If you want to drive yourself a little bit crazy, read predictions about what to expect in the new year. Predictions are about as common a New Year’s resolutions and, it seems, about as effective. When it comes to food, many of the guesses — and that’s really all these predictions are, guesses — are particularly maddening.
Countless press releases are touting the disappearance of recipes, as AI — artificial intelligence — replaces cookbooks, pantries, shopping and what we think of today as cooking. Before long, they say, AI will suggest what you might like and need to eat based on your preferences, ancestry, DNA, health profile, allergies and perhaps even what kind of music you like. Press a few buttons and out comes your personalized gluten-free vegan bowl of sustainable regional delights, all at the perfect temperature. If other predictions prove true, expect the bowl — that is to say, the food, not the vessel holding it — to be garnished with colorful flowers and flakes of 24-karat gold and, quite possibly, dusted with ground oyster shell and ants that taste like lemongrass.
We will begin to be concerned about the source of our ingredients, the food pundits predict, and will start to care about how both the land and the animals that provide us with food are cared for. Edible flowers will be huge in 2018, they say, and Middle Eastern food will become popular.
Some critics promise the demise of such businesses as Blue Apron, while others suggest that these business that provide everything but the heat for your next meal will become bigger and more popular than ever.
I have a prediction of my own: We will continue to use recipes as we do now, not merely as a way to prepare a dish but as a story, passed on to us from someone we once loved or heard about from a distant relative. We will continue to eat edible flowers, as we have in Sonoma County since the 1980s. We will still enjoy shopping for our food at local farmers markets and specialty shops, such as Sonoma County Meat Company, where we talk with farmers and ranchers and often see photos of the hens who lay our eggs and the field of kale that was the source of the bunch we are taking home.
I don’t expect to find a lot of gold in my food, and I’m not currently honing my ant-preparation techniques.
What am I doing? Cooking, a lot, and vowing to do a better job of cutting down on the amount of food I waste, which seems to me a great place to start the new year.
Americans, it seems, waste more food than any other country. Personally, I simply buy too much, as I’m always dazzled by our farmers and their harvest. Others waste food because they don’t necessarily understand how to make, say, a roasted chicken last through three meals, or what to do with that leftover lamb or beef roast.
It is, to the inexperienced, easier to toss carrots that are looking a little tired than it is to remember that you’ve got them in the refrigerator and to think of a way to preserve them if you won’t get to them soon. Pickled carrots are an easy solution, a concept that can be applied to almost any vegetable. So that’s what I’ll be doing this year, perfecting pickling and offering as much practical advice as I can about turning down the volume of kitchen waste this year.