In a world of Instagram food brags, hashtag sandwiches and miracle berry suppositories it’s easy to think of food fashions as being a contemporary phenomenon, but they have been around as long as any other fad, possibly longer if you consider we started being fussy about food when we were still butt-naked and living in a pile of sticks.
A high-protein diet is like a pair of flared jeans – the colours and materials may change but eventually it will be back in style, teenagers are going to be obsessed with it and you’ll still look ridiculous if you’re over 40 and try too hard to join in. Like flared jeans, I stopped being cool after the 90s, and looking back at my Thatcher-era childhood I’ve realised that the dominant food fad wasn’t the sort of thing you’d probably expect (juicing, nouvelle cuisine, Spud-U-Like) but the specific variety of faux-Americanism that thrived in Jersey’s family restaurant market. I grew fat on Coke floats at Waterfront Pizza and Central Park, scoffed pork benders at the Wimpy and remember the despair of my hippy parents when I blew all my pocket money on dubious hot dogs at the funfair. I thought the trend for clean eating and wheatgrass smoothies had killed off this style of restaurant for good outside planet takeaway, but the grease has floated back up in a new, hipper form. We’ve stopped flogging chicken in a star-spangled basket in favour of checked shirt hillbillies and rustic pulled pork BBQ, but Ole Zeke’s Shoreditch BBQ is no more authentic to the deep south than Jason Statham doing an American accent, and a lot of artisan sourdough pizza is no closer to Italian food than the Waterfront’s beloved Cicero.
superfoods and sinner foods
Although BBQ meats go in and out of fashion, the most persistent food trend of the 80s is one that shows no sign of going anywhere, so if you want to get ahead of the curve all you need to do is arbitrarily start dividing everyday foodstuffs into good, bad and super food categories and build a half-baked philosophy around them. This always suited me because I’m fussy to the point of obsession and was happy to learn of equally picky people who ran arbitrary crusades against eggs, red meat and tasty, tasty fluoride. It doesn’t matter what the offending food is, because in the 80s butter gave you cancer and now butter is okay to eat by the ounce whilst margarine is so deadly they are loading it into planes and dropping it on ISIS. Berries have been viewed like magic nutritional gems since I was in nappies, but eventually, this luck has got to end and acai, goji and blue berry fruits will be seen as the dingleberries of the devil himself. Even some fundamental building blocks of our diet (wheat, carbohydrates) have fallen under suspicion, so you might as well throw caution to the wind and open a fashionable restaurant where the inclusion of ingredients is vetted by a panel of angry toddlers.
Post-Brexit British cuisine
The most challenging new food fashion will arrive by necessity when the Brexit bun finally comes out of Theresa May’s oven, and the French build a wall to stop us importing camembert and Bonne Maman apricot jam. If we evoke the Blitz Spirit and look on the bright side, this could trigger a resurgence of a style of cooking that was, again, very popular with fussy children with an innate distrust of green vegetables: good honest “pub grub” with “none of that fancy foreign stuff” a.k.a. sophisticated flavours or balanced nutrition. My parents were aghast at my love for the brown, meaty food offered by some other families – accompanied with boiled vegetables, excessive salt and a bowel movement frequency that synchronised with episodes of Emmerdale. Allegedly this was true British grub, and probably the reason that most of our nation’s successful chefs speak French. Nonetheless, we’ve already seen a couple of half-decent attempts to reinvent a less hideous British cuisine on the part of chefs like Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal. Maybe an enforced isolation from Europe is the final push British cuisine needs – a ban on foie gras and carpaccio might compel creative cooks to spruce up our native Pukka pies and apple crumble into something that will earn Michelin stars and make the people of Europe jealous of us once again. Or, it might condemn a generation to a diet of brown stodge and grey meat, whilst fruit and veg are sold under the counter like German porno mags, and groups of europhiles gather in secret to gorge on illicit couscous and brioche.
A new Asian flavour
In my youth Jersey always preferred its seafood deep-fried and covered with mayonnaise, but in the civilised world the hottest trend was Japanese food, specifically sushi. I learned about east Asian food from video games and confusing references in the Guardian, but eventually Jersey caught up and we now have two restaurants serving sashimi, as well as at least three Thai eateries in every parish except St John, where lemongrass is banned in case the kids smoke it. The market is ready for a new Asian cuisine – but which one? Vietnamese street food is having a moment and benefits from a complex French influence, Malaysian food fuses Chinese and Indian traditions, and Filipino ingredients are bold, flavoursome and available in St Helier. However, Korean food is my personal favourite, and I also think that a restaurant could capitalise on anti-Trump sentiment by theming its restaurant around one of his greatest enemies – the brave, the beautiful, the oppressive: North Korea.
Korean food has the complex spices that Jersey people love in Chinese and Thai food, but uses them to create regionally distinctive dishes such as the sumptuously meaty bulgogi, the mixed rice masterclass of bibimbap and that inescapable spicy cabbage preserve, kimchi. This could be served up alongside propaganda art (always fashionable) and the authentic retro style of a nation where culture hasn’t been allowed to develop since the 1950s. Potential investors should note some ethical downsides, the main being that the dishes I’ve listed are only available to average citizens in South Korea, as most people in North Korea are actually forced to survive on a diet of boiled grass and chicken water. There’s also the whole “ruled by a tyrant” thing. Those are minor criticisms though, as “Waterfront Pizza, but themed around North Korea,” is the type of pitch that would go off like a rocket if we had a local equivalent of Dragon’s Den, and we all know that North Korea loves rockets. Let’s see the UN Security Council pass a resolution against Coke floats – they wouldn’t dare.