On the face of it, the very start of the new year seems a logical place to start looking forward, planning, and setting some gentle intentions for the year that stretches ahead. The reality is that, almost every year, January slips past me before I know it. Much better, I have decided, to look ahead as the month draws to a close.
Our food appetites, like fashions and seasons, are always changing. Every year I look forward, not so much to the faddish in-vogue ingredients, but to the shifts in our collective consciousness, which are more gradual and less headline-worthy, but much more important.
To start this year, I asked some friends in the food business what they think will be the communal trends and shifts in the ways we eat in 2018. As you’ll read, there was a general consensus that, this year, plant-based dishes, provenance and more thoughtful eating are going to be continuing themes.
For what it’s worth, I’ll start with my own ideas:
1 Veganism/plant-based eating
What I’ve heard echoed among friends and colleagues – even passers-by – more than ever, is “eat less meat” and “eat more veg” as intentions for the year ahead.
I asked Nigella and she responded with one line: "I definitely feel that vegan cooking, in its’ new brighter-coloured incarnation, will exert a creative influence"
As the number of vegetarians, and indeed vegans, creeps up in the UK, the people reducing meat and dairy in their diets is skyrocketing. I have been so pleased by an increasing number of emails and tweets telling me that a meat-loving partner or sister is now happily cooking and eating from my books a few nights a week. Messages like these are so important to me – for it is through communal change that we will really make a difference to our bodies and the planet.
When I asked Nigella what was to come for us in 2018, she responded with one line: “I definitely feel that vegan cooking, in its’ new brighter-coloured incarnation, will continue to exert a creative influence.” I couldn’t agree more. I think the normalisation of veganism will only encourage more people to look at what they eat more closely, to be wiser about the big business of food. And, while I am sure many of us won’t make the full leap to veganism or even vegetarianism, I really feel it will make us question and re-evaluate our choices.
2 Food waste
We talk a lot about waste these days. Rigid sell-by dates and a squeamish attitude to imperfection encourage us to throw away perfectly good food: tops are cut off beetroot and carrots before we have even had a chance to think of using them; ingredients prepared in advance in restaurants are destined for the bin on a quiet night. And that’s without even a mention of the fuel and water that has been used to produce and transport it all. A third of the food we produce worldwide goes to waste, enough to feed 17 million people.
There is so much work to be done, and I am sure I don’t even know the half of it, but I think 2018 will see people – from the home cook to the Michelin-starred chef – becoming even more aware of these issues. Trailblazers, like charity Fare Share, are leading the way in tackling food waste, and when Dan Barber brought his WastED pop-up to London last year he shone some industry light on the issue, too.
THOMASINA MIERS, author and chef:
3 Community initiatives
“I am thrilled to see so many community initiatives used as fundraisers as the economy bites. Bake for Syria followed Cook for Syria in 2017, which itself publishes a new edition of the bestselling book next year. June 2018 sees the third Fork to Fork food festival in Kensal Rise, where even more restaurants have signed up than in previous years, all helping to raise money for food education projects and outdoor learning.”
4 Mexican food
“Finally, I see no stopping the Mexican wave! Obviously I am biased, but I am delighted to see how more and more people are embracing the pleasures of Mexican eating thanks to new restaurant openings, an amazing Rick Stein cooking series on the BBC and an increase in interest in Mexico’s incredibly healthy ingredients from chillies and chia seed to avocados and amaranth. Que onda!”
5 ALL YOU NEED IS VEG
“If you call yourself a chef or a good cook then up your veg game, this isn’t about fashion and trends, it’s about walking the steps of your ancestors.”
2018 is all gut nutrition and its effects on feelings, emotions and energy. Forget you are what you eat, you are what you absorb
6 BREAKFAST IS BIG
“Breakfast is back. Make it cool and colourful – it’s the best ticket to professional and physical success. It’s time to stop popping pills, stupid supplements, protein shakes etc. People are beginning to realise that having a good breakfast should not be a luxury but the way to start every day.”
