Food, like clothes, music and art, goes through phases. The molecular gastronomy rage of the 90s and early 2000s gave way to the farm-to-table movement that's currently sweeping restaurants across the country and making farmers markets trendy places to be on Saturday mornings.
As Neil Irwin points out at the Upshot, the waxing and waning of popularity also applies to specific food items. Like haute fashion, many of these food items typically appear on fine dining menus in large cities—the runways of the food world—and then are slowly adopted by lesser known chefs. Eventually, those foods make their way to chain restaurants, the Targets and K-marts of eating. Irwin describes how that happened to one now taken-for-granted item, calamari:
Now, of course, every strip-mall pizza place and suburban Applebee’s serves fried calamari. But not all that long ago it was an exotic food. The term “fried calamari” did not appear in the pages of The New York Times until 1975, according to our nifty Times Chronicle tool, and didn’t show up frequently until the 1980s. Lest you think it is only a change in vocabulary, the term “fried squid” made only a couple of scattered appearances before that time.
Fried calamari, according to the Times Chronicle—which searches keywords in New York Times stories throughout that publications' history—peaked in popularity in 1996. It has since been declining, as it is now "so widespread that it hardly warrants mentioning," the Times writes.
Calamari is not alone in its waning trendiness. As the Upshot notes, several other menu favorites rose to fame in recent decades and have since reached critical mass, including:
- Goat cheese
- Sun-dried tomatoes
- Crab cakes
Not to say that any of these foods are less than delicious, just that they can be found "on the menu of seemingly every half-decent sandwich joint and neighborhood bistro in America," Irwin writes.
As the old is phased out, the new replaces it. Foods that are currently riding the trendy wave, the Times reports, include:
- Tuna tartare
- Pork belly
- Beet salad
- Brussels sprouts
- Short ribs
Not all of these are at exactly the same phase in their lifecycle, however. While some have already gone through peaks and valleys of popularity, kale, for instance, is still rocketing upwards in the frequency of its mentions. The staying power of kale salad is probably a good bet.