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