I think food trends are both ridiculous and amazing things, primarily due to the mystical happenstance of their origins. Why is it necessary that we deem certain foods more trendy than other foods at any one point? I imagine a few sad, overly-instagrammed, extravagantly styled food items on one of those athletic award platforms with different levels like in the olympics or Mario Kart — they don’t want to be pitted against each other, but we’re their pushy stage moms, forcing them to smile.
Why do we need trendy food items to begin with? I can see overarching culinary trends, definitely: dumping shit in a crock pot, for example, as a means of completely disregarding the beauty of crafting a meal with your hands. Juicing, if you’re into cleanses. Adhering to a raw food diet, if you’re into torturing yourself. But trendy food items are completely arbitrary. Who decides which food will be The Food? Is there a private council that meets at a Momofuku after hours, wearing expensive hoodies and drinking kombucha? (A drink that I’m not entirely sure isn’t secretly dangerous, btw.) It obviously isn’t Anthony Bourdain, because even in spite of the forthcoming multi-million dollar Bourdain Market, ol’ Tony is still too cool for trends, but it is now uncool to worship him, even if he wasn’t. Is a larger entity making these decisions? Is it a greater influence than one human can achieve? Bon Appétit, is this you? Does the media really control our thinking?
I’ve taken some time to revisit the lonely annals of my mind, the ones which store certain very specific pieces of information, like my middle school crush’s birthday (February 4th) or how many times per conversation I can get away with saying “what’s up?” to my mom (zero). Those kinds of things. You get the idea. I flipped through the card catalogue and found a shitty list of food trends that I can recall from the past few years.
2012 — Sriracha (To quote Mr. Bourdain, because I’m not trendy and still love him: “The way people eat has changed. They want to be at counters and communal tables. They want heat and funk and chicken wings that set their hair on fire. They’re as quick to brag about the greatest $3 bowl of laksa as a dinner at Ducasse.” I don’t disagree. People know that Sriracha is cheap af and inarguably delicious, but it was when mainstream channels started to do all kinds of weird shit with it and acknowledged that it was weird [essentially just doing it for the clicks] that the lovable condiment lost its dignity. It’s like a dog in a costume: cute at first, but after a while you feel bad the poor thing is being exploited. Dogs don’t need sunglasses! Their eyes are less sensitive than humans’!)
2013 — All of this gluten-free crap (Sorry Celiacs, I do respect you and want the best for you, I just think you planted some dangerous ideas into the minds of a lot of bad, perfectly healthy people.)
2014 — Quinoa (Which let’s be honest, half of the people who were into it probably don’t even know what the fuck it is. Grain? Rice? Fancy sand?)
2015 — Fucking. Kale.
2016 — See, here you thought it was definitely going to be acai bowls because your roommate from San Francisco was spouting on about them and he’s into way cooler stuff than you are, but in a satisfying turn of events, America decided to stop pretending that they cared about this healthy bullshit, and became obsessed with fried chicken sandwiches. I’m happy about this. Fried chicken sandwiches are in many ways, the perfect food (just think of the textures for a second…now open your eyes and keep reading), and it’s almost insulting to call them a trend, as that implies there has been and will be a period during which they are not popular or delicious. Both assumptions of course are incorrect.
There’s one trend that I left off my very thorough and obviously well-researched breakdown above, because it is too annoying and pervasive to be categorized in just one year. As you probably guessed from the title of this post (Is ruining the surprise bad journalism? Is that what I’m doing here?), the most criminal of all the trends is our frenemy avocado toast. Not particularly innovative or exotic enough to be made a big deal over, avocado toast snuck in under all our watches, into our track-lit kitchens, onto our artisan cutting boards and striped linen napkins, and somehow made us think that these two ingredients together could somehow change the world.
