Predictions for 2016: Commodity is the New Authentic … or is it?

Issue 4, Volume 5

01/05/16

Authenticity is a big deal in the restaurant business these days. Our clients bring it up all the time. Customers want to feel good about the food they’re eating. Grandma’s recipe. Straight from the source. Minimally processed. Locally grown.

But as 2015 drew to a close, this zeal for authenticity seemed to come back and slap us across the face. The Mast Brothers chocolate scandal warned us to be skeptical of bearded hipsters bearing bean-to-bar chocolate in slick, minimalist packaging. The revolt against “culturally appropriative” sushi and banh mis served in Oberlin College’s cafeterias made headlines. And a norovirus outbreak cast an unpleasant shadow over Chipotle’s shiny “food with integrity” health claims, raising new questions about the efficacy of local sourcing.

That’s only the tip of the iceberg. Over the past few months, we’ve detected an underlying fascination––a fascination that sometimes slips into admiration––of dated, commodity foods. Chain restaurants. Canned pineapples. Skittles. Jell-O salads. Foods so unabashedly artificial that we thought only a mother could love them.

Our first Dirty Dozen issue of 2016 is thus a celebration of these split personalities in the food industry. We bring you tales of deception suspended in tango tomato aspic. We regale you with culinary trigger warnings and good intentions gone astray. And we’re left wondering whether the New Artificial might turn out to be the New Authentic after all. Reclaimed wood, fancy packaging, and freshness cues aside, it’s often our deepest childhood memories that make our food taste like home. 

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Spam torchons ‘n Pop-Tart parfaits. Junk food goes haute.
petapixel [dot] com

Where we feed our 70s culinary nostalgia in the Twittersphere.
twitter [dot] com

Inside the Oberlin cafeteria culture wars.
gawker [dot] com

Don’t say goodbye to that mayonnaise drenched prawn cocktail so fast.
stylist [dot] com

Chain restaurants are in our DNA. Get used to it.
eater [dot] com

The artisan chocolate scandal that broke the Internet.
qz [dot] com

All natural evangelists get an e.coli reality check.
wall street journal [dot] com

Vintage packaging porn.
prz services [dot] com

Your very own self-guided elevated junk food tour of LA.
urban daddy [dot] com

Store-bought, homemade, or grandma’s recipe? Your preferences, mapped.
gastronomica [dot] com

A look at the food of the Atomic Age, “vestigial organs of our eating past.”
new york times [dot] com

An homage to the naughtiest and gaudiest food fad of the 80s.
luckypeach [dot] com