Posted: Mar 19, 2017
Here's a "greatest hits" list of weird and wacky food fads, including a few doozies happening right now.
With the early-20th-century boom in packaged goods, food companies adorned their boxes with newfangled recipes to encourage the use of their products. The Jell-O people had consumers mixing all manner of jarred and canned meats, vegetables, and condiments and suspending them in jiggly, brightly colored gelatin. Jell-O salads hit their peak popularity in the 1950s, when people sat down to such treats as Cottage Cheese and Salmon Mold and lemon-gelled Ring-Around-the-Tuna.
E-Z Canned Soup Casseroles
It’s the '50s! Who wants to waste time in the kitchen when you could be watching TV? The solution: Open a can of cream-of-anything soup, mix with some canned meat or fish, some frozen or canned veggies and bake until bubbly. Sprinkle with potato chips if you like a little crunch. Tuna Noodle Casserole is the most infamous example of this new cuisine. Green Bean Casserole has become a holiday standard. In the Midwest, these baked concoctions have morphed into the ever popular Hotdish, mixing such strange bedfellows as wild rice and Tater Tots in the same canned-soup bath.
Cereal-Coated, Oven-Fried Anything
Why bother with dangerous, messy and unhealthy frying? Just brush your food with something sticky, like ketchup, roll in cornflakes, and bake until crunchy and dry. This was a '60s solution that put a crisp new coat on everything from chicken drumsticks to hot dogs.
Instant and Fake Foods
A '50s and '60s food-tech boom gave us some memorable quick-fix treats, ranging from instant mashed potatoes to freeze-dried coffee. Carnation's Instant Breakfast showed that an entire meal could be reduced to a few spoonfuls of powder. Artificial flavoring was also a novelty: Tang, Pringles, Bac-Os and Cheez Whiz were copycats with engineered flavor profiles that made them popular in their own right.
In the '80s, foodies discovered the existence of chocolate that was way better than the junky American candy bars they had grown up with. Even milk chocolate could be good, as long as it was expensive! Restaurant pastry chefs took this novel, quality ingredient and figured out new ways to make it sing. They created flourless chocolate cakes, rich mousses and gooey ganaches, often attaching silly names that bragged of their luxury. Think: “Death by Chocolate”, “Chocolate Sin” and "Chocolate Fantasy".
The Bacon Boom
Bacon is definitely not just for breakfast anymore. Fueled in part by an interest in salty-sweet pairings during the early 2000s, we began to see crispy bacon bits adorning chocolate and maple cupcakes, hot fudge sundaes, chocolate chip cookies and glazed donuts. Much to the surprise of many foodies, this health-food backlash looks like one fad that's here to stay.
Just around the turn of the 21st century, vendors at state fairs discovered that if they could get it on a stick, they could dip it in batter and fry it. Gone were the days when thick, greasy batter was reserved for corn dogs. It wasn’t long before fried ice cream, fried Oreos and even fried butter popped up. And just when you thought our diets were fat-saturated enough, along came fried Twinkies to supermarket freezer cases.
Wacky Flavored Potato Chips
Starting around 2010, someone decided that sour-cream-and-onion-flavored potato chips weren't enough. Chip companies began looking outside the snack world for flavor inspirations. Enter new additions like Cheddar-Bacon-Mac-and-Cheese; Southern Biscuit and Gravy; Smoky Bacon and Sunday Roast; and Sweet Chili Chicken, to name a just a few.
From Chia Pet to Chia Pudding
Once chia seeds were a novelty used to grow “hair” on clay pets. Today, they are touted as a superfood, high in protein and many other beneficial nutrients. Though man cannot live on chia alone, the seeds can be found in all kinds of snack foods, baked goods, drinks, and most interestingly, some very popular gooey puddings.
Over the Rainbow and Into the Galaxy
The rainbow obsession is another recent trend fueled by social media. YouTubers, Pinterest pinners and Instagrammers are adding food coloring and rainbow sprinkles to everything from layer cakes to bagels. What lies at the end of the rainbow? Just change the colors a bit, add some sparkle and welcome to outer space courtesy of the newest weird trend: Black, white and purple swirling galaxy-patterned treats.
By Bob Hoebee Source: Food Network
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