Tastemaker, n. Anyone with the power to make you eat quinoa.
Kale. Spicy sriracha sauce. Honeycrisp apples. Cupcakes. These days, it seems we are constantly discovering a new food that will make us healthier, happier, or even somehow cooler. Chia seeds, after a brief life as a novelty houseplant and I Love the '80s punchline, are suddenly a superfood. Not long ago, that same distinction was held by pomegranate seeds, açai berries, and the fermented drink known as kombucha. So what happened? Did these foods suddenly cease to be healthy a few years ago? And by the way, what exactly is a superfood” again?
In this eye-opening, witty work of reportage, David Sax uncovers the world of food trends: Where they come from, how they grow, and where they end up. Traveling from the South Carolina rice plot of America's premier grain guru to Chicago's gluttonous Baconfest, Sax reveals a world of influence, money, and activism that helps decide what goes on your plate. On his journey, he meets entrepreneurs, chefs, and even data analysts who have made food trends a mission and a business. The Tastemakers is full of entertaining stories and surprising truths about what we eat, how we eat it, and why.
On Saturday nights in the 1970s, many Americans sat around bubbling pots of oil or cheese, spearing chunks of meat or bread into the hot fondue pots that had become the latest cooking trend. A decade later people pushed fondue pots to the dark recesses of their kitchen cabinets or threw them out with the morning trash. What creates a food trend? Who had the ability to market a food into a popular cultural moment? Food and business writer Sax (Save the Deli) probes these and other questions in this entertaining foray into why cupcakes ousted donuts as a food fad, and why quinoa had its day in the limelight before chia seeds blew it away. He begins by exploring the four types of food trends cultural (cupcakes), agricultural (heirloom fruits), chef-driven (ceviche), and health-driven (chia seeds). For example, chef-driven trends can introduce a comprehensive style of cooking and eating, or they can develop a focus on specific flavor profiles. Asserting that food alone doesn't drive food trends, Sax explores the power of sales, data used in forecasting food trends, and marketing to create the desire and opportunity for a particular food. Thus, prunes now go by the much more pleasing and less geriatric sounding "dried plums." In the end, Sax declares, food trends, though sometimes annoying, deepen and expand our cultural palate, spur economic growth, provide broad variety in our diets, and promote happiness.