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From pickles to popcorn shrimp, the tastes of 2013

The food to look out for this year.

Loosen your belts, people: January is the time when we, the media, kindly let slip to you, the huddled masses what the nation will “go mad for” in the next 12 months (this being a technical journalistic term that, roughly translated, means we’ll bang on about it endlessly and you may eventually see it on sale in M&S in about 2014).

Just to refresh your memories, these are things Britain went mad for in 2012: deep-fried moss and sea buckthorn juice (courtesy of the Scandinavians), sausages (did they ever go away?), pies on sticks (the mind boggles) and, um, edible dirt. No, me neither. I’ll grudgingly admit that some of last year’s expert predictions did hit the spot: ceviche replaced sashimi as the raw fish dish du jour – quite a niche, I’ll admit – thanks to the Peruvian “craze”, though I’ve yet to come across any slow-roasted guinea pig.

There’s been quite a lot of salt beef around too, as foodies discover the schmaltzy pleasures of traditional Jewishmama cooking, and yes, we’re all still eating quite a lot of burgers.

Burgers are the foodie equivalent of the Ugg boot: the more those at the cutting edge rail against them, the more the hungry masses clamour, relieved finally to find a trend we understand. They may not be pretty and they’re certainly not healthy, but let’s be honest – burgers are really, really nice.

Anyway, enough wallowing in greasy nostalgia, as with all due fanfare, I look into my Waterford crystal ball and reveal what we’re all going to be eating in 2013 – apart from pies, curry, salads and, you know, all the stuff we’ve been quietly enjoying for the past 50 years or so.

1) American food. Yes, we show no sign of falling out of love with the cuisine the rest of the world loves to laugh at. As well as burgers, expect to see a lot more “gourmet” fried chicken, milkshakes and popcorn shrimp.

2) Tea. Forget Starbucks, whose biggest crime, in my book, is serving horribly burnt coffee – this is the year when knowing your pekoe from your pu-erh will be more important than being au fait with a flat white. There’s even an olive leaf tea launching – presumably in Islington only. As we’re in Britain, this one seems a safe bet, although I suspect PG Tips won’t be losing much sleep over it.

3) Pickles. Not the Branston kind either: we’re all going to be pickling stuff at home, apparently, no doubt to top all those burgers with. If you are tempted, please look at Diana Henry’s excellent new guide to preserving, Salt Sugar Smoke: botulism is definitely not hot this year.

4) Korean food. As well as pickles galore, Korean ticks many other boxes – it’s big in the US, involves a lot of barbecued meat, and I’m really quite keen on it, which seems reason enough to start a trend.

Bacon butt out

5) Doughnuts. But not as you know them. Not only will they be posher (Fortnum & Mason has just launched a bespoke doughnut-filling service) but weirder too: I fear a bacon version is almost inevitable. If we all pray hard enough, however, we might still avoid the doughnut cheeseburger.

6) Israeli food, aka New Jewish. Forget the bagels and knishes, this is more modern Mediterranean: big salads, grilled meats, flatbreads and the fashionable Middle Eastern flavours of Yotam Ottolenghi’s newest cookbook, Jerusalem. In fact, this one is a dead cert: M&S is already “looking closely” at Israeli food, according to its product developer Matt McAuliffe. Of course, on the more depressing side of things, food prices are set to climb even higher in 2013, thanks to last year’s poor weather across Europe and the Americas. And with rising grain costs forcing up the price of all those burgers, perhaps edible dirt might not be a bad idea after all.

Next issue: Nina Caplan on drink

Felicity Cloake write the food column for the New Statesman. She also writes for the Guardian and is the author of  Perfect: 68 Essential Recipes for Every Cook's Repertoire (Fig Tree, 2011) and Perfect Host: 162 easy recipes for feeding people & having fun (Fig Tree, 2013). She is on Twitter as @FelicityCloake.

This article first appeared in the 14 January 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Dinosaurs vs modernisers

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Shell-shock symphony: Berg’s Wozzeck – opera’s take on post-traumatic stress disorder

Begun in 1914 and premiered in 1925, Wozzeck has class struggle, poverty and mental health problems as its principal subjects.

