Having said that, here are some of our thoughts on what sorts of good cooking will be most popular this year. Read through and tell us if you agree!
It's the Economy, Stupid.
It may be cliché by now, but it's still true. In 2009, the food climate will be dominated by the economic outlook. Here are some of the ways we think that will play out.
• Fridge-clearing cooking: Dishes, in fact entire meals, made from what's in the kitchen. Everything but the kitchen sink style. The obvious applications are soups and casseroles, but we think people will take this way of cooking beyond comfort food, creating salads, pizzas, grains and even desserts with on-hand ingredients instead of doing a big shop.
• More pig: We think the pork trend will continue, with cooks getting even more friendly with a wider range of pork products like guanciale (cured pork jowel), speck (smoked prosciutto), and lardo (cured pig fat from just beneath the skin).
• The emphasis on cheap cuts of meat won't end with the pig; look for more recipes for beef short ribs, shank, shoulders.
• Even cheap meat, though, will be less popular than the almighty egg. Even organic local eggs are cheaper than meat; look for them as a cheap source of protein in many dishes this year.
• Beans will be big. We also think will be an increased emphasis on cooking with beans. They are affordable, fun, and comforting in these strange times. Let the new Rancho Gordo cook book be our guide in 2009. (Look for a review this week.)
• We think this sensitivity to budget concerns will also play out in the local/organic/seasonal movement. Except, when people make decisions to buy from sources close to home, they'll be doing so for economic reasons as much as idealism.
• We think that the organics industry will be under increasing pressure to lower prices as people make cost-cutting decisions to buy only the organics they think are strictly necessary. Will this lower organic standards and principles? We hope not.
Food for Pleasure
And yet the economy isn't the only news in town. As people cut back, we predict that they'll find pleasure and luxury in the relatively low-cost world of food. We predict a renaissance of American cooking as cooks stay in instead of dining out. Here are some of the flavors and trends we think will be popular.
• Upscale comfort food: Mashed potatoes, glammed-up casseroles, towering layer cakes, and a return to home baking.
• Small indulgences will get all the attention: Really good coffee, high-end chocolate, and great cheese will be allowable indulgences in exchange for tightening budgets and fewer restaurant meals.
• The cupcake will die. And resurrect. Those cupcakes! They really are out, and yet their unsurpassable cuteness means they will always have a life in the blogosphere. Although, we think that mini layered cakes or those CakePops have a chance to supplant them eventually.
• Look for a cheese course, instead of a sweet dessert.
• We hope 2009 will mark the return of small independent butchers. Cheers to Tom Mylan's new butcher shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He emphasises local, humanely raised meet. We're really hoping to see more shops like this, please.
• Desserts with a savory ingredient: peppered panna cotta, soufflé with fennel and of course, herbed ice creams.
• We're seeing many more potato chips, both homemade and purchased from local and artisan makers.
• Also hosts had shunned dip as too old fashioned or plain. There's nothing wrong with some homemade onion dip in 2009, just hold the soup mix please. Have fun and experiment with your own homemade dips. This can be a good way to use up extra bits of spices too.
• And of course, we have a new President as of January 20. What will be served at the White House? We think there will be a lot of interest and focus on presidential eats over the first few months of the year, and hopefully a renewed course of public policy aimed at making American food even better.
Those are our slightly obvious, slightly tongue-in-cheek predictions for 2009. But whatever happens, we promise that we'll be here blogging food, cooking, and (hopefully) good ideas for the entire year to come. Do you have any hopes for this year, or topics you'd like to see covered? Tell us, and throw in your predictions too.
(Images, clockwise from left: Ojo de Tigre Ranch Gordo beans, from Village Market; Kevin Demaria for Gourmet.com; and Speck dell'Alto Adige at Formaggio Kitchen.)