About once a year, give or take, I write an article about food trends. Yidden are not really ones to keep up with trends, but they are when it’s about food.

So every year, for the past 17 years or so, I’ve been going to a food show called Kosherfest, which takes place every November during flu season, and scoping out new products and saying, “I guess these must be the trends!”

But then last year, I got an email that said that Kosherfest had been discontinued. The market has shifted, the email said, and people don’t need food shows anymore.

So my first thought was, “Wait. I need food shows. How am I going to tell my readers what’s in style to eat?”

I mean, what did people eat before food shows came along? You hear all the time about people starving over in Europe; maybe this is why.

And then I started getting condolence emails from people: “I really enjoyed the Kosherfest articles, and I know you enjoyed writing them. Whatever will you do?”

So I started thinking about how I was going to have to start walking around multiple supermarkets every week specifically looking for new products, and then hoping they were new products and not just products I’d never noticed before, and to be honest, it sounds like a lot of work. I did not get into humor columnism to do a lot of work.

But then the very next day, I got an email that said, “Guess what! There’s a new food show starting this year! During Mental-Health Awareness Month.”

The Jewish people don’t stay down for long.

And I said, “Yay! Wait, I thought the market no longer supports this kind of thing!”

But I didn’t ask too many questions, because that’s not the kind of reporter I am.

The new show is called the J-Food show, and it’s basically the same as Kosherfest, except that it doesn’t have the word “kosher” in its title.

Don’t get me wrong – all the food there is kosher. And not all the food there is Jewish. Like for example, there’s a whole class of foods that are not specifically Jewish, although their names make them sound Jewish. Those were all at the show: Foods like focaccia, cones, biltong, kimchi, truffles, and things that are par-baked.

“So you’re telling me a par baked these things?”

But not everything is in a name. Kosherfest sounds more heimish, for example, because it contains the word “kosher” and the word “fest,” but this show was pretty heimish in its own way. And on top of that, it was continuing the legacy of a bunch of Yidden coming together for food, and also one Amish family that I saw that had me wondering, “Do the Amish keep kosher? Or did they mishear the word Heimish?”

I didn’t realize until later that they worked for one of the booths. They worked for a company that sold cheese made out of goat’ milk, which is one big trend. And to prove that it really was goat’ milk, the company brought along some of their Amish workers to help man the booth. Though I think a stronger proof would have been to bring along some actual goats. Though I don’t think they would have been as much help manning the booths. But they really would have enjoyed walking around the show and eating samples. I mean, the honey company brought along bees inside a glass case to prove that their honey was real. And as of when I left, no one had knocked the case over by accident.

It wasn’t that heimish.

I did taste some goat cheese, and it was amazing – it mamesh tastes like you’re licking the side of a goat.

Another choice that is very in now was something a lot of the meat companies were advertising – that they raise their animals with no antibiotics, sort of like the Amish. The logic, I think, is that they figure, “We’re going to kill the animal anyway; why give them antibiotics? So they can live longer?”

“Wow, the shechitah didn’t take!”

Another trend that seems to be big nowadays is homemade ice cream. Some of the companies proclaimed this on their signs: “Our products are homemade!”

No they’re not. They don’t make it at home. They don’t schlep it to work every morning, sit on the commute with thousands of dollars worth of ice cream in the trunk… yelling at the traffic…

Another kind of cheese that’s very in now is pareve cheese, but not because it’s good. People like cheese, but they don’t like milchigs, is what they discover in the 9 Days and also Shavuos. It’s weird: People are afraid to be fleishig, but then they’re afraid of eating milchigs.

And what else is there?

People want to be pareve, but there are very few amazing pareve foods. There’s salmon and there’s sushi (which is really just more salmon) and there’s basically everything with potatoes, and then what else? Salad? All the best salads have either meat or cheese in them. Or more salmon!

Really I think people want their meals to be fleishig, but they want to be able to have milchig snacks between the meals. There are very few good fleishig snacks. There’s meat boards (which is like a cold cut platter but the stuff falls off easier), but then you can’t walk around on the street eating from a meat board. Not unless you want a pack of dogs chasing you.

But we like things we can carry around. That’s why “pickles in a pouch” are now a thing.

People have always been bringing pickles out of the house with them, but it’s always been in one of those fold-over sandwich bags that don’t close. Now, thanks to the miracle of technology, you can have the juice spilling all over the place, lending a nice vinegar smell to your car or the subway or your Uber or whatever. Also, you used to be able to just crumple the sandwich bag back into your backpack when you were done; now you have to deal with the pickle juice. Or you can just pour it on the ground like a maniac.

I took a road trip with my wife the other day, and I brought along one of the pickles I got at the show. It was really good. But then I had to get rid of the juice. My wife would not let me pour it into the car garbage, so I was left just holding it, until I got sick of doing that and poured it out the window. And then when I got to where I was going, I saw that the window behind mine had pickle juice all over it. It’s a good thing that window wasn’t open, I guess. The last thing you want is dump your pickle juice out the window and suddenly your baby starts crying.

Yogurt also comes in a pouch now. Yogurt has always been a travel food, but it came in a cup with fruit at the bottom. That’s what they wrote: “Fruit at the bottom!” like that was a decision they came to, rather than the physics of what happens when you put fruit in yogurt.

Pouches—they’re not just for old-timey merchants anymore.

And speaking of portable foods, there are many new trends in the field of vending machines. For example, I saw a cotton-candy vending machine, where you pick colors and shapes, and then you get to watch a robot arm spin a stick around, using what is essentially an electric drill, and you get this massive perfect cotton-candy shape that is the size of a shtreimel! Because this is where A.I. has taken us.

A cotton candy vending machine! Because I don’t have enough to deal with in yeshiva with the kids eating in class.

Another huge trend is to make similar foods but in new ways. For example, there are companies that sell fermented pickles. Which are different from pickled pickles, and I’m not sure how they’re allowed to call them pickles.

Basically, fermented pickles do not have vinegar, which seems to be their big selling point, because apparently vinegar is a problem. Especially on Rosh Hashana.

Enter fermented pickles. Fermented sounds like a gross word, but really it’s not. As the fermentation people explained to me, it just means that your food has been pre-digested by bacteria. That way you don’t have to digest the pickle – it’s already been digested.

There’s no way fermentation was discovered on purpose.

And speaking of fermentation, another hugely popular item these days – and this was all over the show—is sourdough.

And yes, sourdough is fermented. People who make their own sourdough can tell you that they have a jar at home that nobody wants to look at and they have to feed it – before they feed themselves, halachically – and it’s in constant danger of whoever cleans the house throwing it out.

I haven’t gotten into the sourdough craze, because my wife makes whole-wheat challah every Shabbos which I love if I know what’s good for me. (Whole wheat is good for me.) A husband eats whatever challah his wife says he eats, although he is free to make his own challah to eat during the week if he’d like. It’s a free country.

But another huge thing is different varieties of flour. My wife and I recently discovered a new brand of white-whole-wheat challah that is moist and delicious, and we’ve never looked back. I actually saw that manufacturer at the show, and I said, “We love your white-whole-wheat challah!” and he said, “You should try our spelt-and-kamut challah!”

Because he thinks I’m in charge of what kind of challah we’re having. So I gave him my wife’s number.

What even is kamut? Speaking of foods whose names make them sound Jewish. . n

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of seven books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com. Read more of Mordechai Schmutter’s articles at 5TJT.com.

 

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