Weird pairings, old favorites on the menu



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NEW YORK (AP) – Whether it’s kimchi, beets or broccoli, the pandemic has had a strange impact on food cravings that goes beyond the joy of eating comfortably.

Almost a year in isolation, many people adopt foods that have been long forgotten or rejected for their taste, texture or smell. Some have forced themselves to re-evaluate health-oriented foods to help boost their immune systems. And with home cooking at a high standard, there is a new adventure in cooking.

For Maeri Ferguson, 31, in Brooklyn, it’s all about pears.

After recovering from COVID-19, she spent months without a normal taste and smell. So many foods she loved just weren’t satisfying. Now Ferguson can experience the sweet, salty and spicy taste again, but most foods lack a nuance of flavor.

Not pears.

“All my life, I have always passed on pears. Not because I didn’t like them. They just intimidated me, ”Ferguson said. “I didn’t understand the differences between the grape varieties, how to determine maturity. I knew what a bad unripe pear looked like, but not a good one.

During the pandemic, a friend gave her a handy slicer and she struggled to find a way to spot a good pear. It was one of the first foods she could really taste.

“I’m a full convert,” Ferguson said. “I’ll never forget to bite into a juicy red pear and finally taste that sweet flavor and just the slightest acidity. It was a profound experience and one that made me cherish a food that I only tolerated.

Although Ferguson hasn’t seen its pear sales skyrocket, fermented foods are one of the big winners in the pandemic.

Anastasia Sharova, chef in Stuttgart, Germany, runs Happybellyfish.com, an online cooking school focused on healthy foods. He added fermentation classes at the end of 2019, then the pandemic hit. Suddenly, interest in making kimchi, miso and sauerkraut exploded. Kombucha was already a trend and helped popularize home fermentation.

“Health has become the number one priority for many people over the past year,” said Sharova. “Second, everyone had more time at home, so it was finally possible to try new things in the kitchen that take time. Third, fermenting food is seen as a hobby in itself and it’s a great community activity, even if your community is on Zoom or just within your own family.

Alicia Harper, 30, is now in the fermentation camp. The New York-based nutritionist was well aware of the health benefits, but was not personally a fan before the pandemic.

“I found the fermented taste too strong for me and the fermented smell was off-putting. Since I tried them again recently, my opinion has changed completely. I have now grown to love the taste and the smell, ”she says. “The pandemic really made me appreciate my health more.”

Anne Alderete enjoys something she never imagined: natto. Made from fermented soybeans, natto is popular in Japan but considered too slimy and smelly for some.

“I have felt it several times since I was half Japanese and lived in Tokyo after college for seven years,” said Alderete, 47, of Los Angeles. “I’ve long wanted to understand magic that I just didn’t know. I remembered the old dirty socks.

Now, she devours store-bought natto almost every week. Among his favorite ways to eat it, it’s spread on a thick slice of toast topped with cheese and melted in the grill.

“I feel a little bit virtuous when I eat natto because the health benefits are so many, but it’s also because it brought me closer to my roots,” said Alderete.

Another appeal is the long shelf life of many fermented foods.

While health concerns and comfort foods played a role, one expert believes the changes in the way we eat also come from having more time at home to digest a wave of nutrition and health news. food chain.

“The pandemic has allowed many of us to finally recognize some uncomfortable truths about the food system,” said Ryan Andrews, a registered dietitian who has written a book on plant-based eating.

“People have learned about the unsafe working conditions in meat packing plants, the unfair wages of farm workers, the chronic diseases we all face related to food, the inhumane ways we raise animals. animal husbandry and the immense environmental impact of industrialized agriculture, ”said Ryan, an advisor for Precision Nutrition, which certifies nutrition coaches.

Suddenly he said, “Organic lentil and mushroom soup that didn’t sound so appealing before the pandemic has become part of the weekly meal routine.

At the same time, an analysis of Google searches by market research firm Semrush on the weird and wonderful of changing food interests during the pandemic has highlighted comfort. The company saw a 17% increase in searches for “peanuts and coke” in December compared to December 2019, and a 33% increase for “prosciutto and melon”. He found a 95% increase for “bacon and jam”.

At WoodSpoon, a New York-based app that connects home chefs with hungry customers, the trend for comfort is more than a bit obvious. Before the pandemic, there was a strong interest in healthy products and less processed foods. After that, it was all about babka, pasta and short ribs.

“In a difficult time like this, diners are looking for authentic, home-cooked food and want to support local chefs. The trend has been happening for some time and the pandemic has taken it to the next level, ”said Oren Saar, Co-Founder and CEO of WoodSpoon.

Beets never had a chance from Caroline Hoffman, 25, until the pandemic hit and she one day forgot to buy tomatoes for pizza sauce. She mixed in a few beets instead and left, overcoming her rudeness factor.

“I am now addicted. I made beet hummus, beet pasta, and just plain beetroot salads. I don’t know why I hadn’t discovered this before, but now I buy a weekly bag like it’s cereal, ”Hoffman said in Chicago.

Others are reviving their childhood favorites, revisiting peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or whipping up grilled cheeses to eat with canned tomato soup. You can also count the raisins.

Harry Overly, the “leading imaginative wrestler,” chairman and CEO of Sun-Maid, said the raisin company saw a 1.4% increase last year in the number of US households who began to eat raisins.

“We absolutely see, especially over the past year, how consumers are turning to nostalgia and reconnecting with brands they remember from their childhood,” he said.

Rex Chatterjee isn’t looking for raisins at his home in the seaside town of Amagansett, New York. The treat of choice for Chatterjee, 34, and his wife is Oreos and rosé. He admits to having soaked on occasion.

“The combination,” he said, “is wonderful and comes with our highest recommendation.”

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