A moment in taste

April 27, 2015

Cultural mapping: Food

Food, food, wonderful food – a necessity for living but also a marker of identity and an outlet for expression.  Our appreciation of food has come a long way over the past few years and, as it continues to change, food has become an indicator of bigger societal shifts.

Amongst the bigger shifts we’re seeing at the moment, adventure and experience is making its way up the menu.  We’re approaching food with a “prove me wrong” attitude, where we expect a flavour combination or a certain ingredient not to work, but we flock to it and try it for the possibility of a pleasant surprise.  This is coinciding with food becoming the centre of experiences, served as the main course, not the side dish.

Our craving for adventure and experience is being expressed in four key ways.

1) Experimentation: Sweet going steady with savoury

It all started with salted caramel and now it’s caught on everywhere from vegemite ice cream to bacon cookies, parsnip cakes and duck waffles.  We expect these combinations not to work, they’re counterintuitive and yet we want them to test the limits of what we know, we want to experiment.  Look out for where meat hits sweet and vegetables become dessert.

Image source: Flickr user, Justin Pinkney, Maple and bacon creme caramel 5

2) Surprise: Enhanced organoleptics

Organoleptic properties are the aspects of food experienced by the senses: taste and texture, movement and feel, smell and colour, dryness and moisture…  This year, we’re looking for new contrasts, new stimulations for the senses.  This is less of an experimental approach than a surprise approach where the consumer is caught off guard in an exciting, stimulating sensory experience.

Courtesy of N2 Gelato

3) Immersion: Stage food

Food is becoming the centrepiece of organised experiences from our trendiest new festivals to highbrow tickets for "dinner as theatre" – the Fat Duck ballot, Melbourne’s new International Street Food Festival, restaurant Prix Fixe and Triple J’s “Life in the Fast Laneway” competition.  We’re making a celebration of real and tactile moments, making an event out of eating.

Courtesy of Crown Melbourne

4) Hype: Bugged out

And of course, no talk of food trends could be complete without talking about the buzz around edible bugs, which has largely been framed under the veil of sustainable food sources and the nutritional value of insects.  Nonetheless, such rational reasoning and explanations seem to work as justifications for eating something that naturally irks us.  This relates back to the “Prove me wrong” attitude – our curious side is interested in the logical reasons, challenging our initial apprehension and testing the limits of what we classify as food.

Image source: Flickr, Matt Ming, Wanna try one?

These four expressions are indicative of some bigger influences.  As we’re being stretched over flexible workplaces, flexible home lives and flexible identities, moments have come to define us.  We want to engage our senses, we want to feel present in the real world, and we’re looking for experiences far beyond the democratized dining scene.  There is nothing left to be discovered albeit in the far reaches of space, but we still need to explore new things for ourselves.  We want our expectations challenged, we want to be immersed and we want to experiment for ourselves, all of which can be done through food.