Food forecast 2016

Food forecast 2016

Aylin Öney Tan -
Food forecast 2016

AA photo

If you’re familiar with Turkish coffee cup fortune telling, you must already be familiar with that widely heard phrase: “You’ll receive good news within three units of time!” Those three units of time are hard to interpret; it can be as soon as three hours, but more likely three days or three weeks. If your fate is a slowly-moving process, it might take three years for the miracle to happen. Fortune telling is usually about love, heartbreaks and money matters, but this forecast is about food. I admit that some predictions are based on true inside information. Seven is considered a lucky number, so here are the seven top food trends for 2016: 

1. The culinary pulse of the world will be beating in the new year, as UNESCO has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses. This means we’ll re-discover the virtues of lentils, chickpeas, fava beans, dried peas and beans of all sorts… My own prediction is there will be a rising interest in cuisines like Indian that make effective, efficient and tasty use of pulses, especially for those who are vegetarian or vegan. Turkey cuisine also has a rising sign of potential success, as it makes use of pulses in diverse ways, from soup to dessert, and from the ever-present lentil soup to the weirdly lovable festive sweet pudding “aşure” loaded with beans and chickpeas. The southern city of Gaziantep, now on the UNESCO list of Creative Cities for its merits in gastronomy, has its lucky sign here, with countless pulse dishes and its own local pulse varieties like mung beans, black lentils, black-eyed peas and local chickpeas. There is a lot about pulses in fortune telling, as lentils stand for prosperity and abundant amounts of money, while fava beans are dreaded for the fear of death. There is even a “bakla falı” in our tradition, a bean fortunetelling form known as favomancy. 

2. Expect rising international interest to Turkish food starting in March and April. There will be an explosion, like a volcano, on an island in the middle of a big sea (Sicily perhaps?); there will be a continuous burst of flavors and ideas connecting this remote island to mainland Anatolia like an umbilical cord feeding the unborn baby. Watch out for March 7-11. This will be followed by another big explosion in the last half of April, on the shore of the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, probably on the Anatolian side, where there will be stormy excitement in the air (hopefully not rain) and lots of passionate debates among people who have guts! Expect another lucky star in October, this time shining from very near, neighboring Greece. The culinary luck signs of Istanbul and Thessaloniki are prone to new tables of unison. 

3. Fermentation was, is and will be the sustainable trend in the coming year. There has been rising interest in fermentation, not only pickling but also fermented foods and drinks, from yogurt to sourdough breads, from craft beer to ciders. The health benefit of probiotics is one reason for the rising interest in fermentation, but it is also the excitement in the process of fermentation that adds to the vibe. Turkey has undiscovered culinary gems here, as the versatility of yogurt in cooking is jaw dropping, as are the varieties of yogurt in this land. Pickles are countless and the occasional visit to a pickle stand to gulp down a huge mug of fiery, garlicky pickle juice cocktail is a normal act here; there are lesser known fried pickle dishes from the Black Sea region. But the real world discovery will be tarhana, the world’s first ever instant soup. It is the miraculous collision of two cultures, agrarian wheat culture and nomadic yogurt culture, united in one unique taste, dried as a provision for the future. It is the miracle product of fermentation. Some tarhana varieties are formed like sourdough to be fermented for days or weeks. Not all tarhana is fermented, but it has a fermented ingredient in its composition, the mighty yogurt. World chefs will soon discover tarhana, and it will become the new big thing. In my own culinary horoscope, it says I’m close to the end of my affair with fermentation. I have to stop procrastinating and finish my chapters on the “tarhana guideline for chefs” and “tarhana types of Turkey.” 

4. Regional forces will take power. The western Thrace and Urla regions will be of major interest, not only for their wine routes, but also for their food festivals and wonderful food products. The Aegean city of İzmir, now on the Délice Network of Good Food Cities of the World, will be mentioned more on a culinary basis. Another Aegean star will be Ayvalık. The town’s existence evolved around olive culture will open new horizons, likely to have a happy ending. Both olives and grapes have brought prosperity in the past, and they will continue to do so. In general Turkish wine-makers will expect to find recognition worldwide; regional indigenous grape varieties will be much talked about and appreciated. I am particularly anxious about Acıkara of Elmalı, Antalya, though the luck sign is not with Antalya (there are bad predictions on tourism due to the Vladimir Putin effect). We’ll start to hear more and more about the city and its hinterland, mainly about the foraged and wild products in the first half of the year. Towards the end of the year the emphasis will shift to culinary history. Watch out for great culinary discoveries in the southern Taurus Mountains, in particular in the ancient city of Sagalassos. 

5. Milky deserts will be on the rise. Sugar has been like a swear word lately, as masses have been trying to wean themselves off sugar and sweets. Milky desserts seem to be the most innocent form of deserts. In Turkey, international sweet fads like macaroons or cupcakes never really took over, but we lately had a “trileche” phenomenon. In Turkey, unfortunately this triple milk sweet craze is not likely to be over, perhaps due to our fondness for milky sweets, but it will lose its dominating power. Another craze of chefs had been candied pumpkin. Hopefully this fad will fade away. If the stars do not help, I’ll do my part. If another chef serves that traditional candied pumpkin morsel as the biggest culinary invention ever, I’ll personally smash a whole pumpkin on their head!

6. There will be more and more interest in African and Middle Eastern food. That is the observation of many chefs in the world. My added prediction is Syrian food will the next big thing; it will partly be the result of available labor force due to the immense number refugees in the west (look what’s happening in Istanbul, there are Syrian food joints starting to pop up here and there), plus there will be the help of an added liberal dose of conscience-clearing of the general public, which will create an affection for Syrian tastes.  

7. The unsung heroes of Anatolia will be the sparkling stars in the culinary sky in Turkey. Many regional, honest producers will be on the rise. This prediction will bring many new articles in the future, so keep watching this column for surprises!