The New Multicultural American Kitchen – 3 flavor trends for 2017

ABC Family's "The Fosters" - Season Three

The make up of the American household today is quite different than it was just thirty years ago.  In one generation, we have gone from the nuclear family with it’s one mom, one dad and two kids all of the same race to a country of single parent and multi-cultural rentals.  The American dream of owning your own home in the suburbs has fallen to the wayside with the recession of 2008 and a millennial generation that’s more concerned with their phone plan than their life plan.

We currently have more single households in the United States than ever in history with a whopping 34% of children’s today living with an unmarried parent, this is up from just 9% in 1960, and 19% in 1980.  This combined with a fast growing Hispanic population and increasing bi-cultural households has made for quite the change over the last thirty years.  Hispanics made up a minuscule 6.5% of total US households in 1980 and now make up almost 18%.

Not only are we seeing a dramatic change in the overall make up of the household, but the US household is now a multicultural melting pot of Black, White, Asian, Indian, Mexican, Russian and anything and anyone.  Gone are the days of the traditional one man, one woman same race household, today we see no boundaries and no barriers to what makes up an American home.  Even American popular culture has figured it out with shows like The Foster’s which features a multi-ethnic family mix of foster and biological teenaged kids being raised by two moms that recently completed it’s fourth season on FreeForm.

I know this is a lot of data to take in, but it says one clear thing to me, the times they are a changin and so are our palettes.  Today’s kitchen is dramatically different than it was fifty, twenty, even ten years ago and will continue to evolve as cultures mash up and consumers bring their cultures and culinary heritages together in the kitchen.

With this changing dynamic of the American household comes a revolution in the kitchen. With the meshing of these different ethnic backgrounds comes a fusion of authentic flavor profiles and mixed cooking styles.  The millennial generation has not only brought an openness and multicultural influence to the kitchen, but also an appreciation of authenticity and a palette for exploration of new spices, flavor combination and cooking techniques.  The increasing pace of life and access to data through technology has also created a need for new portable formats and requirement of healthy functionality that can be consumed anywhere and anytime.  Day part barriers have been demolished and three squares a day now only refers to the number of bars you have left on your battery life.

As this generation continues to grow older and establish families, they will also be merging their culinary styles that they grew up with.  As acculturation takes hold and this generation becomes Americanized, they will refuse to lose sight of their roots, but blend it into their lifestyles and culinary creations.  They are striving for authentic recipes, flavors, and dishes but are also willing to merge with their counterparts and create an entirely new platform of cooking and flavor.  Hispanic-Asian, Korean-Mexican, Cuban-Vietnamese, Peruvian-Japanese, Italian Indian.  Each of these cooking styles offering its own spectrum of flavor and spice, but being merged with one another to create a fantastic fusion of flavor and form.

As the millennial generation will continue to lead this quest for fantastical fusion flavors the sky is the limit.  I see many combinations coming to fruition in the near future, but here is where I see the next wave of flavor heading.

1) Latino-Indian – as Americans we continue to be scared of curry and Indian spices, but the palette is starting to open and the Mexican platform seems to be a good way for these two formats to merge.  They share similar handheld formats and spices like cumin and cilantro that seem to make an easier connection.  Samosas have a strange resemblance to an empanada, so I could expect to see a yellow curry and potato empanada or a green chili and chicken samosa in the Trader Joe’ frozen aisle in the near future.

samosa

2) Mexican merging with Vietnamese cuisine – both formats have similar hand held varieties that seem to work well together.  Tortas and bánh mi will fuse together as these two formats continue to make headway with consumers.  You may see a carne asada bánh mi on a food truck near you soon.

banh-mi

3) Japanese Italian – this format is been running through the streets of Brazil for many years, but this will finally start to take hold in the near future as Japanese street food and Italian profiles become mainstream.  Think about how delicious a pizza filled steamed bun would taste.  It’s the upscale Hipster hot pocket.

steam-bun-2

13 Things to Consume Before the Next End of the World

mayan_calendar

Photo: www.uta.edu/planetarium/astronomy-101/articles/doomsday-2012.php

 

Since we all lived through the Mayan apocalypse of 12/21/12 and made it to 2013, here is a list of 13 things you must consume before the next end of the world prediction.  These are a few of my favorite things on earth and begging for someone else to discover if you haven’t done so already.


