1/16/2011

Top Foods of 2010 (and what they say about us as a nation!)

iVillage recently posted their list of the 25 Most Downloaded Recipes of 2010.  I found the list intriguing for the insights it seems to provide about who, what, and where we were as a nation in 2010.  Read on and see if you agree ...
  1. Bacon & Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese.  Fittingly, in a year dignified by financial crisis (unemployment tops 10%), political insecurity (divisive mid-term elections), war (Afghanistan), and natural disasters (earthquake in Haiti, volcanic eruption in Iceland), the #1 most downloaded recipe was that penultimate comfort food, macaroni and cheese ... made even more comforting by the addition of bacon.  Is there anything that bacon can't make even better?
  2. Wicked Good Chocolate Peanut Butter Pudding Cupcakes.  This recipe is basically the confectionary equivalent of macaroni and cheese, featuring no less than four of our favorite indulgences - chocolate, peanut butter, pudding and cake.  Also, the juxtapositioning of "wicked" and "good" adds a nice touch, for if any year could claim the title oxymoronic, it was surely 2010.
  3. Slow Roasted Apples with Maple Whipped Cream.  Proving that we Americans aren't averse to eating healthy foods, as long as you pile a lot of whipped cream on them!  Other examples of "pseudo healthy foods" that enjoyed popularity in 2010: energy drinks, fortified water, sea salt, dark chocolate, pop tarts.  
  4. Chicken Parmesan.  It's fast, simple, cheap, and sounds a lot more elegant/elaborate than it is: basically, our nation's vibe in a nutshell. 
  5. Caramel Macchiato Cider with Cinnamon Cream.  I blame Starbucks for our continuing love affair with ridiculously complex and snobbish desserts masquerading as beverages.
  6. Strawberry Puffs.  A little bit of country in the middle of a whole lot of urban.
  7. Meatball Sandwiches.  A little bit of working man in the middle of a whole lot of foodie.
  8. Pumpkin Risotto.  I blame cable cooking networks for this silliness.  Risotto isn't about nutrition, it's about being able to pompously announce to your peers and coworkers: "As a matter of fact, we're having pumpkin risotto tonight."
  9. Horseradish and Dill Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes.  Sounds fancy, but when you get down to it, this is just mashed potatoes with a little bit of extra taste thrown in, demonstrating that while 2010 may have been the Year of the Hispanic (immigration wars in Arizona, drug wars in Mexico, appointment of the first Hispanic woman to the Supreme Court), our country's German/Irish cultural roots still go deep.
  10. Swirled Cheesecake Brownies.  2010's go-to recipe for bake sales, office parties, baby/wedding showers and wakes, because some things - like marriage, babies, death schools in need of money, and offices in need of lame team-building functions - are eternal.
  11. Pumpkin Fritters.  Speaking of oxymorons, love how this recipe juxtapositions pumpkin - as wholesome a food as there is - with "fritters," a method of preparation that involves battering and deep-frying.  Is there anything we Americans can't find a way to deep-fry?
  12. Oven-Baked Veggie Chips.  A dish that even our nation's unofficial Healthy Food Czar, Michelle Obama, would approve of ... and even more so if the veggies come from a garden you've cultivated in your backyard or in cooperation with a nearby elementary school.
  13. Mulled Cranberry Cider.  Cranberries were one of the beneficiaries of the year's obsession with weird fruits and their potential nutritional/dietary benefits.  Other beneficiaries included pomegranates, blueberries, blood oranges, pumpkin, and tomato juice.
  14. Black Bean Nachos.  Did I mention that 2010 was the year of the Hispanic?  We may not like them sneaking across our borders, but we sure love their food.
  15. White Bean and Lamb Cassoulet.  In a year that featured the release of the movie Julie & Julia and a huge spike in sales of Julia Childs' The Art of French Cooking, appropriate that there should be at least one "cassoulet" on the list.
  16. Iced Tea with Cider, Mint and Honey.  In case you weren't noticing, there was a definite southern bias in our choice of celebrity chefs this past year, with Paula Dean leading the charge.  Even McDonalds took note of the trend, launching sweet tea as a permanent menu item nationwide.
  17. Mozzarella-Stuffed Turkey Burgers.  As people continue to process the fact that red meat is basically bad for you in every possible way, turkey experienced a sort of resurgence in 2010.  Some fast-food restaurants even test-marketed turkey burgers as a menu item.
  18. Spicy Oven-Fried Chicken.  America's response in 2010 to discovering that basically everything we enjoy eating is bad for us? Don't change what you eat, just change how you prepare it!  This was certainly the message proselytized by the television show The Biggest Loser and diet programs such as Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers.  True - we're now a nation of hypocrites, pretending that oven-fried chicken tastes as good as pan friend chicken, even though we all know it isn't so.  But at least we're skinnier hypocrites. 
  19. Sausage and Spaghetti Squash Soup.  Sounds suspiciously like one of those recipes that David Oliver and his fellow celebrity chefs spent the past year trying to foist on school food services, laboring under the mistaken impression that if the name of the recipe includes "sausage" and "spaghetti", school kids won't notice that they're actually eating squash.
  20. Grilled Sourdough Pizza with Tomato Pesto.  Fancy pizza isn't a new idea - the California Pizza Kitchen chain has sprawled as far as Virginia these days.  However, new in 2010 was a general upwelling of protest against really gross, tasteless pizza - enough of an upwelling that even Dominos Pizza had finally to relent and start using actual dough (instead of cardboard) in their version.  No longer are Americans satisfied with a huge amount of food for $5 ... now we expect it to be palatable as well!
  21. Ina Garten's Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast.  Appropriate that at least one entre from the kitchen of the "Barefoot Countessa" should make the list.  (Weren't we just talking about oxymorons?)  She's the celebrity chef that gives all the foodies hope that they, too, may one day achieve fame and fortune - no formal training, no off-putting pretension (she cooks in an authentic faux barn!), and (best of all) no intimidatingly skinny waistline.
  22. Maple-Mustard Pork Loin with Roasted Potatoes.  Touted as the perfect headliner for a gluten-free feast and demonstrating that, in 2010, people were still blaming gluten for everything from hyperactivity to autism.
  23. Butternut Squash Tostadas.  A vegetarian entre, and therefore an appropriate entre for a year in which the news obsessed about locavorism, organic foods, canning, pickling, Pioneer cooking, and subsistence gardening.
  24. Sticky Pecan Bites.  Just the thing to sustain you for another long day of standing in line at the local employment office.
  25. Baked Breaded Eggplant with Marinara.  Eggplant?  Seriously?  I think the folks at iVillage threw this one in just to see if we were paying attention.  No matter how bad 2010 was, I just don't see Americans ever embracing eggplant. 
Postscript: Almost as fun as analyzing what's on the list is analyzing what didn't make the list; notably ...
  1. Egg dishes. (Remember that big salmonella recall in August?)
  2. Seafood. (No need to add oil when frying your fish - BP has done it for you!)
  3. McRib sandwiches.  (Nothing good can come from knowing what's in them.)

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