For the past two weeks, I've read column after column by dozens of food writers, editors of important magazines and self-proclaimed industry experts, all touting Top 10 lists and predictions of what will be the "it food" of 2011.
The editor of Bon Appetit thinks the next big thing will be "pimento cheese." NASFT says it will be "umami in a paste." Innova Market Insights predicts a "fruit and veggie revival." The Food Channel says "discomfort foods" will be big in 2011. Technomic proclaims that "Korean food will continue its revival" this year.
All of these predictions are fine and dandy if you live in New York or L.A. But I live in rural Wisconsin, smack dab in the middle of a three-hour trek between the food-troplis metros of Chicago and Minneapolis.
Where I come from, pimentos are stuffed in green olives. We have no idea what umami even means, nor would we know how to put it in paste. We put canned corn on top of our mashed potatoes and count it as both a comfort food and as a vegetable. Our mothers place fruit in jell-o and call it a "salad." Most of us have never eaten Korean food in our lives because there is no Korean resident nor restaurant within a 200-mile radius of us. Our idea of an exciting food night out is discovering baby rice popcorn topped with black truffle oil and Sarvecchio cheese at a hip new restaurant in downtown Madison. And then we think we're living high on the hog.
In short, while others may find it easy to predict what will be hot and new in 2011, I find it easier to predict what should not be trendy. And because I write about cheese, I'll keep my pleadings limited to the dairy aisle.
So, in a plea to stop the insanity of Top 10 Lists and What's Hot Columns, here are my Top 3 Non-Predictions for the Wisconsin cheese community for 2011 (and please know that I apologize in advance for anyone I inadvertently offend):
1. Please Stop The Gouda Train. For the love of god, would every cheesemaker in Wisconsin please please please stop adding a flavored Gouda to their line-up of specialty cheeses? For the past year, I've had to endure more gummy, tasteless, horrible Goudas than I care to mention and find a nice way to say they don't suck.
With thousands of innovative cheese recipes out there, why is everyone suddenly choosing to produce a flavored Gouda? How about crafting a bloomy rind, or an original washed rind or mixed milk cheese? I'd kill for an artisan Camembert or Manchego. As far as I'm concerned, there's only one good Gouda being made in Wisconsin, and that's by farmstead cheesemaker Marieke Penterman. Marieke Gouda is the kind of cheese that is so good you have to forcibly make yourself stop eating it before you get sick ... which leads me to Point No. 2.
2. Cheese is Not a Health Food. Every food marketing organization seems intent on convincing me I need to eat and feed my children more cheese to be healthier. Yes, cheese is a wonderful source of protein and calcium, but it's also a major source of saturated fat. An ounce of Cheddar has about 9 grams of fat, 6 grams of which are saturated.
That means that cheese is a food to be enjoyed in moderation, and to be eaten because you like the taste and texture, not because you're trying to lose 20 pounds. There's a reason many food writers should receive hazard pay for being a bit chubby around the middle. It's because we eat A LOT of cheese. Duh.
3. Cheese Curds, Like Apple Pie, Were Made to Eat the Same Day They Were Made. Here's a memo to all the companies out there developing amazing new technology to bag and seal cheese curds, giving them a shelf life comparable to a nuclear-resistant Twinkie: Please Stop the Madness!!!! Cheese curds were made to be eaten on the day they were made, no ifs ands or buts about it.
If you live too far away from a cheese factory to buy curds that were mere milk 8 hours prior to your visit, then you have two choices: 1) move closer to the cheese factory, or 2) don't eat cheese curds. The poor excuse of mild cheddar cheese globules sold in most grocery and convenience stores in bags, tubs and re-sealable pouches could easily inspire Bon Jovi to write a song about giving cheese a bad name. Consumers unite: just say no to day-old curd.
So now that I have those three non-predictions off my chest, let me be one of the first to wish you and yours a new year filled with good cheese, mashed potatoes with corn, and an occasional jell-o salad. Happy 2011!