing here in the U.S. “Cupcake Quemando”, by Southern California’s Fuerza Regiada and LEGADO 7, is representative of the so-called “Requinto Urbano”, which marries Mexican folk music with modern urban sounds.
10) Hard Seltzers: I’ve seen a Tweet which said the much derided Zima, which debuted in the 1990s in the midst of the “clear beverage” craze, was way ahead of its time considering the popularity of Hard Seltzers. Indeed, I don’t think anybody who was fully into the craft beer vs. macro beer battles of the 2010s could’ve predicted that hard seltzers would have snuck up late in the decade to grab double-digit market share by the 2020s, with both macro- and micro-breweries now brewing their own versions to meet the demand. Modern pop singer and producer Charlotte Aitchison aka Charli XCX, who also rose into prominence during the 2010 decade, provides the perfect chaser with her 2020 release “claws”, from her “How I’m Feeling Now” album.
11) Buffalo Wings: There are variations of the story the origin of and the reason why Buffalo Wings (traditionally, deep-fried chicken drumettes or flats coated with a cayenne-based hot sauce) were created, but all stories put the point of origin as Buffalo, NY in the 1960s. If nothing else, the chicken wing has proven to be a popular vehicle for savory and heat-laden spicing, especially with later trends to develop hotter and hotter peppers and the fusion cuisine movement. Known for his early work with Horace Silver, trumpeter Tom Harrell coats this food item with some jazzy flair, with his rendition of “Buffalo Wings”, a swing number originally arranged by top composer Lyle Murphy (who was known for the so-called 12-tone Equal Interval System.)
12) Ranch Dressing: A Midwest state staple, this salad dressing and dip has its roots in, of all places, Anchorage, Alaska, where native Nebraskan Steve Henson developed the dressing as a way to keep his plumbing work crews happy in sometimes tough conditions. His success allowed he and his wife to retire early and move to much warmer California, where Henson bought a guest ranch which he renamed “Hidden Valley.” To cut a more detailed story short, packets to create his dressing became Henson’s main line of business, leading to a number of relocations, lawsuits, and a corporate acquisition to spark the ranch boom of the 1980s, where the dressing and ranch flavors became a prominent option for consumers. Perhaps a quirky story deserves a bit of quirky music to represent it, and we have a great selection in Martini Ranch’s “Reach”, the musical duo of Andrew Todd Rosenthal and Bill Paxton (yes, THAT Bill Paxton); even better, check out the song’s video on YouTube, which features James Cameron as director and star power in Lance Henriksen, Paul Reiser and Judge Reinhold.
13) Cheese Ball/Cheese Logs: According to an article posted in Culture Cheese Mag, the cheese ball (and its cousin, the cheese log) emerged as a modest yet adaptable option for get-togethers during the lean times of World War II, and has remained a popular party item well into the 21st century. Staten Island’s The Melonfarmers, who tout themselves as a band you’d enjoy if you like “handsome lead singers, blingy microphone necklaces, vegans, (and) angelic voiced djembe players…” definitely play it for laughs on “Cheese Log Boy”, of their punnily titled “Melonfarmers and the Infinite Sandwich” album.
14) Mashed Potatoes: Mashed potatoes had always been an option at the dinner table, but the act of mashing took a bit of effort, often leaving the dish for more special occasions. However, the 1950s saw the arrival of an acceptable instant mashed potato available to consumers at large, which helped make the dish a far more common sight at the everyday dinner table. Finishing out our playlist selections is none other than Dee Dee Sharp of Philadelphia, who started off as a backup singer until she broke out with her own string of hits in the early 1960s, including her duet with Chubby Checker (Slow Twistin’) and Mashed Potato Time, which was her highest charting hit, reaching #2 in 1962.