Confession No. 113 — Some food fads can’t fade quickly enough

What were long considered novelties in the world of pabulum and potables have become all too predictable.

Now, I’m not typically one to take on my counterparts in the world of culinarians, but golly gee whilikers! Enough already with pumpkin-flavored this and bacon-enhanced that! And kale? Who made the executive decision to remove it from my flower bed and make — chips from it?

Let’s be clear: I’m not anti-kale. I just don’t believe that it has earned a regular spot amongst the other leafy greens. How many legit soul food joints offer up kale alongside the house-fried neck bones? Did Popeye eat kale to gain immediate strength? And what self-respecting grandma out there brings stuffed kale rolls to the weekly Bridge game?

If you say ‘pumpkin spice latte’ in the mirror 3 times
a white girl in yoga pants will appear & tell you all
her favorite things about fall. — Elijah Daniel

So expected are pumpkin and bacon — everything — that if the pair of hackneyed ingredients were taxis, I could hail them from a mile away.

Remember when pumpkin was the main ingredient in a Thanksgiving pie? Or the autumn sweet bread of choice? That was before the absurdity gods exhausted themselves of Nutella as the be-all and end-all. Now, flavorless gourds are all the rage in the chi chi cooking magazines.

And coffee shops.

You know, Mama was mad but … how sweet it seemed
She drank black coffee … without a drop of cream
‘Coffee House Blues,’ Lightnin’ Hopkins

As if pumpkin-infused macaroni & cheese or chili weren’t the epitome of culinary blasphemy, America’s favorite coffee shop is in its 10th season of selling Pumpkin Spice Latte. It’s an all-time bestseller and, funny thing — it doesn’t contain a single slimy strand of real pumpkin!

There was a time when coffee was flavored like … coffee. And you drank it black or with cream and sugar with your eggs and … bacon. But plain fried bacon seems to have gone the way of the Tasmanian Tiger or the Edsel Pacer.

Now, I’m fine with bacon on the savory side of things — on a hot dog, in a mac & cheese or a grilled cheese, but the world has become mad in its efforts to concoct the funkiest bacon-laden recipes. And each one is worse than the last.

Life’s like a mayonnaise soda
And life’s like space without room
And life’s like bacon and ice cream
That’s what life’s like without you
— ‘What’s Good?’ Lou Reed

It’s not unusual to see a food magazine close-up shot of pecan bacon pralines or bacon bit-topped chocolate cupcakes. There are bacon cheesecakes, bacon s’mores, bacon-topped donuts … Hell, just the other day, I saw waffles with the bacon built right in!

Not only are we killing ourselves by adding salty cholesterol-packed pork belly to everything, we’re also killing the flavor of the bacon (and anything we add it to). Additionally, this (mostly) American contest for the weirdest bacon recipe is driving up the price. I recently paid more than $7 for a pound of packaged bacon. Did we not learn our lesson with chicken wings? (Yes, wings used to be considered a cheap byproduct — until some wise ass decided to dip them in hot sauce and pitch the technique to the entire free world!)

If this madness continues, your children could remember you mainly for your culinary turpitude. Or worse, you might be expected to serve kale dressing and bacon-pumpkin pie during the holidays.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. I’d also love for you to join me on Facebook (click the ‘like’ button), Pinterest and Google+. — Special thanks to Megan E. ‘Awareness Month’ Hawkins at The Underground Writer  for editing this piece.


There’s nothing humdrum about meatballs. In fact, just about every culture has it own versions of sphere-shaped fun-to-eat meat. Want to serve these as appetizers? Make the meatballs slightly smaller and cut the cooking time by 5-10 minutes. Serve them drenched in Szechuan Garlic Sauce with toothpicks.

Asian Chicken Meatballs w/ Szechuan Garlic Sauce

This version takes no real queues from any classic ethnic dish, but it sure is healthier than your average stir-fry.

These Asian meatballs take no real queues from any classic ethnic dish, but they sure are healthier than your average stir-fry. And delicious.

2 lbs – Ground chicken
1 cup – Panko or plain breadcrumbs
1 – Egg
1 inch nub – Ginger, minced
3 – Garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup – Cilantro, chopped
1 Tb – soy sauce
2 tsp – Chile garlic paste
1 tsp – Toasted sesame oil

1 recipe – Szechuan Garlic Sauce

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Combine all (meatball) ingredients and shape into 2-inch meatballs. Place on large lightly oiled or parchment-lined baking pan. Bake until cooked through and lightly browned, about 25-30 minutes.

While meatballs are baking, make the Szechuan Garlic Sauce. Toss cooked meatballs in sauce. Serve with noodles or rice.

