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Saturday, September 6, 2014

* FOOD BOOK OF THE MONTH! * The Tastemakers (McClelland and Stewart)

THE TASTEMAKERS; why we're crazy for cupcakes but fed up with fondue (Signal McClelland & Stewart, 2014, 319 pages, ISBN 978-0-7710-7912-2, $29.95 CAN hard covers) is by business and food writer David Sax, who authored Save the Deli. He's also a Beard Award winner for his writing. Here he looks at the world of food trends: where they come from, how they grow, and their decline. It is a book full of anecdotal material plus some hard evidence from chefs, entrepreneurs, and analysts. Certainly it is good read about what we are "told" to eat. The "Tastemakers" are people who spread the news about new foods. They are a sub-category of who we used to call "opinionmakers". So this is an investigation into who is creating the buzz about a variety of food products. Most noticeably, there is kale, sriracha, quinoa, cupcakes (sales grew 56% from 2008 to 2012), chia seeds, apples, acai berries, pomegranates, kombucha, and more (there is an index from which you can pick out your fave food). Ultimately, it is all about  money and influence, and celebrities. I'm not too cynical, although the book can make you one (the difference between a pessimist and a cynic is that the cynic is better informed). He's got four types of trends: cultural, agriculture, chefs, and health. These trends break out mostly by marketers, and they matter mostly because they are profitable and cutting edge. Nobody wants to be left behind; everyone in this business is searching for the next big food trend. Most of the discussion is about "trends", but really, they are just fads. You cannot call the Paleo diet a fad (as he does) since it has been around since 1975, just bubbling under until recently. Cupcakes, though, are definitely a fad since the modern ones transmogrified from muffins and were featured in Sex and the City. And it is lacking in a discussion on wines (one half-page only), beers and cocktails (not at all for both). It's a good book, and a fine read for summer. More details can be found through his bibliography. Quality/Price Rating: 92.


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