May 16, 2024
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May 16, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Frequent readers of this column are aware that about once a year, I get out of the house and head off to Kosherfest, which is the biggest kosher food industry trade show within a seven-mile radius from my house. For two days, everyone in the kosher food industry gets together—manufacturers, kashrut organizations, Israelis selling face cream, security guards, and apparently one security dog, who was there to sniff for dangerous items but ended up spending a lot of time near the sausages—to either shake hands or pretend that they’d really like to, but they’re holding too many food samples.

Because yes, the manufacturers put out food samples, and you cannot tell by looking at me that that is not the main reason I am there. The main reason I’m there is to write about the current food trends, so my loyal readers can know what foods are and are not in style to eat, except for that one year that security didn’t let me in.

So that year I didn’t end up writing about Kosherfest, and for an entire year, all my readers were not sure what to eat. Nor was anyone sure what to eat last year, when there was no Kosherfest because of corona, so everyone just ate everything. Just whatever food came along.

But this year, somehow, I was actually able to get in—it was early November, pre-omicron—so I could help document Kosherfest’s 30th year. (The first year was just 28 booths of macaroons. And huge barrels of pickles. Those were the trends back then.)

“Wait,” you’re saying. “The food industry has trends? When I’m hungry, I just eat. I don’t say, ‘What’s everyone else eating’?”

Technically, you do. Also, look at me: I used to make my kids fish sticks on a semi-regular basis. Then one day, for no reason at all, they all decided to stop eating them, so I stopped making them, because my wife and I were eating way too many fish sticks for two adults. But all of a sudden, in the last year or so, my kids got back into fish sticks. They prefer them over any other shape of fish. And then I come to Kosherfest, and everyone’s selling fish sticks!

Sure, they don’t all call them fish sticks. One brand calls them “fish fingers,” because the image they want is of mutant fish with hands that don’t quite taste like any other part of the fish. Also, one company was advertising them as “battered fish portions,” nebech.

And it wasn’t just fish. Breaded vegetables are also a huge trend. I saw breaded cauliflower, zucchini, mushrooms… It’s like they’re just looking for new things to add bread to. Apparently, no one’s eating bread anymore, so the food industry is wondering, “What do we do with all this bread?”

“Well, what are people eating?”

“Vegetables.”

“Well, why don’t we bread those?”

I’ll tell you why we don’t bread those. We don’t bread those because the only reason we eat vegetables is to be healthy. If they’re not going to be healthy, why are we eating them? There are other unhealthy foods that taste a whole lot better than breaded vegetables.

OK, so it happens that breaded vegetables taste pretty good. But we shouldn’t know that.

I think the idea here is that we want to trick ourselves into eating vegetables, so we disguise it as fish sticks.

“Oh, man! I forgot that these fish sticks were actually beets!”

Let’s let our failing memory work FOR us.

Or maybe the trend has more to do with finding uses for foods that people don’t eat a lot of. This would explain the recent trend of sweet potato fries, which are everywhere, pretending to be spicy fries. Food companies found that not enough people were eating sweet potatoes, but then they said, “Well, people like fries.” But you can’t just make a sweet potato version of everything we eat that has potato in it. Before you know it, there’s going to be a sweet potato salad.

Also in the trend of trying to fool ourselves, one company had various nut butters, such as almond butter, pecan butter, cashew butter and coconut butter, which I think doubles as a face spread. (It’s possible that all of them do.) Yes, they’re trying to mimic peanut butter, but peanuts aren’t really nuts, are they? They’re beans. So we should have bean butters, like kidney butter! It’s ideas like this that are the reason I am not in the food industry.

Whoops. I am. I am totally in the food industry.

There are some other trends that I talk about almost every year, such as portability and convenience, and those trends continued this year as well, because nobody complained.

“Enough with convenience already,” they didn’t say, before taking a swig of their gallon-bottle of water.

For example, one company is now selling olives in a little packet that you can bring with you on the go. Are you ever sitting on the bus, thinking, “I need olives now, but not more than seven”? So there you go.

You could also carry around all your kosher Korean sauces now, thanks to something called the “Kosher Korean Basic Sauce Gift Set.” It’s a gift set! Like if you’re ever going to someone for Shabbat, or someone you know is making a bar mitzvah or has just had a baby, and you’re wondering, “What should I get them that they probably don’t already have?” you can get them the gift of basic Korean sauces, and they will look you in the eye and say, with heartfelt sincerity, “What am I supposed to do with this?”

“Well,” you can say, “You can do a lot of things. Read the box. There’s ganjang and doenjang and gochujang and gochugaru. Go nuts!”

This gift sends the perfect message of, “I barely know you, but I know you don’t have this.”


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published seven books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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