Makes about 30 1½-inch meatballs.

Comments

  1. oh God, I tried the kale chips on a recommendation from a lady who does those local booty-boot camps. WORST. Just the worst. Like eating ashes.

  2. Beautiful balls! I love kale chips but can agree with you on the overuse of bacon and pumpkin right now. Was pretty pissed when my favorite beer was replaced with a pumpkin ale……what is the freakin point????

  3. Awesome. I agree so much with the bacon and pumpkin fiasco—YES. And this plate of food looks absolutely delicious :)

  4. I suspect that if you could wave a magic wand and make everyone into a dedicated foodie who read every blog post as it was published, these ‘fads’ would be extremely short-lived. I think what happens is that a culinary idea filters down slowly and thus has sort of a ‘rolling’ wave of interest. That being said… I have made a vow not to create or post any recipes featuring qinoa until I stop seeing a dozen of them every week :)

  5. Personally I love kale chips… but I agree. Professional food has almost become more about the show than the flavor. Then we run the risk that food becomes inaccessible to the average person, discouraging them from using their oven for anything more than sweater storage. I can’t tell you how many times a week I have to convince people that being a good home cook isn’t some amazing talent that I was born with. Your meatballs, however, do look accessible. So much so that I may make them for dinner tonight :)

    • Spot on, Anna! That is sort of my point about kale. It’s been around for thousands of years (but not in much demand around these parts). Now, suddenly it’s all the rage. It’s a damn cabbage for crying out loud! There are plenty of delicious greens out there besides kale. ;-)

  6. I remember kale as the veg that filled the ‘hungry gap’ at the end of winter….and that’s where it can stay.

    Food fads filling the cookery sections of the newspapers alongside restaurant reviews where one look at the menu would have you laughing your…off at the pretentiousness of it all.
    What are they afraid of….the flavour of real food that doesn’t cost a fortune?

  7. Lookin’ fabulous there! Love me some meatballs.

  8. I agree, but I do have to cater to the vegan, gluten-free, etc crowd of people, which makes me crazy. I drink my coffee black without – Splenda, NutraSweet, Sweet ‘n Low, Equal. Wouldn’t it be better to just add some plain sugar? Those stupid lattes take WAY too long to make. A Drive Thru Starbucks just opened up – how’s that gonna work? All I want is a bloody black cup of coffee!
    Here are some bad coffee flavors – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/05/midnight-bad-coffee-flavors_n_4220434.html?ir=Food

  9. well, alrighty then. Guess that explains why I don’t get visits to my blog from you anymore. To each their own.

    Bacon will always have a place in my heart AND bash kale all you’d like… it’s healthy and delicious, and dare I say MUCH more worthy of using in recipes than freakin’ marshmallow fluff or leftover holiday candy

    • Oh, Becca! Ease up on the throttle. Your blog is one of my favorites and you know it! ;-)

      P.S. – Bacon actually does have a place in your heart. And mine too. Literally. In fact, bacon might just be responsible for my first heart attack.

  10. Indeed! Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw ads for bacon-flavored coffee and pumpkin-flavored bacon. Now, if we could only forever eliminate the dreadful 80′s-inspired green bean casserole from the Thanksgiving table…hey, maybe if we add some pumpkin…?

  11. Nice rant

  12. Now hold on just one darn minute. I love to munch on kale chips as I drive my Chevy Volt to the local SPCA to volunteer. ;)

  13. I attended a BBQ last night and they had bacon just-fried out on a plate for a topping on your hamburger or hot dog. Yep, I took some bacon and ate it plain.

  14. More great stuff! I love making meatballs and will try your recipe!

  15. I guess I’m way behind the latest trends because I’ve never even heard of kale chips. Mind you I never even tried kale until I made a sausage and potato soup that called for spinach or kale. I used the kale just because it holds up better in a soup. It wasn’t bad but not the highlight of the soup. As for bacon, well I’ll have bacon on just about anything except something intended for dessert. Do you think some of these ideas are just a joke being played on people who have to go along with the trends? I can just see some of these chefs putting out a recipe saying “let’s see how many idiots will put this in their mouths and brag about it” . Sometimes classics are classics for a reason.
    Nice balls Adam!

    • I’d like to think the whole kale/pumpkin thing is a joke. But if it is, there are a lot of … lemmings in the world. Seriously, I like kale and I like pumpkin. And I even like people who like kale and pumpkin. This is, however, starting to feel like the whole Nutella craze all over again. Thank you, by the way, for your kind words. ;-)

  16. I was just having a gripe about pumpkin everything, especially as thanksgiving is not really celebrated, unless we have American friends. I’m almost looking forward to bacon-and-eggnog-and-marzipan everything for Christmas!

