Mass transportation and mass production dramatically changed American diets during the Industrial Age. We are accustomed to canned tuna and ham, frozen turkey, packaged crackers, and year round fresh fruits and vegetables. Mass immigration brought us a rainbow of ethnic foods. Tacos, pizza, pierogi, chop suey, and bratwurst and sauerkraut compete with meat and potatoes for a place on American dinner tables. Dining on vending machine foods by the glow of a computer screen has become an Information Age habit. Who could have imagined 24-hour self-service of shortbread cookies, bars of chocolate and nuts, and bags of crispy sliced potatoes?
What will Americans be eating as the 21st century progresses? Important influences are likely to be global warming, the obesity epidemic, and increasing numbers of single person households. Burgers and fries, cold cereal, and even eggs are already being replaced by soup and salad, oatmeal, and yogurt cups. Flavorful chili and artisan greens overwhelm yesterday’s chicken noodle soup and iceberg lettuce. Oatmeal sweetened with dried fruits is available at fast food restaurants. Single servings of creamy yogurt have an abundance of delicious additions.
Dessert will likely disappear. Witness the shrinkage of the cake slice into cupcakes, the bankruptcy of Hostess, and the introduction of 100-calorie packages of cookies. Public schools are considering bans of party snacks. Employers are restocking vending machines with nuts, crackers, and bottled water. Grocers offer more fruit sorbets than brands of chocolate and vanilla ice cream. Singles have little or no time for baking homemade cookies, pies, and cakes. Even devoted homemakers are challenged by the rising prices of chocolate and sugar.
Solo and insular living will continue the trend away from meals. Snacking will become a healthier means to daytime rejuvenation than energy drinks. Smaller portions will prompt more consumption of easily prepared and single serving foods. Soup, salad, and sandwiches are already typical American meals. Warmer weather will end the seasonality and the expense of fresh fruit and vegetables. The current obsession with types of coffee beans has already extended to varieties of apples and greens. It will expand to other varieties of produce including herbs and spices. Boutique produce departments that are now the province of major grocers will become independent brick and mortar stores. Instead of online shopping for home delivery, they will establish regular truck routes. Consumers will be able to purchase fresh produce on their doorsteps a couple of times per week. Unlike the predictions of science fiction, future foods will be neither processed nor synthetic. American ingenuity is again on the verge of meeting the challenges of its changing fortunes.
© Laura Rizzardini, Inc., 2011