A few weeks ago, I wrote about trends in food during the lockdown. And the newsletter got utterly and painfully long. So I thought I'd spare you folk the trauma of reading further and decided to split the content into two - one, food trends during the lockdown and two, food trends in a more generic, non-lockdown sense.

So, here goes - 
The rise of superfoods, health (fad) diets (intermittent fasting as well, cough cough) and the like have been big for a couple of years now.

But, 'succumbing' to health foods (apparently) or superfoods and fad diets is something you might have guessed I will not do. So, hehe.

Moringa, turmeric, garlic and ginger, which we grew up eating in sambars or sabzis as kids in India, suddenly seem to be revered in the food world now. Honestly, it amuses and frustrates me. But, of course, it's a sense of pride in knowing that various people are beginning to see these beyond just regular food.
There's another part of the food market cashing on the rising consumption of millets and other gluten-free, fibrous grain.

Another something laugh-worthy because these grains are readily available with your neighbourhood kirana guy. And you end up shelling out almost thrice the price at a Nature's Basket store for it, perhaps.

Bhakris, upmas, pongals have been replaced by crackers, cereal and salads. Again, a part of me cringes at the faux quotient of it all and a part of me feels a little happy that at least these grains are getting their due.
Then, there's herbal teas. Now, I'm quite a fan of tisanes myself. And floral teas look mighty pretty. But did you know that tea tasting is a-whole-nother ball game? I'm not a tea drinker, but I remember my husband having immense fun tasting teas and understanding their complex flavour at a tea tasting session at the Halpe Uva factory in Sri Lanka back in 2016. In fact, the International Tea Masters Association (ITMA) has a tea aroma wheel. Who wudda thunk?! When tea and India are thought of in the same breath, Darjeeling or the Nilgiris first come to mind. However, here's an interesting piece on the black tea (and pottery) in Kangra, HP.

I can't help but bring covid-19 up but there is fairly frequent news of artisanal tea stores beginning to shut physical locations and going the online route instead as many, many, many businesses are hit.
And then, herbal teas make me think of herbs. Duh. And when I think herbs, I also automatically think microgreens. Growing your own microgreens has taken the world by storm.

Microgreens are not only super easy to grow but also super nutritional and have this amazing ability to perk up your weekly salads. Microgreen seeds don't always grow into full-fledged adult plants though. So you can start off small (quite literally). But don't be too disheartened that you aren't getting carrots or radishes out of it.

Recently, I read a piece about how children were making the most of the lockdown and were growing microgreens. And I was immediately taken back to my childhood years of building a 'killa' (fortress) around Diwali, using mud and bricks, doing it up with little mud figurines and Diwali lights and scattering around mustard seeds to grow my own 'forest'!
Quite a mix of the superfood bucket as well as trending food bucket is honey. On the one hand, there is the rise of meads, and on the other, declining bee populations continue to make news.

The surge in the sale of raw, artisanal honey in India (orange blossom, rosewood, jamun...) made me look up monofloral honey - honey produced by bees when they feed on a single pollen source - the honey takes on some of the flavours of its pollen source and is also, obviously, labelled with the plant name the bees have fed on.

Forest honey (Maharashtra Forest Honey, Rajasthan Forest Honey etc) is collected by the bees that feed on the nectar from herbal and medicinal plants found in the core forest. Mānuka honey is another popular and expensive kind available in most supermarkets (coming from the Manuka flower, a rare and natural resource, found only in NZ). Different types of honey are touted to have benefits like being effective for weight loss, healing wounds, soothing sore throats, and improving digestion and so on. Well, that's what the scriptures also say about honey. So you can very well call me a party pooper now.

Litchi honey, fennel honey, ajwain honey and the like are a handful I have not tasted. But from the ones I HAVE tasted, I can surely say that the honey DOES take on mild notes of the plant the bees fed on. It makes for interesting tasting, if nothing else. Plus, for those of you who are interested, there's also a 101 on bee-keeping in India here.
Next up are nut milks - alternative plant-based options for milk that are becoming the new cool now - so much so that they are spelt as mylk. In fact, there was a legal ruling to spell plant milks as mylk in some countries.

Nut milks are a good vegan option (that I have my own reservations about veganism is another story) - so there are enough resources online on how you can extract your own almond or cashew milk. Hell, I even have a family friend who makes soy milk from scratch. Oat milk is also not fairly uncommon. But have you heard of pea milk?!

