Colorful instead of monotonous: Potato diversity from Hof Ellenberg. Karsten Ellenberg cultivates over a hundred historical potato varieties, which are not only convincing in terms of color, but also in terms of taste. (kartoffelvielfalt.de)
24. November 2020
What Are We Eating in the Age of Corona?
Dorothee Neururer has summarized Hannis Rützlers Food Report 2021 in the NZZ Bellevue magazine. Here is the English version of her article.
Steadfast and sure, food trend pioneer Hanni Rützler has maintained her focus on what and how we are eating in the age of coronavirus. The crisis has, in her opinion, again put creativity front and center in the world of food. Preparing one’s own meals has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, and time spent together around the dining table has reunited us in the analog world. Optimism notwithstanding, Rützler is careful to acknowledge that the culinary world has suffered a serious blow. Her current Food Trend Report 2021, long an industry touchstone, serves this year in particular not only to orient but also motivate food producers, restaurateurs, and writers.
Agrobiodiversity on the plate — food farming in the face of climate change.
The claim that veganism will save the climate has been debunked by recent studies. Practically speaking, the idea that a moratorium on one aspect of consumption could have a sufficiently positive, enduring influence on our staggeringly complex climate comes up short. The key question is: What and how should we eat in order to sustain biodiversity? Only nine of the approximately 30 thousand plant species beneficial for human nutrition account for two thirds of today’s global harvest. Of the approximately 40 domesticated livestock breeds, a scant five account for the majority of our animal-based nutrition.
The enormous variety in our supermarkets belies the fact that our food consumption habits and production processes promote monocultures, and the loss of biodiversity goes hand in hand with climate change. Agrobiodiversity on the plate means putting rarely seen, regional cultivars on the menu. Even urban gardens lend themselves well to experimenting with seedstock from heritage breeds, and thinktanks like Arche Noa in Austria and Germany, or Specia Rara in Switzerland, are repositories for these seeds, as well as information on cultivating them. The most important ambassadors of agrobiodiversity on the plate are our great chefs, who work closely with farmers to explore anew the potential of heritage breeds.
The black Alps-pig is a small until moderate-sized pig-race with long, powerful legs and short torso, that – almost extinct – now is bred in the Alps again. (Foto: Bergerhof – https://www.alpenschwein.com/)
Drinking mindfully—liquid evolution
Drawing a connection between our health and what we drink took hold in the 1970s. Non- alcoholic drinks evolved into energy drinks. At the same time, alcohol consumption in the last 30 years has declined steadily, to the extent that a ‘drinking culture’ without alcohol is for millennials today perfectly normal. In sum, eschewing alcohol and embracing—what, exactly? After all, the ascetic’s mineral water and the smoothie, once hallmarks of the urban lifestyle, have long-since become mainstream.
Premium fruit juices, now reviewed like fine wines, offer new drink experiences. Or vinegars, aged 10 years, from which one adds a few drops to one’s soda water. These natural juices have made the leap into the modern luxury market. Their purveyors uphold traditional production methods, quality, and refinement. Behind tea-as-Champagne or gin and schnapps without alcohol are the innovation-friendly creators of the so-called ‘sober trend.’ Novel technologies have also been rapid catalysts of new types of drinks: micropads designed to enhance tap water, or devices that activate scent memories, creating retronasal olfactory illusions that are interpreted by the brain as flavors.
The restaurant industry has taken the new drinking culture in earnest. A fine juice- and tea list is now a standard accompaniment to a complete menu. In Berlin, the first ‘sober bar’ has already opened. And in the world of beverage publications, that managed until now with offerings about wine and cocktails, this trend manifests itself in numerous new, elaborate books by sobriety experts.
When software determines what restaurants offer—ghost kitchens and the food-delivery scene
The lockdown has expanded the range of opportunities for niche purveyors and ghost kitchens. A ghost kitchen is set up exclusively for delivery service—it accommodates no guests onsite. With a flexible cooking infrastructure, set up in repurposed shipping containers or vacant buildings, the ghost kitchen frees traditional restaurateurs from the pressures of investing in costly equipment and being tied to a fixed location. Together with modern food delivery platforms, ghost kitchens are paving the way for the future of the restaurant industry. The business model: collect and analyze client data in order to optimize production and delivery processes. Ghost kitchens may prepare recipes from established restaurants, or exist only temporarily, as brand entities for current food trends.
At this nexus of the analog and digital realms of one of the world’s oldest professions, entirely new business models are being forged. This innovation has not gone unnoticed by investors, who foresee enormous growth potential. The lockdown has delivered a practically ideal proof-of-concept, by providing the big players in food delivery with a sensational increase in orders in the second quarter of 2020. And for those who think this sounds too much like science fiction, there are still carefully selected small-business owners, with fresh-cooked meals, in biodegradable packaging, delivered by bicycle. They will always have a clientele.
Yacón, a tuber fruit related to Jerusalem artichoke, has been used as food in the South American Andes for centuries. Because the yacón is very adaptable, its cultivation is now also done outside the Andes. (Foto: Wolfgang Reiter / futurefoodstudio)
Food Trends past, put to the test—what’s here to stay, what’s coming, what’s going
Health remains the most important driver of what gets consumed—be that nutritional supplements to prevent disease, or vegetable baskets direct from the farm. Fair trade— transparency about conditions of production and origin—is an expectation with which the younger generation has grown up, and as adult consumers they will further establish this trend. The plant-based category can count upon promising growth and has long since ceased being a mere niche.
Signs point to pleasure, a slower pace, sustainability, and authenticity. Food should not merely be eaten; rather, its very production should be a sensuous experience—at the weekly farmers’ market, the farm itself, or in workshops. In the event that a resurgent coronavirus should for a time preclude such pleasures, innovative newcomers—for instance a cheese purveyor from the Swiss Alps—are waiting in the wings, with online tastings, enjoyable from your home office.
(Translated by Kristin Smith Cahn von Seelen)
Source: NZZ Bellevue and Dorothee Neururer
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