Beware Of Faddy Foods

The thing about fads is, they start slowly. You might find yourself, say, in the year 2007, at home, eating a slice of watermelon. You're enjoying its watery goodness. Not too sweet. And so refreshing! Good for you. And then, a short while later, you go to a restaurant and notice that they've got watermelon on the dessert menu. Well, alright. That's ok; just the universal appreciation of a good thing.

Jump ahead to the year 2011, and suddenly, you can't go to a restaurant without a watermelon being served in some ridiculous fashion; spicy, grilled, pickled, in your drink and in your soup (even Food Republic is guilty!). Watermelon slices are marketed as "steaks," and feta-watermelon appetizers are being inhaled like corn chips. That's the other thing about food fads; they turn something great into something that's annoying.

I remember when, as a child, I was mystified by the strange power that Brie had over adults in the late '70s. Whenever my parents and their friends got together, there would always be a plate of Brie on the table, softening with menace. Little did I know then that adults are as powerless as kids when it came to fads. Just as I couldn't resist the allure of collecting puffy stickers, the grown-ups were enthralled with Brie.

The fad from the '90s that really drove me nuts was salsa. You couldn't enter a restaurant that wasn't serving some sort of mango or pineapple salsa on fish or whatever. That was a perfect example of a great thing — Mexican salsa — that became too trendy, so that it started killing the flavors of the dishes that it was intended to enhance. It was a lose-lose scenario. And it is a collective madness that still lingers today; I just roll my eyes when I see non-Mexican entrees served with salsa. Dude, just call it a sauce.

Today's faddy foods, like bacon, Banh Mi sandwiches or gluten-free dishes, can have admirable roots in taste or health-consciousness. But wouldn't you agree that they're getting tired? And, as we've already noted, even Food Republic can sometimes get caught up in it all. But it's hard to stay in front of the fads. And that's the most important thing about fads: they are unavoidable. We just have to live with them, and try to separate what's good from what's bad.

Let's do an exercise. Let's pick a great food item that is not a faddy food at the moment. Say, ketchup. I know ketchup has had a bit of a renaissance of late, and rightly so. (In fact, check out this great recipe for homemade ketchup on Food Republic.) But ketchup is not a fad, as of yet. It's not in your ice cream or prominently labeled as being in the sauce on your $24 entree.

All I'm saying is let's enjoy ketchup for what it's good for: as the perfect complement to burgers, fried foods and sometimes as a Chinese food ingredient. Let's savor it. Because we never know when the all-consuming power of fadness will drain it of its reliable awesomeness.

Just love the ketchup your with. It may never be the same.

What's your most hated food trend? Vent about it in the comments. Best rant wins a cookbook (must be non-anonymous comment).