Before looking into our Mixed Greens crystal ball at the food trends for the coming year, it’s interesting to look back and see if things really moved in the direction we thought they might. I don’t mean to brag but we seem to be riding the wave as eating locally continues to be mentioned on practically everyone’s list. In the year ahead, locavorism looks like it may become even more specific or hyperlocal. Historians are beginning to get in the game by bringing information about what foods were traditionally eaten in any given location and how were they prepared. The Willows Inn on Lummi Island is considered a trendsetter in the hyperlocal realm. A food-related vacation could take you to Nettles Farm for one of their workshops in local cooking skills, just in case you don’t happen to have an elder to consult nearby. Will someone please teach me how to filet a whole salmon?
All of you folks living in Ballard will be happy to know that Nordic cuisine is getting quite a bit of attention when it comes to the hyperlocal trend. The cookbook NOMA says it all — foraging beach plants, gathering berries, using traditional foods and methods with a whole new twist. It makes you look around when you’re walking in nature in a whole new way — specifically, what’s here that I could eat? And yes, even those Doug fir branches can be boiled down and used to make a super-refreshing granita. You might want to think twice before composting your whole Christmas tree.
Which leads me to the trend toward wasting less food. Eating the whole fish, including the bones, the whole vegetable, including the stalks and leaves, and the whole animal, especially the bones. In our vampire-obsessed culture, even blood is making it’s way onto the table. No one has explored nose-to-tail eating more than Jennifer McLagan, first in her cookbooks, Bones and Fat and now in Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal. I’ll have to admit that after looking through Odd Bits, I had a hard time finding a recipe that I would actually try but who knows what the new year will bring. Chocolate blood ice cream, anyone?
2011 was a big year for specialized diets — gluten-free being one of the most popular. An unexpected side effect has been that people are actually reading food labels and opting to eat less processed food. Homemade ends up being easier, healthier and sometimes less expensive. Look for cheese-making to move to the front of the pack along with all kinds of preserves and pickles. We’ve made ricotta, creme fraiche, butter, yogurt cream cheese and whey on the blog. I’d love to try some homemade mozzarella in 2012.
My personal favorite trend is toward a less formal, more comfortable way of eating. Family-style is becoming more popular at restaurants as are chef’s tables where several cooks get together and each prepare a different dish to put on the table. Mismatched dishes, utensils, everyday glasses, anything goes. No need to make home-cooking into a big production. All you need is fresh, seasonal ingredients, family and friends and what we at Mixed Greens bring to you week after week — good, sometimes old-fashioned, ways to eat more simply, locally and sustainably.
We hope that you’ll pull up a chair at our table in 2012!