‘Tis the season. Like champagne, oysters and family overload, prediction stories are a post-Christmas absolute. Newspaper editors love to assign them to fill the news dead zone that falls roughly between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. (As a reporter, I learned from veteran colleagues the fine art of never catching an assignment editor’s eye until well into January.)
New media — supposedly hipper, faster, lighter on its feet than stodgy, old newsprint — can’t seem to escape the same trap. Food predictions for 2010 are blanketing the Internet like so much frosting on the cupcakes now clogging so many bloggers’ “Out” lists.
But really, how can any of us know who will be the next rock star chef or which country’s cuisine will suddenly soar to new heights of popularity or which piece of fruit will find itself adored by pastry chefs from coast to coast? I mean, who could have said last December 31 that quinces would rule come October?
In one sense, it’s safe to say pretty much anything. No one will remember in November, when peanut butter and jelly sandwiches make a huge comeback, that I said in January the PB&J; was toast. Predictions are the Chex party mix of writing: Easy to ingest and instantly forgettable.
There are, however, a few food trends that I can predict with absolute confidence. I feel certain, for example, that my resolve to cook more and eat less will dissolve within the first 10 days of January, that I will lose and gain the same five pounds at least five times in the coming year, and that I will end up cooking some version of the same seven or eight dishes each month (tacos, anyone?) despite my best efforts and most noble intentions.
Beyond that, I can only guess. But since my guesses are as good as anyone’s, here goes:
Julie Powell’s beleaguered husband tires of playing bruised second banana to his blogging bride. Unbeknownst to her, he enters the Pillsbury Bake-Off and wins with his “Makin’ Whoopie Pies.” His new career as patissier to the stars is launched, and he writes his own food-and-marriage memoir. “Leaving” debuts at No. 1 on The New York Times Bestseller List.
As the White House kitchen garden lies fallow in winter, Mahlia and Sasha Obama stage a healthy-foods revolt, demanding that refined sugar be put back on the first family’s menu. Gate crashers at a White House breakfast find Lucky Charms on the dining table and break the story on Twitter.
After a recent turn as guest DJ on KCRW in Los Angeles, Alice Waters realizes her one true love is music. She takes up bass guitar and chain smoking and opens a nightclub south of Market Street called The Mache Pit.
Having had their day in the sun, quinces gradually fade from view. A Gastronomica cover illustration of the Eiffel Tower constructed of canned fruit makes mandarin orange slices the new darlings of the food universe.
Using its hit reality show, “The Biggest Loser,” as a springboard, NBC launches a spin-off designed to cure Food Network junkies of their addiction. Foodies across the country tune in weekly to watch iron- (chef)willed trainer Jillian Michaels pound the love of food TV out of desperate contestants. Wearing either a Nigella Lawson mask and low-cut sweater or a Mario Batali ponytail and orange Crocs, Michaels barks out demands for sit-ups and push-ups until her subjects beg for mercy — and swear off food porn for good.
After South Carolina voters decide Governor Mark Sanford’s wife had the right idea, the newly unemployed Sanford licks his wounds and mixes up a batch of gorp to take on his next walkabout. After dubbing it “Appalachian Trail Mix,” Sanford sells the idea to Wal-Mart. A star is born.