Food trends come and go and are largely dictated by cultural, economic, social and geographic influence. Each year, decade and century have particular foods that stand out. Sometimes the trend sticks around for decades – in which case it is not really a trend or a fad, is it? Foods like canned meat, instant coffee and Jell-O have stuck around even though people began eating them in the early to the mid 20th century. The foods that a large percentage of a country’s or region’s population focus on are also related to changes in attitudes and values such as healthy eating, accepting and incorporating other cultures and caring for the environment.
Superfoods became more popular as people became more conscious of the link between nutrition, health and longevity. Veganism and vegetarianism started to grow once people became concerned with the ozone layer. There is a growing concern for how rearing animals for food damage the atmosphere and waste agricultural land space that could be used to grow crops besides corn. Globalization has seen people from cultures from all over the world reside together and people become fascinated with cuisine from lands they have never visited.
Foods indigenous to Asia, Europe, the Caribbean, Africa and South America have become trendy and “cool”. Sometimes dishes from separate cultures are combined and in some weird way symbolize the union of people across the world. Food unites us as much as it defines and distinguishes us from each other. One thing is for certain though, humans are fickle and always seem to be in search of the next big thing and for that reason, there will always be changed in food consumerism. With that in mind, here are the best and worst food trends of every decade in the last 100 years.
20 '20s Worst: Clam Broth
If you were to go back in time and sit down for dinner at a typical 1920’s family dinner, you would perhaps get a taste and a whiff of clam broth. If you are not a fan of seafood, the smell of clamp soup can be off-putting, that might explain why most people are not clamouring for a taste of clam. Clam broth was made with milk, fresh clams, butter, salt and pepper. The milk would be boiled and all the other ingredients would be added later. This fishy, fragrant soup was often served as an appetizer with crackers.
19 '20s Best: Potatoes Gratin
This food trend is still popular today. Folks in the 1920s loved them some baked potato with cheese. It had potatoes, of course, grated cheese, butter, salt and pepper, flour and milk. The potatoes were cut into cubes and washed. The water was drained and the potato cubes were layered into a buttered baking dish with cheese. Salt and pepper were added with butter. Thickened cups of milk with butter and flour were poured over the potatoes. Grated cheese, more salt and pepper were added on to. The whole thing was cooked until the top was golden brown and the potatoes were tender
18 '30s Worst: Jell-O Salad
Once people were able to afford fridges and realized that they could preserve and cool foods, they invented new culinary masterpieces. The Jell-O salad trend was an unfortunate side effect of the fridge as a technological enhancement and powdered gelatin as a food. Some of the worst Jell-O salads included tinned tuna or chicken and shredded vegetables in lime or strawberry flavoured Jell-O. Imagine biting into something sweet and landing into meat and vegetable. Yuck! Thankfully Jell-O salads did not continue on to these days. Jell-O on its own can be quite a tasty dessert treat. Chicken and vegetables in a salad are just equally acceptable. The motivation for combing all three is just hard to fathom.
17 '30s Best: Devilled Eggs
Devilled eggs came to prominence in the ’30s and have stuck around ever since. The dish had been around since the late 1800s but as people tried to make creative, appealing dishes, somehow devilled eggs made the list. To make deviled eggs, slice boiled eggs in half lengthwise, remove the yolks and place them in a bowl. Place the egg whites on a serving platter. Mash the yolk into a past – like consistency. Mayo, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper are added and mixed with the paste. Spoonfuls of the paste are heaped onto the egg whites. Some people lightly sprinkle paprika or chilli flakes on top.
16 '40s Worst: Spam
SPAM is the meat icon of the ’40s. The canned meat is still around today but has lost some of its popularity. Some people swear by others swear off it. The square combo of pork, water, salt, starch, sugar and sodium nitrate has sold more than 8 billion cans since it was invented. It is now available in over 40 countries worldwide. It caught on in popularity because of its convenience and affordability. An example of a SPAM is upside down SPAM. An 8-inch mould is lined with slices of the meat and filled with biscuit dough. It is baked for40-45 minutes at 425 degrees. Once that’s done, the baked treat is flipped upside down and a container of melted cheese is placed in the middle.
