#TrendingAwards2019: Taste Trends

At the end of each year, foodie fashionistas issue lists declaring certain ingredients, recipes and culinary cultures to be the tastes worth looking out for.

These declarations are often drawn up according to international food fads and have limited applicability to our economic environment.

How many of us cared – or even noticed – that mermaids replaced unicorns as the world’s favourite cupcake motif this year?

Most South Africans ignore such stuff and go on eating exactly the same way they always have.

Every so often there are international taste trends that have local applicability.

The rise of vegan cuisine is one such example that has resonated and has been reconfigured for our culinary context.

The New York Times recently reported that in the US, one in four 25- to 34-year-olds now self-identify as vegetarian or vegan.

In Mzansi, this year’s sign up statistics for the global Veganuary campaign, which seeks to encourage carnivores to try the plant-based lifestyle for a month, were fifth highest in the world.

Tumelo Mojapelo, head of content for the Flux Trends think-tank observed: “Plant-based diets are a fast-growing trend among young South Africans as they are exposed to more information through Google and social media.”

In the past, critics dismissed veganism as Eurocentric, posh-nosh relying on expensive animal product substitutes, but this year saw a new generation of proudly South African plant people emerging.

Dietician Mpho Tshukudu summed up the mood of the moment: “To eat this way is actually very traditional, African and inexpensive. Our people have always intuitively understood that meat was not the only way to get enough protein.

"Foods such as dikgôbê (a delicious Tswana mix of whole grain sorghum and sugar beans), Venda-style tshidzimba (groundnuts, beans and mealies) or Xhosa umngqusho (samp and beans) show us that our ancestors always engaged in nutritionally beneficial, vegan-friendly food combined within traditional recipes.”

Similarly, the appetite for cannabis-infused cuisine is at hugely popular high worldwide. According to this year’s American National Restaurant Association What’s Hot Culinary Survey, 77% of chefs ranked food and drinks infused with cannabis or CBD (cannabidiol) as the top trend.

The CBD exemption notice became law in South Africa in May and, with it, came a deluge of dagga dining – from pizzas drizzled with CBD oil at Col’Cacchios to Cannafornia sushi and the Cannafornia poké bowls.

Cape Town’s Blowfish restaurant also has dagga-infused delights to suit every palate and wallet. Wash it down with a pint of Durban Poison Cannabis-infused lager.

International political problems have shown up on our plates too. Cape Town restaurants have been particularly hard hit by Brexit, with a significant drop in British tourists.

Cash-flush international eaters have not arrived. High-end restaurateurs are having to rethink their business models.

There are currently specials galore with prices more in line with what locals earn. So, every cloud has a silver lining.

Well, sort of. Enjoy such specials while you can because if this slump continues the restaurants will close and the trend for next year will be eating at home. Which is what most of us do anyway.

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