Opinion: Food Fads

They recently wrote a story about how great dashi is. And Maki from Just Hungry & Just Bento responded (link). She’s worried that Japanese food is nothing more than a food fad. In my opinion she has valid concerns. One example is Swiss food – its come in and out of style a number of times (hello Melting Pot). Japanese food probably isn’t any different honestly. Its sad that food has been regulated to even having “fads” but that’s pretty much always been the case, more so since we started recording recipes in cookbooks but always among the upper classes.

My favorite subject is social history (things like marriage, art, food, cooking, etc). If you look at the history of food and cooking (my favorite one is Near a Thousand Tables BTW) as well as social history in general you will see plenty of examples of “fads”, even within one country’s culture. Very little makes it into the “mainstream” – and the mainstream itself is constantly shifting, not just from culture to culture but also by outside overlapping influences (think of the easy access to information that the internet has afforded us). When was the last time you had rabbit for instance? A Western staple for hundreds of years.

Usually its several fads at the same time on the same subject (think of fashion – is there only ONE style at any given time?). Everything cycles. EVERYTHING. Heck even the definition of marriage has cycled around a couple of times. No culture has been immune, no subject, no topic, no matter what. So who cares if its a fad?? The point is to enjoy what you enjoy in life, who cares if your out of “style”! I mean I’ve had tomato aspic – something that fell completely out of style in the 1960s and hasn’t returned – and that was in the 1990s when I was a teenager. GROSS by the way…which is probably why I highlight it whenever I’m featuring a vintage cookbook.

Then again I’m not big on fads anyway, I usually resist, which is a fad in and of itself. There are deep societal & psychological reasons we have fads. But that’s a lecture for another day (and hopefully from someone with a lot more education on the topic).

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