1) Pork belly (or at least settle for some bacon) – either one of these belly busters (no pun intended) will provide a heavenly experience in how delicious fat can taste.  Yes, fat does have flavor.  Slightly sweet, oily, mouth coating with a hint of vanilla; pork belly can be an interesting addition to any dinner plate or appetizer tray.

Bacon of any type, flavor, shape or form is always a crowd pleaser.  This perfect marriage of fat, smoke and protein is simply delicious and can be put on or in anything to make it taste better.  Smokey notes with hints of applewood, hickory or cherry provide the perfect compliment to bacon’s fatty yumminess.

2) Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale – an English ale with a lot of character.  A fresh nose, nutty and sweet middle and a lasting hoppy finish that doesn’t leave you parched by bitterness, but refreshed.  This delicious beverage is consumed best at room temperature and in a classic English ale style provides a masterpiece of malt and hops.

3) Sushi – preferably not from a gas station like in Bentonville, AR, but an actual Japanese restaurant.  I am not talking about a California roll, but real sushi.  The raw stuff.  Eel, tuna, salmon, squid, roe, anything that is slimy and gushy and makes you queasy in the knees.  Its unique texture is intriguingly disgusting, yet enjoyable.  The artistry that goes into most rolls is worth the price, even if you just plan to stare at it.

4) $7.50 cup of coffee (Sun-Dried Sumatra Rasuna) – I know it sounds ridiculous, but this $7.50 cup of coffee was well worth the wait and price.  It was gently massaged by hand through the one of a kind Clover machine at the Starbucks on Pike Street and turned out to be a truly romantic experience.  This fruity bouquet of cherry and dried fruit made my nose happily dance while a subtly strong hit of spiciness blew me away.

Coffee is one of those vices of mine that cries for me to satisfy every morning.  Some days are for the Keurig when in a hurry, but most days the French press is king.  Move over Maxwell House because I would trade an entire pound packed in your metal can for one sip of this delicious nectar.

5) Chicken & Dumplings (my Grandma Jewels recipe) – this was always a staple at the Sunday feast that my grandmother prepared.  It was a subtle bribe to all of us to visit knowing that we would see a stove of buttered corn, green beans and ham, corn bread, carrots and chicken and dumplings.  This all being cooked in bacon grease of course.  On top of the savory goodies was a fully functional orchestra of fudge, red velvet cake, chocolate cake with caramel icing and cookies galore, but nothing could compare to the dumplings.

Typically it involved butchering a fresh hen from the backyard and a morning worth of work, but it was a treat I will never forget and regret not learning how to make.  The soft and chewy, but fluffy buttermilk squares of heaven sitting in a bath of gravy and slow cooked chicken is a smell and taste that will always be embedded into my reptilian brain as the ultimate comfort food.

6) A Real Bagel (from a good Jewish deli) – The only place that I have been able to enjoy a truly authentic bagel is with my roommate in college from Long Island.  On multiple occasions I had the pleasure of being exposed at a young adult age to a New York bagel.  Not those imitations that are frozen or come from Ohio, but a chewy center, crusty tough outside that blends together in a doughy paradise.  When ordering, make sure to get the everything bagel with the rye seed to push it over the top of all time favorites.  Throw on some cream cheese and lox and now you are really ready to party.

7) Asian food – it doesn’t matter the region or culture, bring it on.  When I was growing up my idea of Chinese was the restaurant in my hometown that served sweet and sour chicken and wonton soup.  Luckily, with the emergence of Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Korean and other regional types popping up around the US we are able to enjoy lots of spices, recipes and traditions never imagined twenty years ago. They say that food is the spice of life, but I feel that spice is the food of life.  It supercharges the olfactory system, wakes up the taste buds and excites the palette for a worldwide journey with the lift of a fork.

Thai is probably my favorite Asian food with an amazing marriage of sweet heat, rich creamy coconut milk and subtle fishiness in many dishes is the perfect combination of exotic and amazing.  The umami bomb that is created by the Tom Kha Gai soup makes you yearn to understand what the hell kokumi is all about.  The multiple layers of never ending flavors created from the coconut milk, ginger, kefir limes and lemongrass finished with fresh hits of cilantro and basil make even the dead taste buds come alive.  As it appears that Thai has become the new Chinese food in it shouldn’t be that difficult to find.