When I was 12 years old, I made a devastating discovery. The arias from my favourite operas – Rigoletto, Turandot, The Barber of Seville – which I played over and over again, winding and rewinding the cassettes ­until they ceased to work, did not ­necessarily have words that matched the beauty of the music. Intense study of a book I had received for Christmas called Stories from Opera taught me that although some of the soaring melodies I adored carried words about love, death, horror and tragedy, other lyrics, in translation, proved to be people agreeing where to meet later, or misremembering each other’s names.

This crushing disappointment came to mind again recently while I was listening to an edition of Radio 3’s Building a Library, a segment of its regular Saturday-morning CD review, in which new releases are compared and contrasted with archive recordings to find the best listening experience. The reviewer Gillian Moore was surveying the available recordings of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck. She gave credit to several English-language recordings for the clarity they offer newcomers to this work, but eventually concluded that she must recommend a version using the original German, because there were crucial aural elements that could not be reproduced without it.

Moore, now director of music at the Southbank Centre, chose to kick off a series of semi-staged concert performances of operas with Wozzeck. Although undoubtedly an opera, it was a far cry from the fairy stories and doomed romances that filled my pre-teen ears, but it worked surprisingly well stripped of scenery, costumes and other theatrical accoutrements.

Zurich Opera’s presentation placed importance on the orchestral score above all else, allowing its jagged and insistent lines to remind us that this is music born of the dark years between the world wars. Begun in 1914, but delayed while Berg served in the Austro-Hungarian army (it premiered in 1925), it has class struggle, poverty and mental health problems as its principal subjects. The score owes much to Berg’s fellow Viennese composers Gustav Mahler and Arnold Schoenberg (Mahler’s widow put up the money for the initial publication of the score). At times in this production, the orchestra was so utterly central that it felt like a symphony with singing, rather than vocal melodies with accompaniment.

The Wozzeck of the title is a poor soldier, flawed and dogged by madness and visions we would probably now see as signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. He scrapes a living for his girlfriend, Marie, and their son by humiliating himself before his military and class superiors (the Captain, the Doctor, the Drum Major) and by participating in degrading medical “experiments”. The star of the show, the German baritone Christian Gerhaher, had to withdraw at the last minute for health reasons, so the British singer Leigh Melrose stepped in to reprise his Wozzeck from the widely acclaimed 2013 ENO production. Despite performing from behind a music stand, Melrose acquitted himself well, handling the transitions between Berg’s three singing styles: “half-singing”, Sprechgesang (or “spoken singing”) and full vocalisation to great effect.

Gun-Brit Barkmin, with a severe Twenties bob and a flowing scarlet dress, was a superb Marie – alternately harsh and soft as the music demanded it, flirting destructively with the Drum Major while conveying how little choice she had in the matter. Of the ensemble, Lars Woldt’s Doctor particularly stood out, using the German libretto to drag every ounce of black comedy out of his character’s fascination with Wozzeck’s bodily functions. The high vocal standard proved Moore’s point about the necessity of the original German libretto – it is a difficult language to sing, because of all the harsh consonants and modified vowels, but when used expertly can be unendingly expressive. We hear this in the way the double “zz” of the title character’s name becomes a derisory bitten-off “tz” in the mouth of the Captain; and Wozzeck’s exclamation in Act I that “Du, der Platz ist verflucht!” sounds so much more accursed and deranged with all those consonants in such close proximity.

The German sociologist Theodor Adorno once called Berg “the foreign minister of the land of his dreams”, much to the composer’s amusement; but, hearing the score for Wozzeck laid so bare, you understand what Adorno meant. The incredible double crescendo on a single B from the orchestra after Wozzeck murders Marie – raised by the conductor Fabio Luisi in this performance to an unbearable volume before being allowed to die away – feels like music from an other-worldly nightmare. Yet, for the war-battered men who inspired Wozzeck, his tragic half-life was all too real.

Caroline Crampton is web editor of the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 08 October 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin vs Isis