For a short period of time, I considered getting a loaf of bread tattooed on my arm — bread is foundational, it’s universal, it’s communal. Bread alone represents everything that food and eating represent. There is no bigger fan of toast than me. And being a half-hispanic Floridian, I was literally raised on avocados. Avocados and Selena and Publix. I love both ingredients — bread and avocados — individually. I even enjoy them together, I really do. But the point I am raising is that a food becoming trendy ignites the process of something so inherently simple and perfect becoming over fetishized and reconfigured a million ways, and given a persona that makes you forget why you even loved it in the first place. Avocado toast is Britney Spears up until the point she freaked out, but before present day, now that she’s returned to being super cool. (Seriously, her Instagram is the most delightfully positive thing on the internet. Unlike avocado toast.)
It didn’t take much searching to find some hyperbolized drool about this uninspired snack. (Have you ever thought about how the speed and convenience of the internet has really stripped the word “search” of its strenuousness?) In fact, the very first link after typing “avocado toast is bullshit” into Google was a Huffington Post “article” with a “headline” that could not have been more enticing:
Excuse me, a Huffpost Taste “article.” It was even updated over a year later! What, to make it better? Ha. Unsuccessful. (Disclaimer: if Huffpost Taste ever reads this “blog post” and wants to hire me based on the merits of my wit, I’m 100% yours for the taking.)
But seriously, look at these “recipes”:
Ignoring the ridiculousness of calling this a “recipe,” as if it belongs in the same category as something penned by Escoffier or Bocuse or even Guy Fieri, I have to say, this first one’s not completely terrible. It just astounds me that someone gets paid United States currency to do this. And you’re damn right I want to be that someone someday.
Structurally and proportionally, this next “recipe” is a disaster. I love pears and I love blue cheese, but how can you expect to shove this creation into your mouth hole, avocado toast architect, without the cheese and nuts falling all over your casually crumpled paper backdrop? Here’s the arrangement, if you must construct this: avocado first, then cheese and nuts, pear slices on top, as a blanket, reinforcement, protection. Otherwise, like Kim Kardashian’s boobs, this is just methodically constructed to look coherent (pretty?) for a picture, which is an entirely different subject altogether.
And you know what, after a certain point, don’t even call that avocado toast anymore. There’s a bunch of other shit on there. Slap on another piece of bread, and you’ve got yourself a fucking SANDWICH. (Some of you may believe that is unachievable without some kind of meat — that is 80% correct. Expand your horizons with me, though. We can do it if we have each other.)
But I get it, Huffpost Taste. This is an article about 16 avocado toasts that will give you a mind-crippling orgasm or whatever, and you’ve got an aesthetic to maintain. For example, avocado toast is simple and easy and carefree. It doesn’t matter if things are a little loose in the cilantro department because avocado toast is fuckin’ chill — except when it appears as if you poured ladlefuls of chimichurri directly onto the cutting board, as if the toast didn’t even exist. This is messy station, home cook. Your food cost must be ridiculous with all of that waste. Anthony Bourdain would not approve.
And finally, this confusing amalgam of flavors I can’t imagine, below. The incorporation of the feta is of some concern here: if in the picture the feta is sprinkled on top, that is wrong, because if it is, it should be noticable. If the feta is mixed into the avocado, that is even more wrong, because the flavors and textures should be distinct. Bottom line, and I feel that I’m approaching a theme here, but I can’t see the goddamn cheese, and that is most important.
Also, looks like you wanna clean up that salt in the corner, dude. What is that, a ceramic paper plate? Goddamn hipsters.
In summation, there is not a single food in this world that I don’t respect. Every ingredient has their purpose, every person who works with those ingredients has an even greater purpose — a true civic duty — to treat those ingredients with love and showcase them in their truest way. Because who knows what will be the next It Food? (Seriously, who knows? Questlove? Padma Lakshmi? Who can I email?) Regardless, if it’s lemon seed paste or hummus shakes or sparkling water pills, you are a talent manager, and your food is the talent — help it get to the best version of what it’s trying to be, and don’t buy into the fads. Don’t mock it up in a British war slogan. Don’t be an absent father — love it perennially. And most importantly, don’t mix trendy foods together, past or present. Fried chicken breast on a bed of kale and quinoa salad with sriracha dressing?
Get the fuck out of here.