City dwellers are all too often treated to overhyped food hybrids borne of some weird chef’s obsession with the cutting edge. Take the mix between a croissant and a doughnut for instance, or the surprising marriage of a pot pie with fish and chips. The latter is a marriage of two dishes that the UK does well. To me these things don’t even sound that good together but I can’t speak for potheads – a demographic which seems to be gaining persuasion stateside.
When these new foods hit the market they often do so with a lot of hype. Whole city blocks become war zones in some cases as people jockey for a better position in the queue for a new experience. Like clockwork all the news networks invite the perpetrating culinary creators to be live guests and then the country collectively salivates over the new flavour of the month. Some people even plan whole vacations around getting to experience the long lines and the few bites that the wait will make possible. The New York Times this week profiled a couple of Brazilian tourists in Manhattan whose objective was to come to New York and take in the food with a budget of $4,000 (€2,800) each. With trips like these, I worry that food trends are more about willingness to pay and less about an outstanding morsel to pop in your mouth.
I think a scientist or systems analyst might tell us that you could justify the culinary hybridisation around us by saying that it simply makes the delivery of nutrients more efficient. They’d argue that now you don’t need to buy a doughnut and a croissant at the same time or even make a decision. The hybrid (dubbed “cronut” in New York) means you don’t need to deliberate. If you want a pot pie and fish and chips, the hybrid version makes the decision that much easier (yet a nice hybrid name for the concoction still evades us).
All of this starts to make one wonder if hybridisation is necessary. Has a worldwide discussion about hybrid cars and energy technology bled over into our culinary endeavors? And, if this is the way of the future, then what do we have to look forward to? Will menus shrink as chefs keep combining individual items into others?
I’m all for innovation but lets push the cutting edge in the direction of finding things that are worth the hype and the long queue.
Tristan McAllister is transport editor for Monocle.