Peas are harvested while still yellow and milled to a flour. The proteins and fibre content is then used to make pea-milk. So, then, it tastes neither like peas and nor is it green. Else, just imagine chugging green stuff down like Popeye and miraculously gaining superpowers. Heh!

Pea protein is also used in whey and collagens (gym bros, hear up!) and that makes me briefly talk about other protein alternatives to meat - plant-based protein in burgers. Dal anyone?

Maybe it's just me. The need to supplement regular foods with protein or carbs to lose weight quickly is something I'm not entirely on board with. But people do it. And are mighty happy with the results too. A small part of me feels like making any kind of diet a life long change (unless I am medically required to) is too big a lifestyle change for me to incorporate. And, so, while I merrily have well-meaning conversations with friends and get home from social gatherings and read up on these fad diets, I find myself back to the same old me the following morning.

Atkins and Mediterranean diets seemed to be big on trends a few years ago. Veganism and the ketogenic diet seem to have taken over. Paleo and Intermittent fasting come next on the dieting radar. And, honestly, I have nothing against those who follow these diets, I just find it very hard to convince myself to do so too. 

There's a small part of me that wonders whether switching to fancy fruit and veg like kale or Brussels sprouts is as bad or as good as a fad diet then. Sigh (and I also know there are enough people who might dislike me for saying this).

Gut cleansing foods seem to be at an all-time high. And a lot of gut cleansing food are the naturally-fermented kind.

Bonus points if they're fermented at home. We can start with good old dahi and idli (and dosa) batter. In fact, did you know the fermented goodness of homemade idli and dosa batter is actually an age-old gut cleanser? It improves digestibility, reduces flatulence and so much more. I'm beginning to wonder if this newsletter is about how things we've eaten over decades (and even centuries) in India are suddenly becoming concepts that are taking the world by storm now. Sigh.

Shubhra Chatterji, who runs the @historywali account on Instagram, in fact, did an interesting 3-day program about Desi Cultures - the videos for the sessions are up online for 1650 INR (proceeds go to a fantastic cause her husband is closely involved with).

There's pickled veggies - something that's been done the right way (of course) and been sitting around even for as little as 2-3 days starts showing the benefits of lacto-fermentation. And there's kombucha - fermented tea - about which I've written in detail on a previous newsletter. I've also been making my own for a few years now. So hit me up if you need any gyaan. Around a very basic 101 or a second-ferment or flavours. Just about anything. I should be able to answer.

While good old 'cultural' recipes might seem daunting, making your own kimchi or sauerkraut or preserved lemons or kefir or kvass might make the whole deal sound cooler and easier to you.
Speaking of kimchi, Asian foods are suddenly the new cool now. Various kinds of sushi, making your own ramen, Koran grilled food and even our obsession for street-side desi Chinese food (and the minor 'Gopi Manjuri' trend after you-know-what)!

Hell, even the Godrej Food Report for 2019 predicted Asian Food as a trend for 2020.

Of course, a lot of food trends predictions for 2020 have gone out of the window with covid-19. Here's an interesting read (a lot of numbers) on how the supply chain for food providers has been affected because of covid-19.
While we're still on Asian food, might I add ube is the new matcha.

Ube - purple yam.
Matcha - Japanese green tea (young tea leaves, ground into a bright green powder)

I've used both before (ube in Indian recipes, 'kand' to us Gujjus and also in a steamed fancy Asian bao type thing). And matcha, as ice cream and as is, both. I LOVE the former (hell, I grew up loving it). The latter, well, I am not a tea person in general, as I've already mentioned.
While I'd love to debate food trends and how a to of it was already being done somewhere or the other before it became hip, there are two very interesting reads that I came across, and I genuinely didn't know how to fit them into this piece. And all the same, I wasn't sure if readers would like to see them on another newsletter edition. So here they are:
I can't really talk about fermentation and not talk about Sandor Katz. And if you don't know who he is, Google. Pronto!
Since Asian food (and easy Asian food, at that) has been all the rage of late, here's a book I genuinely like.

That Peter Meehan has been in the news for some other not-so-nice stuff, is well, just sad.
It goes without saying, stay safe, y'all. We'll get through this. We will. If 2019 has been a shitty year for me, 2020 too will pass. And if it passes for me, rest assured, I'll be dragging you along with me too. I promise!

Until next time, nom nom!
- Meha
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