It wasn’t Paula Deen’s career implosion. Nor the rise and fall of the Cronut. It wasn’t even the Sriracha apocalypse.
This year’s most significant food moment was more seismic, an event 125 years in the making. For 2013 was the first time in a long time that the food world had something new to say about Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving converged with Hanukkah, creating a holiday mashup that hasn’t happened since 1888, and won’t again for 79,000 years.
Or maybe it only excited those of us in the culinary media trenches. Luckily, there were plenty of other food world distractions.
Deen, for example. In 2012, she was flogged for announcing she had both diabetes and a lucrative endorsement deal for a drug to treat the condition she’d until then hidden. This summer, she acknowledged having used racial slurs in the past.
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Heat fiends ended the year angsting over the future of Sriracha, the trendy hot sauce. The trouble started when people living near the Irwindale, Calif.-based Huy Fong Foods complained that odors from its plant were burning their eyes. A court ordered the company to halt production until the odors could be brought under control.
It was a year of culinary comebacks. Wonder bread, Twinkies and a host of other Hostess Brands goodies were relaunched by new owners after disappearing in 2012 when the company went out of business.
One thing that won’t be coming back? Artificial trans fats. The FDA announced in November it will require the food industry to phase out the ingredient that once was a staple of baked goods, microwave popcorn and fried foods.
America’s obsession with cultish hard-to-get foods was over-the-top. The must-eat items of 2013 were all about exclusivity — French chef Dominique Ansel’s Cronut, a croissant-doughnut hybrid, and Keizo Shimamoto’s ramen burger, a beef patty served between “buns” of ramen noodles.
You missed those trends? You were probably busy eating Greek yogurt and kale salads. In fact, pretty much all things vegetable and vegan were hot. This summer’s crop of food magazines was so smitten with vegetables, they seemed to forget a lot of people like to grill meat, too.
In the restaurant world, fast-food workers protested pay levels, photo apps continued to disrupt meals (and annoy restaurateurs), computer tablets increasingly displaced old-fashioned menus and order pads, and we almost lost Alice Waters’ Berkeley, Calif., restaurant Chez Panisse to fire in March (it reopened this summer).
But the food world did lose three icons. Chicago chef Charlie Trotter died at age 54 in November from a stroke. Marcella Hazan, who taught generations of Americans how to create simple, fresh Italian food, died in September at 89. And Judy Rodgers, the award-winning chef behind San Francisco’s Zuni Cafe, died this month at 57.