Food is fashion. It comes, it goes, and sometimes it comes back again. We explore how the hipster generation is at the forefront of bringing sexy back to retro food.
The Rise of Food Trends
In the film The Devil Wears Prada, Meryl Streep’s character, Miranda Priestly, explains how fashion trends happen. In the scene, Anne Hathaway is wearing a blue sweater. Only it's not simply "blue". It's "cerulean". Miranda Priestly explains:
- Cerulean was first used in high fashion by Oscar de la Renta, and later Yves Saint Laurent.
- The colour and styles were then picked up by department stores
- It then "trickled on down to some tragic Casual Cornder where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin."
I love this scene because, as harsh as it is, it’s true.
And food is the same.
For a trend to start, all it takes is one culinary visionary to do something original. Perhaps the most notable name in the food world at the moment is David Chang of Momofuku fame.
He is solely responsible for the world’s addiction to Sriracha, banh mi, steamed buns, ssam, ramen, miso butter, shiso, KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) and a brand of 'Korean-Kool' that can only be matched by Gangnam Style.
Perhaps he can be thanked for pioneering a move from fussy fine dining to casual dining.
However, when David Chang opened his noodle bar in NYC, it had a slow start. Just a few years ago, marketing a restaurant was all about critics, awards, "PR daaahling", and a who’s who of the dining scene.
While that still exists, there’s an even more powerful force at large: The blogger.
The instant nature of web publishing and "cowboy criticism" means that a restaurant can make or break, fast and hard.
The highly-vocal blogger, Instagram and Twitter scene is so powerful that David Chang's noodle bar started turning over millions. The secret? Really good food that everyday people enjoy.
Enter: the retro food revolution.
There’s no better example of this than the humble combination of ham and pineapple. The invention of the H&P pizza has been claimed by two revolutionaries: A Greek-Canadian in his 1960’s pizza shop, and even earlier in the 1950’s by an Aussie family, the Quigleys from Murray River, who made them in their backyard brick oven. What was once seen as a wild experiment, revolutionising the boring meat-and-three-veg staple diets of everyday Aussies, became a nationwide restaurant phenomenon.
Today, although most people wouldn’t be caught dead eating H&P in a restaurant, the stats prove it continues to be a home favourite: H&P still makes up 15 per cent of all takeaway pizza sales, nationally.
The Fall of Food Trends
Food trends often rise (and fall) thanks to the power of big business marketing campaigns. Health has always been at the forefront of trend setting, and trend crushing. In the 1960’s well-meaning housewives were convinced that saturated fat and butter were the enemy, even though humanity has been eating butter for literally thousands of years. Somehow we were swayed to believe that a chemically processed product, margarine, was a healthier option for our families.
Similarly, food trends often just run their course. Like with fashion, once food trends have trickled down to the masses, they lose their exclusivity, and with that - their trendy status.
Anthony Bourdain once asked: “Is bacon less cool because Paula Deen likes it, or is it always cool?” I’ll let you decide.
Ham and pineapple might be long gone from the gastronomical forefront, but, along with so many other retro foods, we’re still eating it at home.
There’s a strong sense of nostalgia in food, emotions of happiness and contentedness come rushing back. Essentially, some foods feel like home.
Retro food is also fairly easy to cook. For example, take a look at these classic dishes:
- Deviled eggs
- Tuna pasta bake
- Prawn cocktail
- Vol au vent
- Spaghetti Bolognese/meatballs
- Caesar salad
- Waldorf salad
- Club sandwich
- Chicken Kiev
- Jaffles or 'toasties'
- Mac 'n' Cheese
- Chicken Soup
- Beef stroganoff
- Apricot Chicken
- Beef Wellington
- Peach Melba
- Instant noodles
- Curried anything!
Bringing it back:
So we’ve established we still love retro flavours, but it’s up to visionary chefs to bring them back into fashion - and for bloggers to spread the word!
Instant noodles, or cup noodles, are enjoying a resurgence thanks to David Chang and his Japanese noodle soup cups in NYC. In Sydney, chef Chase Kojima, of Sokyo fame, has opened a Ramen bar, which is successfully winning over hearts and taste buds.
Good ol' ham and pineapple is also making a comeback. The team from Sydney’s Pinbone (who have now opened Automata) had a simply-named dish of “pork, pineapple” on their menu for years – it was a ridiculously delicious serving of a charcoal grilled wedge of fresh pineapple alongside super crispy pork belly.
Milk and Honey in Mullumbimby, near Byron Bay, has been touted as the best pizza in the country and they proudly serve a pizza laden with pancetta, fresh pineapple, sweet onions and a pinch of chilli. The message? You can now be proud to love H&P!
And of course, I’d love to share one of my mum’s retro recipes with you:
Mum’s Retro Curried Chicken and Pineapple Salad
- 600g chicken breast
- 200g tasty cheese, cubed
- 200g fresh pineapple, cubed (or the old school way… tinned pineapple pieces)
- 300g tin corn kernels, drained
- 3/4 cup best quality real egg mayonnaise
- 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp curry powder
- ½ bunch chives, finely chopped
- Place chicken breasts in a pot of cold water. Bring to a simmer, cook gently for 5 minutes then turn off the heat and allow to cool in the liquid. Once cool, remove and shred or chop into cubes.
- Cube the cheese and the pineapple. Mix all ingredients together and season with salt and pepper.