7 GUT HEALTH COMES OF AGE
“2018 is all gut nutrition and its effects on feelings, emotions and energy. Forget you are what you eat, you are what you absorb. The gut is the engine of your body and so much research is coming to the fore. Fermenting will carry on booming – Kefir is going to be massive, probably flavoured and blended with other interesting things.”
“The ingredient of focus and wonder and rightly so. Dried is ace but try fresh. It’s amazing in drinks, smoothies, porridge, soups, stews, curries…”
9 COMPANY HONESTY
“You will see bigger brands becoming more honest in 2018. Most of the big guys are changing their packaging, reformulating recipes and colour coding.”
SHEILA DILLON, journalist and presenter of BBC Radio 4's The Food Programme
10 You are what you eat
“Amid the encircling gloom – when we leave the EU are we really going to reduce our food standards to the dire levels we see in the USA? – there are some rays of light. The brightest for me is that in 2018 we’ll see a further breakdown of the medical model of health (feel ill – take a pill) as more and more of us understand that diet – what you eat every day – is a key to health and sickness. There are signs everywhere that the under 35s really get something their elders have had difficulty grasping: You Are What You Eat.”
Breakfast is back. Make it cool and colourful – it’s the best ticket to professional and physical success
11 More food awareness
“A few years ago when Slow Food movement founder Carlo Petrini made the distinction between spending his money on good quality ham or a pair of Armani trousers – he said he’d buy the ham because, unlike the trousers, the ham becomes Carlo Petrini – it seemed to most people like a rarefied thing to say. Not now. Consider Joe Wicks and his 1.9 million Instagram followers and his endless succession of bestselling books full of deliciously healthy food. Consider the ratings for BBC One’s Doctor In The House and BBC Two’s Trust Me, I'm A Doctor. Consider the brilliance and popularity of The Doctor’s Kitchen podcast. Consider that from this January, GPs can study lifestyle medicine on a course approved for the first time ever by the Royal College of General Practitioners – taught by GP Rangan Chatterjee, star of Doctor In The House. Until now, doctors in all their long medical training learn almost nothing about the relationship between food and disease. The medical system is changing to take account of what we eat, because much of what we eat now is harming us big time AND bankrupting the NHS.”
“Food matters. Cooking is an essential life skill. Eating together is one of the glues of civilisation… and seeing that more understood in the wider society helps me face the new year with a cheerier spirit than I thought I could manage as I look about me at so much insanity here in the UK and around the world.”
LOUISE HAINES, head of nonfFiction at Fourth Estate
12 German flavours
“I am publishing a book on the German kitchen by Anja Dunk so I hope that this will start a new trend for German flavours.”
HUS VEDAT, EXECUTIVE CHEF AT YOSMA
13 Modern Turkish
“Modern Turkish is on the rise (after Yosma and Oklava!!) with more openings in 2018. The whole Middle Eastern vibe and the flavours associated with it feels very relevant at the moment.”
14 Casual dining
“People seem a bit done with fine dining, but a more casual market seems to be growing – people eat out a lot more.”
15 African restaurants
“After the launch of the likes of Ikoyi this would be really exciting to see.”
Tommy Banks, Head Chef and Owner, The Black Swan
16 Yorkshire rhubarb
“Twenty years ago the rhubarb industry was dying, no one wanted rhubarb and Yorkshire families who had grown it for generations, stopped. Over the last two years it has been growing in popularity as chefs are cooking seasonally and with British produce more and more. Between January and March there isn’t a huge variety of fresh produce to choose from in the UK, but there are large amounts of Yorkshire rhubarb, which grows in abundance because of the climate. Rhubarb originates from Siberia which is very cold and wet, similar to Yorkshire. I am sure 2018 will be an even bigger year for the humble Yorkshire rhubarb.”