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19 January 2018

On the menu in 2018? Plates piled high with worthiness and a side order of good intentions

Generation Z apparently consumes 57 per cent more tofu and 550 per cent more non-dairy milk than its millennial predecessor.

By Felicity Cloake

If 2017 was the year we went into glittery, rainbow-striped denial about global events, taking comfort in unicorn toast, raindrop cakes and cloud eggs, then the menu for 2018 looks a lot like the culinary equivalent of a hair shirt. Having trawled through every trend forecast I could find, I can confirm that the future’s green, and very worthy.

Veganism looks sure to continue as the diet and lifestyle choice of the moment; Food Manufacture magazine reckons it’ll outpace organic, a fact the Telegraph attributes to the influence of Generation Z, which apparently consumes 57 per cent more tofu and 550 per cent more non-dairy milk than its millennial predecessor. The American chain Whole Foods Market predicts that “science will manipulate plant-based ingredients and proteins” to create “mind-bending alternatives like ‘bleeding’ vegan burgers or sushi-grade ‘not-tuna’ made from tomatoes”. In the same (vegan) vein, Pinterest reports that saves for plant proteins are up 417 per cent year on year – a good thing, of course, if sadly harder to mock than Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest fad (coffee enemas, if you’re wondering).

Protein in general keeps its spot as the nutritional darling du jour, with the increasing interest in abusing coffee with protein powder, while M&S is launching a range of high-protein vegetable noodles and protein-enriched yoghurts (thank goodness last year’s hyped vegetable versions seem not to have bred). Digestion-friendly fermented foods continue to bubble away in the shiny cauldron of fashion, with kefir, a cultured milk drink from the Caucasus also popping up in an M&S near you and BBC Good Food magazine backing Korean kimchi and Japanese miso for stardom.

Seaweed, brown rice and “functional mushrooms” all get a mention – and there’s good reason to suspect a renewed trend for localism, prompted by uncertainty about the potential cost of EU imports. Food Manufacturer notes that “in preparation for a hard Brexit, many firms are seeking supply chains with Commonwealth countries” instead – a worry for marmalade fans, given Seville oranges tend to be grown in, you guessed it, Seville.

Chefs are looking further afield too: “dude food” inspired by Japanese izakaya bars is tipped by the Waitrose Food and Drink Report as the next big thing, and the Independent and Telegraph both put their money on regional Mexican cookery, with happy days ahead at Old El Paso – tacos are apparently the new burritos.

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Still, deep-fried tofu and crispy carnitas are a pretty cheering prospect, as is the Independent’s prediction of a pasta revival and the repeated claim that breakfast will outrank lunch. I’ll keep on eating both, of course, but a year when chia smoothies are replaced by breakfast pizzas (Food Manufacture assures me they’re already big in Rome) suddenly doesn’t look that bad.

My favourite piece of forecasting, however – amid the depressing revelations that more restaurants will offer “Instagram kits” to turn tables into photographic studios, and that 23 per cent of us like to dine alone with our phone – is that, according to Forbes, “the road to culinary indulgence this year will be paved in gold, with desserts and fixings boasting gold-leaf inclusions, glittery condiments, and a dusting of 24-karat indulgence”. Thank God: one bright, shiny spot of frivolous ridiculousness in an ocean of good intentions – and it’s vegan too! Totally 2018. 

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This article appears in the 17 Jan 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Churchill and the hinge of history