Last year I predicted a bit more balance in the way we eat: if things weren't made of pastry and double deep fried with bacon on top, they were vegan and uncooked and nutrient dense and fat free. I'm the first to admit this prediction didn't quite come through. Here's a look at some of the food trends we saw this year.
The Paleo craze
There's been a lot of discussion about the Paleo diet, which follows Paleolithic principles, and basically eliminates grains, legumes and some dairy from the diet. It's heavy on vegetables and meat, and poor old starchy carbs are back off the menu. It's also known as the caveman diet, and some vocal detractors are quick to remind us that cavemen evolved and died out for a reason.
Pete Evans, Australian cook and judge on My Kitchen Rules has become Paleo's poster boy in Australia. He advocates that it can be financially accessible, and that it's nutrient dense.
• Read more: The Paleo debate
Having a nutrient-dense way of eating with whole foods, less processed and more in their natural state, seems less like a fad, and more like a sensible way to eat on an ongoing basis. Basically, we should all be eating lots of vegetables. But there's an ingredient we mustn't forget. Which leads me to...
The return of fat
magazine put an enticing curl of butter on its cover, with the simple headline:
outlined that scientists had labeled fat the enemy, but oh how wrong they were. Finally! Some dodgy research in the 80s lead to a billion dollar low fat (yet remarkably high in sugar) diet of highly processed foods, and it turns out they're not great for us. Embracing dietary fat also supports a whole food diet. Is this the way we're heading as a society? Time will tell.
Photo / Time magazine
2014, in food terms, would have to be the year of the coconut. Coconut oil was already firmly on our radars - and especially popular with those embracing good fats (are we seeing a trend here?!). But now, the producers cold pressing their coconuts for virgin oil, realised there is plenty more money to be made. Now it's everywhere: coconut oil, coconut sugar, coconut chips, water, threads, flour, syrup. It's everywhere.
Apparently it's good for your skin, but it also suits your baking and your high temperature frying. It's no longer limited to the dessicated stuff of my childhood - coconut is drunk, eaten, and slathered on faces everywhere. It's a huge industry, and it's not without controversy. Some nutritionists love it, others are sure the benefits are overblown. It's worth finding out where your coconut products are coming from too. Are we sure the companies are supporting fair trade between the Western world and the islands these coconuts come from?
Photo / Thinkstock
• Read more: Stop going nuts over coconut
The new Quinoa?
Ancient grains (apart from the ones excluded on the Paleo diet) made a come back, and this year quinoa remained popular, but was also backed up by other ancient grains, now much more readily available, and great as a replacement for rice, and very good in salads. Amaranth, spelt, farro, and millet are all words you may have been seeing, and will be seeing a bit more of too.
Red quinoa salad with baby carrots, fresh peas, goat feta and avocado. Photo / Babiche Martens.
Shared plates continued to dominate, as did the ever-helpful waiter asking us if we'd dined with them before, and if we need them to talk us through the menu. It's no longer a simple exercise of reading a menu and choosing a meal. There's still lots of creative language on menus. I can't remember the last time I saw pork that wasn't pulled or avocado that wasn't smashed.
• Read more: Comment - Things I hate about restaurants
Specialty coffee continued it's rise in NZ, and just as Auckland was catching up to the fact that a flat white needs a double shot, chemex still exists at very good places, and the humble filter has continued its popularity. Single origin coffee is a big thing, and increasingly, NZ companies are visiting farms and engaging in direct trade with growers, in favour of simply getting a fair trade tick. At home, we've got our own grinders and pour-overs too. And it's all delicious.
The first bag to be released to the people of Limited Geisha Coffee from the Hartmann farm in Panama. Photo / Nicky Park
Americana must have the edge when it comes to the country-specific food, although the increase of Canada's poutine on menu's around town has been noted also. Sliders are still popular - on bar menus as much as anywhere - and burgers generally seem to be the takeaway option of the year. There are Jewish deli style diners, and there are restaurants named after areas of New York. As well as burgers, see also: fried chicken, lots of bacon, and plenty of cookies. God bless America.
Pork burger and a beef burger in a lettuce leaf bun with broccoli from Burger Burger in Ponsonby Central. Photo / Babiche Martens.
• Read more: Delaney Mes: Born in the USA (+recipes)
Raw food has been hugely elevated this year due to the success of one Megan May and her Little Bird Unbakery, in Auckland's Kingsland and Ponsonby. Her beautiful green book came out this year, and local bulk bin supplier Alison's Pantry, who sells many kinds of nuts, noted a 50% increase in sales thanks to all the nuts that go into "raw baking" which is an oxymoron if ever I heard one.
Megan May, chef and creator of little Bird 'unbakery' in Kingsland. Photo / Babiche Martens
All cultures seem to have some sort of pickled or fermented condiment - sauerkraut, achar, pickles. We've picked up on a lot of these, and pickling and fermenting ones own veggies has become a very popular pass time this year. It's a tangy pick up to any plate of food, and one worth playing around with. Our Grandma's were on to something.