15 '40s Best: Juice From Concentrate
The ’40s were also one of the less peaceful decades in history and food rationing was necessary to keep everyone fed and relatively healthy. Orange juice, along with cheerios, spam and margarine were popular breakfast items. Frozen Minute Maid was first introduced in the ’40s and people took a liking to it. As time went on, people were annoyed with waiting for the juice to melt – Minute Maid came along just in time to provide refrigerated orange juice that did not need to freeze and could be consumed in a minute or less. This game changer continues to be how many people drink orange juice today.
14 '50s Worst: TV Dinners
If you are a fan of TV dinners please do not be offended by this statement - TV dinners are among the top 10 food trends in the last 100 years. The 50s were all about convenience as women were working outside the home a lot more than they did in previous years. So there was a lot less home cooked meals and these offered an alternative that fit neatly into the lives of busy households. The food came in packets or pouches. There was even soup in dry or liquid form. You could have your meal ready within 30 minutes and there were no dishes to wash. The thing is, TV dinners are not the best tasting foods. The meals were often bland, too salty, too mushy or just reminded you of eating at a healthcare institution. People still eat TV dinners in some variation today but they are not as popular as they once were.
13 '50s Best: Casseroles
Casseroles became a popular and convenient way of making use of leftover foods by incorporating them into other meals. A typical casserole dish was made from green beans and tuna. Mac and cheese, usually a boxed variety was cooked and then mixed with celery, soup, tuna and the green beans. Bread crumbs were sprinkled on top and the dish was baked for about 30 minutes at a high temperature. This trend has not lost its hold on families across the western world. People still enjoy a delicious, filling casserole from time to time.
12 '60s Worst: Prawn Stuffed Apples
The sixties were filled with a lot of new food creations. Some were amazing and others bizarre. There were things like frankfurter spectacular, shrimp sandwich roll and most interesting in an odd sort of way – prawn-stuffed apples. The insides of apples were scooped out and filled with mayo, tomato puree, tobacco, gherkins, olives, shrimp and parsley. A second prawn was perched on the side of the apple. We have all heard of shrimp cocktails but this is nothing similar. The taste was lovely to some, other abhorred it. Apples and shrimp should never collide in such a crude manner.
11 '60s Best: Instant Foods
This is the decade that saw the rise of canned instant foods that required only the addition of water to be edible. Instant mashed potatoes, freeze-dried coffee, powdered cheese mixes and dried coffee are among them. One of the most notable brands that originated in the 1960s and has stuck around to this day is Carination’s Coffee-Mate. Non-dairy creamers were already available but this brand had a long shelf life and was appealing to people sensitive to dairy. It remains one of the best-selling creamers in the United States. Instant and imitation products were such good inventions because they were affordable, easily accessible and helped facilitate the fast-paced lifestyle that has become a way of life in the west.
10 '70s Worst: Sardine-Egg Canapés
This was perhaps one of the worst dishes in the seventies. People cheesed things up – I mean they put cheese on just about everything but that was fine for the most part. However, another weird trend reared its head. People cooked some weird meat dishes and this is one of them. First, eggs are boiled, cut in half and had the yolk scooped out and mashed. Salt, pepper, mayo, mustard and horseradish was mixed in with the egg yolk. This was placed back into the egg whites and sardines were placed on top of the egg. The fish was in most cases seasoned with pimento and olive slices. The weird egg sardines were arranged on a platter and served with bread, cheese and salami.
9 '70s Best: Fondue And Quiche
The 70s were all about fondue – people raved about the melted cheese and the signature fondue pot. The pot would be placed in the centre of the table at a dinner meal and guests would let hot bubbling cheese wash over foods of their choice – usually bread and meat and sometimes fruits. The quiche Lorraine was a 70s staple as well. It’s a cheesy, egg and bacon filled dish garnished with basil and often paired with a salad. The crust was buttery and flaky. It is a versatile dish that can be served hot or cold. It was one of the great savoury “pies” of the 70s. Fondue and quiche share cheese as a common ingredient and it no coincidence - during that decade, people decided to put cheese on everything.
8 '80s Worst: Junk Food And Edible Consumerism
Thanks to TV and print media ads companies began marketing foods like crazy. Most of these foods were not necessary wholesome – Jawbreakers, Cool Ranch Doritos, artificially flavoured fruit snacks, Tab Cola and Capri Sun. Some of these products are still available today and they are not too bad on when they are consumed in moderation. The 80s was when junk food consumption really took off in many parts of the world. People who remember eating 80s snacks and junk food would argue that the quality and portions available back then were far superior to similar foods today. Regardless, these foods are not the best for people’s health.
