Foodism | Opinion | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly


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"Foodies are foodist. They dislike and despise all non-foodies."

—Harpers & Queen Magazine, 1982

I don't know many foodies, so I have not felt the lash of foodist disapproval. Not yet, anyway. Foodism is a spectator sport for me. From the sidelines, I take passing notice of such food-related developments as Whole Foods morphing from grocery store to cafeteria and the hybridization of doughnut and croissant into a cronut. I marvel at the popularity of wait-in-line breakfast eateries like Finn's, The Blue Plate Diner and The Park Café.

Breakfast at a restaurant was unthinkable in my childhood. In fact, a restaurant meal was as rare as a bagel in Utah in those days. A lean family budget might have been a factor, but my parents' homespun tastes favored pot roast, meat loaf and casseroles made with mushroom soup—not restaurant fare. My mother fried trout when I caught them. She relied on green beans and corn from cans and Kraft macaroni and cheese from a box. We occasionally dined on five-for-a-dollar Deeburgers, but never on pizza or General Tso's chicken or tacos or samosas. I don't think I ventured into a Chinese restaurant until I was in college.

Nowadays, most of my friends and relatives are not foodies, but almost everyone has foodish quirks. I certainly do. I like crunchy cookies, not chewy ones. I like quiet restaurants with linen on the table and tapas on the menu. A lot of people avoid restaurants with tablecloths because they don't like paying the premium. Some people are attracted to all-you-can-eat deals like at Chuck-A-Rama. I know people who eat black-eyed peas on New Year's Day for good luck. Two guys I know insist on a meat-and-potato dinner every day. I am fortunate to be friends with a couple who are gourmet cooks. I know food-centric families who regularly dine on ham, scalloped potatoes and Jell-O salad. A cousin held cancer at bay with an unappetizing macrobiotic diet. And I know a 12-year-old who will eat no cheese but American—so long as it's white. If it's yellow, no dice.

It seems like a lot of kids are like that—picky eaters. Frustrated, parents seek advice from pediatricians when their kid will eat only peanut butter smeared on white, crustless bread. I don't much care if a kid is picky. On the other hand, I feel sorry for picky adults. They shrink from unfamiliar dishes like lamb coconut korma, pea agnoletti, molcajete and spaghetti alla cabonara just because the names are exotic. These four entrées were gleaned from "Best Dishes of 2016" as judged by The Salt Lake Tribune food writers.

I like most food. However, because I am not a foodie, I am ignorant of food trends. I lose track of whether or not an egg is good for you. Cronuts notwithstanding, the last food fad I can name is Cajun-blackened fish. Foodies had been eating quinoa for years before I had even heard of the Andean grain. I didn't know that black rice and fusion cuisine were passé. Nor did I know that fruit soups are "in" in 2017 as is harissa, a North African hot-pepper paste, and moringa, the emergent superfood. I learned about them by noodling around some food-related websites like the Sterling-Rice Group in Colorado. Some of the food predictions for 2017 seemed pretty far-fetched. Nobody I know will be making his own charcuterie or firing up the grill for a slab of jackfruit this year. However, I did note that pierogies and housemade pickles are trending, making Trestle Tavern on 15th and 15th a cutting-edge restaurant.

I was interested to read the Sterling-Rice Group's observation that "refugee populations are beginning to carve out their own culinary connections with their new home countries." Look no further than Salt Lake City for evidence. Event planners here can now choose caterers offering cuisine from Iraq, Jamaica, Bhutan, Sierra Leone, Venezuela, India, Ethiopia and Burma—an impressive list for a place known for its love of lime Jell-O and funeral potatoes. Salt Lake City is one of 22 cities in the U.S. to which the International Rescue Committee (IRC) brings refugees. Last year, more than 600 from 21 different countries were resettled here by the IRC. Some of them took advantage of IRC's Spice Kitchen Incubator, which provides technical assistance and training for those interested in starting a food business. The new Laan Na Thai Restaurant near Pioneer Park was midwifed by the IRC.

Another of IRC's success stories, the East African Refugee Goat Project of Utah, is pacing national food trends with a growing herd of Boer goats housed near the airport. New York Magazine called goat meat "a trendlet" in 2008, but because it is low in calories, fat and cholesterol, goat meat is poised to become the next go-to protein, the Sterling-Rice Group says. Utah could be the first state with an "eat local goat" campaign.

The best news on the food horizon is a study from Tel Aviv University that found breakfast dessert contributes to weight loss. We can celebrate with a trending "Freakshake," an ice-cream confection from Australia topped with chocolate sauce, cookies, doughnuts and candy. The shake packs 1,500 tasty calories, the equivalent of a brace of Big Macs.

The 2017 trend to "upscale mixologist-created mocktails" will surely bedevil Utah's abstemious lawmakers and their silly Zion curtain. No doubt they will welcome the surging popularity of alcohol-free beverages in restaurants, but the prospect of kids drinking a Nojito or Shirley Temple is going to drive them nuts.

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