Sources: National Restaurant Association, Datassential market research, Baum+Whiteman consultants.
Sunday, January 15, 2017
Our Taste Buds (if not our Politics) are Getting More Diverse
I find that a great way to foster a glimmer of understanding across cultures is through our taste buds. Since ethnic food is my passion, a cross-cultural experience for me is a traditional meatloaf and macaroni-and-cheese. (And I still feel compelled to spice those up. I guess I still don’t grasp the concept of mac and cheese.)
It brings back the memory of one of my early visits to my Irish Catholic in-laws. I offered to concoct a noodle soup and asked offhand where the spice drawer was. The response was silence and a puzzled stare. Oops, no points for me.
But I rounded up some seasoned salt, black pepper and lemon and it all worked out. For later visits I packed my own seasonings, and over the years we got to be great food-friends (curry in scrambled eggs—revolutionary!)
Now, times have caught up. Interesting and ethnic foods are popping up all over the country, even at chain joints in shopping strips. And it looks like we haven’t seen anything yet.
Ironic, really. Politics may have gotten whiter, but our food sure as hell isn’t going that way.
South American flavors will influence U.S. eateries and food companies this year more that they already are, according to experts such as the National Restaurant Association. Flavors and ingredients born in Peru, Argentina, Venezuela, and Brazil will elbow in on our burger fetish. Ethnic breakfasts, (think breakfast tacos) will get bigger. So will casual and upscale meals inspired by Latin street food.
In particular, look for these:
Chimichurri: a sauce from Argentina made with garlic, jalapenos, vinegar, cilantro, parley and oregano.
Aji peppers: hot, yellow peppers used by Peruvians.
Arepas: Venezuelan cornmeal cakes packed with savory fillings.
Mojo: Cuban sauce made with lemon, orange, garlic, oregano and cumin.
Elote: Mexican-style grilled corn on the cob brushed with mayo and sprinkled with cheese, cayenne, chili powder and lime juice.
Finally, for dessert, Cajeta: Sweet, tangy caramel sauce from Mexico made from goat’s milk instead of cow’s milk.
Naturally, I can’t wait—here's hoping that eggs and meatloaf will never be the same.