  17. Melina Bush says:

    Just had my first AND last bacon maple crispy creme donut a few weeks ago. Yuk. Had my first pumpkin latte a few days ago. Again, ugh. I like me some pig, but it needs to be beside the hash browns and cooked medium.

  18. I don’t get the pumpkin everything either. Bacon on the other hand? Bring it. :) If done right chocolate and bacon work so well. I like kale but yeah it seems to be everywhere right now. Wonder what the next fads will be.

  19. mmmmm… those meatballs sound wonderful Adam. Pinned. I’m just glad Cake Pops have died down.

  20. Kale and arugula salad with shredded pumpkin and crumbled bacon.

  21. Amen to all you said. I agree, kale is good on occasion but we dont’ need it everyday and iin everything. I am not sorry I tried it and will use it again if I find it very fresh. It takes a long time to cook to palatable. Whatever was wrong with our classy, quick cooking, healthy if fresh, spinach? Zip, zoom, its ready. Kale takes what, about three days or does it just seem that way?
    And the pumpkin spice latte, I tried making one today. I will take my vanilla nonfat, no whlp everyday homemade latte every day of the week over that. AND I live not far from the All America’s favorite coffee places headquarters and genesis.
    Speaking of old standbys, the timer just went off and my chicken Divan is coming out of the oven. YUM, on a chilly fall evening up in Washington State.

  22. Thank God I’m Australian, and we’re not subjected to these obscenities. Coffee comes in coffee flavour, with – if you’re feeling adventurous – a couple of sticky syrup options. Kale is for starvation days when there’s nothing much else in the garden. And bacon is eaten in a decent fashion, with eggs, on pancakes with syrup, in a well buttered sandwich with barbecue sauce, or fried crisply and included in a lavish carbonara sauce on pasta. Pumpkins are fine, but they’re VEGETABLES, people. I have trouble with using them for dessert, too… Something to do with our having less excitement about Halloween and none at all for a non-existent Thanksgiving? (Oh, and excuse me, but Nutella is the food of the gods. Eaten with a teaspoon from the jar, or spread on bread. That’s it.)

  23. That was just a joy to read, I unfortunately do the pumpkin flavored everything this time of the year. It is a bit of a tradition in our family. I love the idea of doing something at every holiday that will being back memories to the kids (and grandkids) when they smell it every year forward. Have a great one!
    LauralovingLife

  24. Adam,
    While I do believe bacon enhances the flavor of most all savory dishes known to mankind, I’m growing weary of the “let’s shove bacon in all sweet dishes” fad. I’m not getting the kale chips thing, either. They taste like flavorless tissue paper. Basically, I agree with everything you say in this article. :)

  25. A friend of mine made kale chips once and had her husband try them. I believe she was threatened with divorce if she ever made them again. I admit I like pumpkin in baked goods (and yes, I’ve made a few on my own blog), but I don’t go overboard with it. At least I don’t think I do. I have tried deep-fried bacon, and I’ll be honest, it was delicious. The most I can do with sweet/salty where bacon is concerned is dipping it in my syrup when I have pancakes or French toast. Also, I made meatballs today–Cranberry cocktail meatballs. They were simple, and delicious.

    • Pumpkin baked goods are fine and dandy. By the way, I think my father threatened my mom with divorce when she served Manwich. Smart man.

      • Ugh. Smart man indeed! I remember that somehow (back when my parents were still married) my dad would always conveniently work nights whenever Manwich was on the menu. I used to get SO mad at him, because I’d have to sit there in the dark, sullenly glaring at a stone-cold Sloppy Joe, while he was at work, not having to eat them. I still hate Manwich to this day.

  26. I’ve never had a pumpkin spiced latte (or kale chips or mutant bacon) and somehow I’ve managed to lead a full and satisfying life. ;) Great post, Adam!

  27. Beverley Brendas says:

    I’m an Aussie as well and just don’t get the American obsession with pumpkin! Pinterest is sooo full of pumpkin recipes and bacon seems to be added to everything! Here in Oz we mostly bake pumpkin along with potatoes and a roast leg of lamb, yum. And bacon is reserved for savoury dishes, favoured on a lazy Sunday brunch with poached eggs on toasted sourdough and sides of grilled tomatoes, mushrooms cooked in a little butter and finished with a dash of Worcestershire sauce, and a hash brown- one American treat I do enjoy. I came to your site when I pinned your meatball recipe above, sounds delicious and will be trying soon. p.s. the kale fad hit our shores in the last year or so…haven’t tried it yet, I think I will stick to baby spinach and silverbeet for the time being. Will be checking out your other recipes on offer, cheers Bev.

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