7 '80s Best: Sushi And Other Asia-Inspired Cuisine
People were eating Asia-inspired foods outside of Asia for years but it wasn’t until the 80s that they became entrenched in western cuisine. The California roll was the quintessential type of sushi and pushed the sushi movement forward. Not only was it being served in restaurants, but sushi also took over the shelves at supermarkets as well. It was also during this time that Japan-inspired and other Asia-styled restaurants opened in great numbers. Foods like General Tso chicken and cho mein found a place in the appetites and hearts of many people who until then had never tried anything outside of a standard western meal.
6 '90s Worst: Pre-Made Lunchboxes
Parents were busy in the 90s because, by this time, the majority of women worked outside the home. It was convenient to pack lunch boxes with foods that were not necessarily home cooked or healthy. As children, we loved the sweet and sometimes salty items in our lunch boxes. Foods such as Doritos, Little Debbie cakes, bologna sandwiched, Power Ranger lollipops, fruit strips and Dunkaroos were stars in many childhood lunchtime meals. Of course, parents have the best of intentions when they packed lunches but these foods were not ideal for growing minds and bodies.
5 '90s Best: Pasta Salad
Pasta – good, fruits and vegetables– even better so why not combine the two. Well, that’s what happened in the 90s. People were cooking up flavorful food combinations and the central theme was often carbs, carbs, carbs. Deep dish pizza, potato sticks, spinach loaves and tater tots were all popular meals at many family dinners. Pasta salads were one of the healthy options that parents used to get their children to eat their daily requirements of fruits and veggies. A typical dish would have either pasta and fruit or pasta and vegetable. One example of a recipe popular during that time is Asian chicken pasta salad. Cooked pasta was added to a bowl with broccoli, peas, bamboo shoots, cooked chicken and red pepper. Peanut oil, soy sauce, garlic, gingerroot and pepper flakes were used to make a sauce that was poured and mixed into the pasta and vegetables.
4 2000s Worst: Deceptive Labelling
The mass commercialization of regular foods masquerading as organic was problematic. People loved organic foods and sought after them. Supermarkets and large food chains realized this capitalized and sold “organic foods” and charged high prices. Organic fruits, vegetables, ground provisions and so on are the best options for people who want to consume foods free of GMO meddling, pesticides and insecticides. Truly organic foods are grown in fertile, nutrient-rich soil and cared for with fertilizer and TLC from farmers. Eating organically is something most people did before the rise of industrialization and it was good. People who truly wanted to eat organic lost faith in the labels on foods in mass grocery stores.
3 2000s Best: Superfoods
Towards the end of the 2000s, the trend of healthy eating, veganism and vegetarianism took off with fervour. All of the sudden people were talking about “superfoods this” and “superfoods that”. Superfoods are nutrient and mineral dense foods that are natural, unprocessed and have enormous health benefits. It was around this time that the words acai berries became popular. People – even those who could not pronounce the name correctly all wanted to find out about this fruit and what exactly it did. The berries supposedly sped up weight loss, fought heart disease and gave boots of energy as well as cure certain illnesses. Other foods include agave, almonds, asparagus and blueberries were star foods in the diets of health-conscious people. It was out of all this that delicious, healthy smoothie and breakfast bowls were born.
2 2010s Worst: Kombucha
Kombucha is fermented green or black tea that is supposed to have a ton of health benefits. The exact origins are still unknown – some say it is from China others say Russia. Regardless, it has made its way into the diets of many people across the world. The taste is acquired and bracing, to say the least. It is another food that is said to have super properties but there is no clear scientific information to support that. In fact, consuming Kombucha can have some serious repercussions that many people are not aware of. For example, it can cause liver and kidney failure, convulsions and fainting. Despite all this, Kombucha is all over the place. The point is, it tastes horrible and could seriously harm you, so drink at your own risk.
1 2010s Best: The Avocado Craze
Avocado toasts, guacamole, avocado bowls, avocado and tomato salads – avocados reigned supreme in the 2010s. Avocado is high in good fats and low in sugar. The fruit is laden with vitamin E, C, copper, fibre and potassium. It is one of the ultimate superfoods and especially rose to fame when it was placed on pieces of bread and served as a breakfast item. It’s delicious and healthy and has gotten quite pricy over the years. That has done nothing to taper the demand for it. Most of the avocado enjoyed in the west and other parts of the world is from Mexico so it’s not a far stretch to say that avocado farmers are kept quite busy over the past decade.