The Decade in Food

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The Decade in Food The Decade in Food
Lifestyle

The Decade in Food

by Peter Smith

December 29, 2009

Ten years of organic, local, and a lot of unsavory processed food.
This decade has changed our relationship with food. Food went from a fringe conversation to full-on obsession, especially if it was local and organic. Another decade of food safety scares drove more consumers to understand the origins of their dinner. Natural and organic became more commercial and accessible and direct-to-consumer efforts-farmers' markets and community-supported agriculture-grew. So did "farmwashing," the full-fledged marketing efforts to make Lay's potato chips seem local or  milk from cows that never even saw pastureland seem organic. The decade brought heritage-breed turkeys and Hershey's heritage chocolate. Primitive, pre-industrial foods proliferated and so did the kind of professional cooking that requires technology once reserved for science labs.

More than anything, the decade turned food into the darling of social media. A third of user-generated content online is food-related, much of it superficial "what-I-ate-for-dinner" conversations. Early in the decade, chowhounds and bloggers blazed the trails online in search of authenticity and underground restaurants. The foodies followed, taking photos of their meals at tapas bars, blogging about the latest and greatest raw food diet, and following the taco trucks by their tweets. As a result, fewer cookbooks targeted a broad audience with general-interest kitchen instruction; the new joys of cooking were niche topics-no-knead breads, fermented sausages, or the kitchen at Alinea. While the good food movement has been co-opted before (Natural 7-Up, anyone?), there are still rumblings of a hopeful future.

2000

Cupcakification: Sex and the City's Carrie Bradshaw visits Magnolia Bakery, launching the cupcake craze and America's obsession with cute food.

Ben & Jerry's sells out; the company attempts to preserve its legacy of social consciousness by requiring Unilever to donate to organizations like the direction-action protest trainers the Ruckus Society.

Starlink transgenic corn, authorized for animal feed, finds its way into the human food system. Its maker voluntarily withdraws it from the market.

2001

William Grimes, The New York Times food critic, unexpectedly discovers a chicken in his Queens backyard-and keeps her. The idea of urban fowl goes viral, spreading to dozens of other North American cities and suburbs.

Michael Pollan releases his second book, The Botany of Desire, signaling his ascent from philosophical backyard gardener (Second Nature) to bona fide food guru (Omnivore's Dilemna).

The scholarly publication Gastronomica debuts, mixing the sensual and the scholarly, as food studies offerings expand at colleges and universities.

2002

The Julie/Julia Project begins, popularizing a sensational, stunt-making style of food blogging.

Country of Origin Labeling: As part of the Farm Bill, Congress requires meat to carry a label disclosing its origins, although the rule excepts processed meats and won't go into effect until 2008.

The USDA releases its national standards for organic products, ushering in the era of greater access to organic foods at supermarkets and the rise of Industrial Organic.

2003

A trans-fat ban passes in Denmark, pioneering a wave of legislation banning fats, counting calories, or prohibiting new fast-food restaurants.

Dr. Atkins, inventor of the low-carb, live-forever formula and a sufferer of coronary artery disease, falls on a patch of ice and dies at the ripe old age of 72.

French fries are renamed "Freedom Fries," after France expresses opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

2004

Yelp launches, a new step in the commercial attempt to crowd-source reviews from anonymous restaurant-goers.

Julia Child passes away.

Bottled water ranks as the second most-consumed beverage, surpassing milk and beer and leading to a sustained bottled water backlash.

2005

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, hiding behind the handle "Rahodeb," is caught posting online comments supporting Whole Foods's acquisition of Wild Oats, a merger that would epitomize the rise of Big Organic.

"Locavore" is first used to describe an adherent to the 100-mile diet. It later becomes the defining term for a diet based on local foods and low food mileage.

Scientists at the University of Maryland develop new bioengineering techniques that may open up the possibility of in-vitro meat. Critics fear beaker bacon and test tube tuna.

Alan Adler, the inventor of the Aerobie, develops an inexpensive brewing gadget for Third Wave coffee connoisseurs.

Frederick Kaufman repopularizes the term "food porn" to describe the fleshy, pornographic close-ups on the Food Network. The decade's TV food programming targets a couch potato demographic with less instruction and more entertainment.

2006

Spinach scare: The discovery of E. coli in fresh, leafy greens sets off a chain reaction of media fears and speculation about food safety.

Dogfish Head brewery's Sam Caglione publishes Extreme Brewing, a defining how-to book on craft microbrewing.

Colony Collapse Disorder, a dramatic decline in Western bee populations, begins to appear in hives across the United States.

2007

The Agriculture Census shows that most farms are either very small or very large, a statistical trend that defines the decade in agriculture.

Dave Arnold blends two of the decade's culinary trends-molecular cooking and obscure cocktails-by creating a gin- and vermouth-infused pickle.

Community-supported fisheries launch as part of a new wave of CSAs that bring consumers meat, grains, milk, and fruit shares straight from local farms.

2008

Food prices soar because of increased demand from developing economies and increased biofuel production.

Cloned food-meat and milk from cloned animals-is approved for human consumption by the FDA.

In a scandal known as "Downergate," the USDA recalls 143 million pounds of beef, although an estimated 50 percent of that meat had already been eaten, a quarter of it by school children.

2009

The election of an arugula-eating president leads to the creation of a vegetable garden at the White House. Michelle Obama becomes the first First Lady to have a garden on the lawn since Eleanor Roosevelt.

The tomato blight ravages potato and tomato crops across the Northeast, raising questions about the virility of heirlooms.

Gourmet, the country's oldest food magazine, closes its doors.

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