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Six food trends to look out for in 2022

Food trends are about as forecastable as the weather. That is, pretty doable but there’s always a surprise or two in store. With almost two months of 2022 already under our belts, there’s a smidgen of clarity in terms of the road ahead, so here are six predictions from Sol’s Foods after a quick wrap of the year that was.

Wrapping 2021 & six food trends to look out for in 2022

  1. Wrapping 2021
  2. Indulgence in comfort foods, local cuisine & familiar faves
  3. Reinventing pantry essentials
  4. Home cooking
  5. Functional foods for mental wellbeing
  6. Ethical eating
  7. Wedding cheese cakes

Wrapping 2021

Let’s quickly wrap 2021 though, shall we? We’ll keep it brief. South Africans and indeed citizens of the entire globe turned to food for comfort. Many of us started to become increasingly experimental with our cooking repertoires, while a hefty portion of us escalated our relationship with fast food. Here are some interesting findings from the Uber Eats cravings report of 2021.

The classic cheeseburger via Unsplash

Takeouts from the Uber Eats cravings report:

  1. According to the latest UberEats South Africans Cravings Report, the nation’s meal of choice this year was the age-old burger.
  2. The third annual report by the online food ordering and delivery platform, which was released late in 2021, revealed that South Africans ordered a whopping two million burgers in 2021, officially declaring it the year of the buns.
  3. Meanwhile, pizzas and chicken also ranked in the top three most popular meals ordered on the local version of the international app in 2021.

** This intel is via iol.co.za.

Indulgence in comfort foods, local cuisine & familiar faves

With 2021 going down as comfortably one of the most stressful for planet earth’s inhabitants in recent memory, both on a micro and macro scale, it’s understandable that comfort eating has spiked. Plenty of individuals and families have also augmented that comforting angle by going the nostalgic route with family favourite dishes from back in the day coming into fashion again. Necessity is truly the mother of invention and there is nothing quite as important as family. Food experts envisage a move by restaurants in the direction of offering more meals that encourage sharing. This focus highlights the need for more nutrition and fewer preservatives.

Gifts for him
Indulgent Sol’s Foods treats to be shared

Reinventing pantry essentials

Pantry essentials such as mushrooms and chicken are set for a huge boom in 2022. Mushrooms, in particular, are becoming more and more accessible and their popularity is set to soar also because of the nutritional value that they deliver. And that’s before we even begin to cover how delicious and versatile they are.

To quickly return to the notion of sharing in the section on local favourites that we just covered, it’s clear that improvisation with pantry items like antipasti is a popular choice for picnickers, hikers and hosts. What’s easier and more satisfying than turning a bunch of snack items into a gourmet meal?

Charcuterie board
Sol’s finest charcuterie

And to our point earlier about the rise in prominence of takeaway meals, it logically follows that South Africa’s obsession with condiments has gone to a new level. Lockdown has also reinvigorated a creative and entrepreneurial spirit among a lot of people. Pair this with the inclusivity of e-commerce, and a couple of exciting new players in the artisanal condiment game have emerged. From small-batch mayo to artisanal fermented hot sauces and rebooted “grandma’s recipe” chutneys, there’s an array of goodness on offer and that trend should continue to soar in 2022. Our own slow-roasted tomato is a sandwich essential, while Sol’s red onion, cabbage & wine relish will accentuate just about any roast meat you care to serve up on a Sunday, or any other day.

Home cooking

Home is where the heart is, as they say. Lockdown in 2020 reacquainted us all with our living rooms but especially our kitchens, helping us to fall in love with cooking all over again. Habitual home cooking has definitely had its benefits, not least of which vast amounts of money saved. Although the world looks normal again, there’s an understandable apprehension to dine out as often as we did pre-lockdown, and eating at home is a more enticing prospect because many of us have sharpened our skills and tried our hand at cooking specific dishes for the first time. As Cape Town winter approaches in 2022, there’s every reason to believe that there will be a huge trend of intimate, wholesome, home-cooked meals.

It must be said though, people with dishwashers definitely experienced a different pandemic to the rest of us.

James’ first homemade curry from scratch: Roti, Cape Malay chicken curry, cucumber raita, a dollop of sunshine. Definitely needs some plating advice from Chef Sol

Functional foods for physical & mental wellbeing

There has been a global spike in studies and interest around foods with biohacking properties in recent years, and continued research into the gut microbiome and the effect of its wellbeing (giving rise to the enthusiasm to play with probiotic-rich fermented foods for example) and the cannabis edibles realm (both CBD and THC) which is on the precipe of a major global expansion into a mainstream industry of its own. If your gut microbiome isn’t healthy, chances are you aren’t healthy.

A variety of lesser-known mushrooms contain fungal spores that are highly compatible with the human gut microbiome. We are seeing some of these mushrooms resurface into the collective consciousness and indeed on restaurant menus. Incorporating them into one’s diet is advantageous for all of the reasons listed above, and now people and researchers are constantly looking for other foodstuffs which introduce similar advantages, like fermented goods, that have been trendy for a while.

This enormous resurgence of the use of a wide array of lesser-known mushrooms for both their functionality and inclusion into an overall diet is difficult to ignore. If you’ve been on a mushroom forage, you might have come across Chaga, Reishi or Lion’s Mane mushrooms. Reishi mushrooms have been used to help enhance the immune system, reduce stress, improve sleep and lessen fatigue.

A varietal of boletus mushroom via Unsplash

On the purely culinary side of things, chances are that you’ve also heard of the legendary Chicken of the Woods, a fungus that every new forager wants to locate because in parts of the world it’s considered a delicacy. This large polypore has a lemony, meaty taste and that makes it a great substitute for vegetarians and vegans. It’s also superb in a chicken pie, and you’re highly likely to catch a glimpse of it in some of Cape Town’s pine forests. Chicken of the Woods is easy to spot because of its distinctively vibrant orange-yellow colour and frilly appearance, and you might have seen it make a cameo appearance on food menus at a couple of higher-end establishments near you. Wild mushrooms are here to stay in 2022.

Chicken of the Woods via Unsplash

Broadly speaking, science is also prioritising studies into foods that help to adjust overall wellbeing, aiding the fight against anxiety and depression, as well as foods that help with mood enhancement, mental acuity, focus and drive, and those which can contend with known eating disorders. This should be a fascinating and important trend to watch unfold in 2022, especially for those with crossover interests in biology/health and the culinary arts. Mental health should always come first, and the world is starting to realise that, across all sectors, including some of the more exciting emerging industries.

Ethical eating

Needless to say, there’s a desperate need and clamour for more ethical and sustainable eating. Even hardened red-meat enthusiasts might be willing to cut down significantly on their intake of rib-eye steak in favour of healthier alternatives like trout, salmon or any sustainably-farmed fish. There is an increased consciousness of the impact that our food choices have on the environment, global warming, climate change, food waste and the collective carbon footprint left behind. Locally-farmed produce is becoming more popular.

Doggo waiting for some trout served al fresco

Wedding cheese cakes

No, we don’t mean the delicious dessert. Instead, cakes are comprised of a bunch of different cheeses. Surely you’ve seen a couple of them at weddings in the past couple of years. According to Forbes, there will be more weddings in the USA in 2022 than in any other year since 1984. Have you been to a wedding recently? Well, chances are that you have and there might just have been a cake made out of cheese.

Karoo wedding cheese cake shot by the supremely talented The Woods Photography

What sort of food trends are you expecting to emerge in the next 10 months of 2022? Gone are the days of deconstructed bolognaise in metal jars, that’s for sure.

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