cover image The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue

The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue

David Sax. PublicAffairs, $25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-61039-315-7

On Saturday nights in the 1970s, many Americans sat around bubbling pots of oil or cheese, spearing chunks of meat or bread into the hot fondue pots that had become the latest cooking trend. A decade later people pushed fondue pots to the dark recesses of their kitchen cabinets or threw them out with the morning trash. What creates a food trend? Who had the ability to market a food into a popular cultural moment? Food and business writer Sax (Save the Deli) probes these and other questions in this entertaining foray into why cupcakes ousted donuts as a food fad, and why quinoa had its day in the limelight before chia seeds blew it away. He begins by exploring the four types of food trends—cultural (cupcakes), agricultural (heirloom fruits), chef-driven (ceviche), and health-driven (chia seeds). For example, chef-driven trends can introduce a comprehensive style of cooking and eating, or they can develop a focus on specific flavor profiles. Asserting that food alone doesn’t drive food trends, Sax explores the power of sales, data used in forecasting food trends, and marketing to create the desire and opportunity for a particular food. Thus, prunes now go by the much more pleasing and less geriatric sounding “dried plums.” In the end, Sax declares, food trends, though sometimes annoying, deepen and expand our cultural palate, spur economic growth, provide broad variety in our diets, and promote happiness. (May)