This time of year we are subjected to a seemingly inexhaustible stream of predictions regarding food trends for the coming months. What exactly is the point of all this? Is it just to make self-fulfilling prophecies, to say “I told you so” at the end of this year? Bloggers and journalists are now influential enough, especially when they form a consensus, that they can create trends and buzz essentially out of thin air. There are those who say food has become the new rock and roll, but these days I think it’s more like fashion, with edicts handed down to us by a oligarchy of influential tastemakers, mostly national newspaper writers or prolific Twitter personalities. Burgers are out and bánh mì are in – if they say so, it must be true. People listen. I’m not sure even they realize the power they have.
It all seems so arbitrary. But I’m not so much angry at the food trendsetters as I am at myself for paying attention to them. One of my favorite restaurants in London was a place called Muna’s, on Green Lanes. They served Sudanese and Eritrean food. Delicious, unique cooking. But when we left Turnpike Lane, we stopped going there. I could blame it on the distance, but we only moved two tube stops away. In truth I was too busy stuffing my face with burgers and hot dogs and fried chicken and whatever else everybody was talking about at the moment. I wanted to taste what all the fuss was about – and I’m glad I did. But now Muna’s is closed.
Could they have marketed themselves better? Maybe. But they were a modest business that relied on locals and regulars to make money; they didn’t have a PR team, they weren’t in a cool part of town, and they’d never been featured in a magazine or blog. I always wondered if they were struggling; apparently they were. I wish I had gone back, not just because I feel guilty for not supporting them, but because I really liked their food, and now I can’t have it anymore.
This is just a roundabout way of saying that while following or forecasting food trends can be fun and rewarding, doing so doesn’t make the most of a city that boasts an enormous wealth of culinary diversity. In 2013, forge your own path. Do your own thing. Find your own favorites. Enjoy exploring!