Because I am creating a lot of recipes for the online world, shared here at Mnn.com and on my personal food blog, I get a lot of instant feedback on my recipes. That feedback tells me not only how well the recipes translate, but what recipes are going to be popular with the online community. It gives you an inside look at the food desires of America ... and how it is changing. It is a sort of finger on the food pulse of at least my corner of the foodie world online.
This is what I am finding:
- Chocolate is not only one of my favorite foods, but chocolate lovers abound (apparently in large numbers). A recipe that utilizes chocolate well is almost guaranteed to be popular. Oh, and Pinterest users especially love chocolate recipes.
- People like sweets. Seriously, they do. I am sometimes tempted to only post dessert recipes because they are more popular than savory almost 99 percent of the time.
- People like a lot of simple recipes. Busy lives, and a low commitment to time spent in the kitchen translate to people really appreciating quick and easy recipes.
- People like basic recipes, but the definition of basic recipes seems to be changing.
You don’t have to go back very many generations to find basic food meaning this: Simply flavored roasts, chicken dishes, steamed vegetables, basic soups and stews, and piles of bread (or white rice). There is nothing wrong with basic recipes like these, and in fact, I make a lot of basic dinners that look just like the above. These types of simple recipes are still popular in my online world, as well as in my home. I think that many Americans still enjoy the simple pleasures of a homemade meal that utilizes dishes like the ones above.
But here is what is changing. My generation, and younger, enjoy a wider variety of so-called “ethnic” foods, such as sushi, Lebanese, Ethiopian and more. In my parent’s generation, Chinese and Mexican food was integrated into our food culture with great success. Many people in their 50s, like my parents, enjoy tacos, beans and rice, and Chinese take-out. But other culture’s food, such as Japanese sushi or Thai curries, didn’t find as much widespread acceptance until the next generation. Many of my parent’s generation would ask the question, “You like sushi?” as if it was a rarity, whereas my generation would be more likely to ask, “ You don’t like sushi?” as if not liking it was rare.
Oh sure, there are always exceptions. I know there are plenty of people in the generation or two ahead of mine who probably enjoy a wider variety of food than the average Joe. And many in those generations have adapted right along with mine to the wider availability of “ethnic food” in their area. Plus, rural areas aren’t going to have as much variety as big cities, so that's a factor for many.
But, all in all, I am finding that Americans are excited about recipes that include things like Thai curry paste, soy sauce, miso, lemongrass, and other more exotic ingredients. (As a side note, they’d probably love to eat a Thai curry made from scratch with no paste from a jar, but most wouldn’t be committed to making it that way in their own kitchen.) One of my recent recipes that was fast get “pinned” on Pinterest was a Simple Thai Broth. It is about a week old at this point and has been pinned more than 500 times. That is just one example.
As a recipe developer, I love that these types of recipes are popular because I enjoy eating them myself! And for someone who cares about eating healthy food, I am finding that others, with similar goals, also appreciate being able to make at home foods they would usually get as take-out. People are making Indian and Thai curries on a weekly basis, so their "basic recipes" can look dramatically different then recipes from past generations. In my recent cookbook, "Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons," I shared a lot of simple soups with gentle flavors, as well as many more exotic flavors found in recipes like Chicken or Beef Pho, Miso Soup, Korean Oxtail Soup, Chinese Egg Drop Soup, Rice Congees and others. I am finding that many people enjoy a wide range of flavors, much like my family does.
I have no doubt that this is part of my American heritage. America is a country with a rich history of immigration. I have French, Irish and Norwegian blood (among others) and I married someone half-Japanese. With such bloodlines, is it really surprising that my family eats buttery fish stew and bread with a light salad one night, and sushi the next?
In our city, with pockets of many different people groups represented, we can experience a wide variety of cultures through food (often toned down for our American palates — we like spicy food ... just not that spicy!) I love that about America.
For more information about my work:
- You can see my book on Amazon, "Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons."
- My soup workshop, featuring my beef and chicken pho, my miso soup, and a basic beef stew (in video form!), are part of this very limited time ebook/resource bundle.
- You can follow my boards at Pinterest.com, to see recipes, like the popular Thai broth I recently pinned.
- And of course, follow me here at Mnn.com!