8) German bratwurst and pretzels (preferably from Munich) – pretzels as big as your head, a crusty outside, soft chewy inside and yeasty finish make this the ultimate snack.  In addition to the enormously large twisted treasure the bratwurst needs to be too large to handle with one hand as well.  Mellowly seasoned and stuffed into a natural casing with the distinct bite and sound as you pierce into it with your teeth. Throw some seedy brown mustard on the side and some kraut on the top and now you are in business.

9) Garbage Plate (Rochester, NY’s famous Nick Tahou Hots) – I don’t even know what the hell is on this thing, but the standard fare involves something like this – a bed of french fries or home fries, baked beans and Cole slaw, topped with hamburgers, cheese burgers, fish filet, white hots, red hots, Italian sausage, fried ham, grilled cheese, eggs and beautifully covered in some type of weird spicy beef gravy sauce, onions and mustard  This is traditionally served after 1:00 am and consumed when intoxicated.  At least that is how I enjoyed it the first time.  Amazingly enough, this masterpiece even tastes good after a long day of work and is high on the list of must have’s  before you die.

10) Cadbury Creme Egg- I am not sure how they can keep that creamy white filling with just a hint of yellow for the yolk as a liquid for like three years without it getting hard.  It’s a food scientist’s masterpiece.  This is my favorite candy on the planet.  This is because of the fact that it is probably the sweetest candy in the world.  I am scared to think about the calories or grams of sugar packed into this beauty, but it puts me in a joyous diabetic shock every Easter.

11) Scotch Egg- yet another egg, much different, but equally racking up the calories.  The scotch egg is also known as an egg devil and for those not aware it consists of a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage, coated in breadcrumbs and then deep-fried.  Only the Brits could have provided such a culinary delight that would be placed into the deep fired hall of fame.  This is a strong competitor to the fried Twinkie which glorified proudly at every county fair from Hamilton to Des Moines.  The sausage and breadcrumb combo is an excellent accent to hard boiled egg and the mild spiciness finished with a good brown mustard makes it all come alive.

12) KimChi – This stuff will tease your taste buds and confuse your stomach.  A traditional Korean staple made up of fermented vegetables and random ingredients such as napa cabbage, radish, scallion, ginger, red peppers, and cucumber to name a few.  There are hundreds of different recipes for this stuff and even has seasonal varieties, but it is a disgustingly amazing culinary treat.  Sourness, sweetness, heat, and crunchiness in a side dish that has literally been buried and fermented.  All I can say is, wow.

The dish is amazingly difficult and time intensive to make, but luckily for us it is starting to find its way into the mainstream American culture.  I even saw it being carried at Wal-Mart so you should be able to enjoy this with very little effort to find it.  I recommend a good Korean restaurant to fully emerge yourself in the side dish dining experience, but I guess you can settle for the jar at Wal-Mart.  It can be eaten as a compliment to any Asian dish or even added to a thick chicken or veggie sandwich for a little exotic flare to a classically boring lunch or dinner.

Lucky #13) Cincinnati Chili – for those of you out there that have never had the pleasure of a three way, please read on.  We have our own way of eating chili in southwest Ohio and it involves noodles, sweet meaty chili and lots of Wisconsin cheddar.  This Greek inspired sweet meat combination of beef, cinnamon, allspice and even chocolate creates a savory sauce to sit proudly upon a hot dog or bed of pasta and huge mound of cheese.  For the typical chili consumer this unique delicacy will scare you slightly, but don’t worry it works in complete culinary harmony.

Cincinnati once was a battleground of rival chili houses all having their own unique ingredient and style.  Recipe wars were raged from Price Hill to Blue Ash, but only one is king in my book and worthy of the one time experience – Skyline.  Appropriately named after the beautiful view you get from the cut in the hill as you cross the Ohio river from Kentucky will provide the Cincinnati chili virgin with a three, four or five way they will never forget.

If you have a bucket list, hurry up, it is 2013.   The fact that unlucky #13 is in the date is not a good sign for the future, so eat up!

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