So, It’s 2023

As the New Year begins, predictions are everywhere about what we can expect in the coming year. From food trends to end-of-the-word prophecies, you can read about anything you want on the internet.  

Predicting the future is as old as time. The word itself comes from the Latin term meaning “foretelling.” In reality, predictions were just a way for ancient people to cope with the things they did not understand. Imagine living in ancient or medieval times. No weather forecast, no medical tests to maintain your health, and no news updates to see what is happening worldwide. An earthquake happens – are the Gods angry? People were truly blind, and most religions created some form of divination to give them hope for the future and, more importantly, provide power over the populace. A select group of priests or officials could enlighten them about the future. Their fate, of course, was dependent on their current actions. 

How Do You Know?

Most ancient peoples really had no way of predicting future events, whether natural (like earthquakes) or man-made (like wars.) Instead, they used various methods like water divining, astrology, numerology, and interpretation of dreams to attempt to predict the future. For example, the Shang Dynasty (ca. 1750 BCE – ca. 1000 BCE) would write a statement on the shell of turtles or the bones of animals and then heat them.  Emperors, high officials, or trained physicians would then “read” the patterns created to see what would happen.

The Romans were much more grotesque. They looked through the entrails and organs of animals (often sacrificed to the gods) for patterns that would tell the future. In Greece, it is common even today to read coffee grinds and predict the future. (I’ve had mine read once, but that’s a story for another day.)

Predicting the future gave rise to some famous people, including Michel de Nostradame (born 1503 – died 1566.) He began making prophecies about 1547 and published them in a book entitled Centuries (1555). Many people still believe in his prophecies today, claiming he foresaw the rise of Adolf Hitler and the 9/11 attacks. His predictions, however, tended to be generalized phrases that one could easily associate with natural events and conflicts between nations.

What About Food?

It is surprising to hear that some people made food predictions that came true to some degree. In 1894, Mary Elizabeth Lease predicted that drinkable meal replacements would replace ordinary meals. Ms. Lease (born 1850 – died 1933) was an American lecturer, writer, political activist, and advocate for the suffrage movement. For her, this prediction was more a hope to liberate women from the tyranny of the kitchen. Today, we can find liquid meal supplements on virtually every grocery shelf, although they are not the healthy replacements she suggested based on corn, wheat, or fruit juices.

Even more surprising to discover was a prediction made by Winston Churchill (yes, that Winston Churchill.) In 1931, Mr. Churchill imagined scientists growing individual chunks of meat within fifty years. He stated, “With a greater knowledge of what are called hormones, i.e., the chemical messengers in our blood, it will be possible to control growth. We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.” His article, published in Strand Magazine, was written five years after a British scientist first used chemistry to synthesize artificial hormones and was based on this invention. Although he was off by some time (the first lab-grown hamburger was fried up in 2013), and we now grow individual cells rather than chunks, his prediction was eerily correct. More and more products are being manufactured in labs each day, with a vast selection of products making it to consumers’ tables.

The Food Predictions for 2023

Most food advocates and restauranteurs provide annual predictions on food. What to expect, what will be popular to eat, and what we will see in restaurants. This coming year is no different. The first trend is no surprise as it is inflationary-driven. We all know that going to the grocery store hurts the wallet more than it did in the past. For 2023, consumers will look to stretch their money further by being less brand loyal and more resourceful. With lettuce at $8 a package, this is not a prediction in my book, just reality.

One other prediction is proximity and transparency. Consumers want to know, now more than ever, where the food comes from, its preparation method, and its impact on the environment and our health. Food and beverage brands must ensure to limit their impact on the environment and provide consumers more visibility about their sustainability efforts.  

How about Mood Food? With cannabis legalized in Canada, cannabis-infused food has become a new food sensation. YouTube channels like The Cannabis Cooking Channel boast several recipes, from entrees to desserts. I can be adventurous with food, but this one is a pass.

A little less controversial is the butter board. Open up any social media platform, and you will see these charcuterie-type boards made with butter and an assortment of toppings served with crostini, crackers, or slivers of bread. The most recent included a butter candle! Quite beautiful to look at (and definitely to eat) but not so healthy in the long run. It is much better to experiment with the traditional boards that include cheese, nuts, and fruit and keep this one to a minimum.

Alternative food sources are another big trend to continue in 2023. More and more gluten-free pasta made from chickpeas, lentils, and rice will be available in traditional grocery stores. Meatless or alternative meat products will also be available in new offerings. Non-dairy alternatives like oat and almond milk are commonplace in grocery stores and coffee shops. Unfortunately, the manufacturing of this product leads to wasted by-products. The good news is that brands are beginning to upcycle these wasted products by creating new innovations like alternative flours.

For 2023, another prediction is that we are spicing things up even more. Hot peppers, already utilized in various foods, including potato chips, are becoming much more mainstream.  Heinz has jumped on the bandwagon to introduce a honey Siracha condiment as part of its family of products.  Using these spicy ingredients will lead to exciting restaurant offerings, with many more spicy and fusion dishes added to their menus.

Other food trends notable on social media include foods with algae, mushrooms, dates, and canned fish (“canned fish date night,” anyone?). 

My Predictions

I have no crystal ball to predict the future and certainly cannot see that people will one day decide that they want to make more dishes with dates or mushrooms.  Truthfully, social media plays a significant role in creating trends people follow, as evident with the butter boards.  My prediction?  In general, people are just more interested in the food they eat.  With the increased pressure on the wallet, we have no choice but to find new and exciting ways to make our family meals more interesting.  We may look at staple ingredients overlooked in the past and be willing to try something new we see on our local grocery shelf.  Whatever the trends say, the one thing I know is true:  we all love food.  Have an excellent 2023, everyone!

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