Chew on this: 3 reasons why you should embrace quarantine food trends

A smiling girl wearing a white apron and blue oven mitts pulls a loaf of bread out of an oven.
(Yasmin Elqutami • The Student Life)

Confession: I think most food trends are overrated. It’s rarely the food that gets on my nerves — unless it’s one of those ridiculously over-the-top desserts — but whenever I see post after post of extreme milkshakes and people taking pictures or gushing about the latest food trend, I get tired of it. 

The way I see it, for the more extravagant trends, people rarely participate in them for the food itself but for the attention they get for posting about it. What annoys me the most is that the taste usually doesn’t match up to the looks, so no matter how aesthetically pleasing the food is, half of it will likely end up in the trash can. 

Over the course of quarantine, food trends such as homemade bread and pancake cereal have circulated the Internet. I was slightly annoyed at first, because for the first month at home, the stores were constantly out of flour and sugar. Whenever I cooked for my family, I had to use substitutes. 

But as time dragged on, I began to realize the benefits some trends bring. 

They not only alleviate boredom, but also help to build up a kind of community. Even though quarantine and stay-at-home orders have significantly minimized social interactions between friends, family and others, sharing and engaging with food trends can help people connect with each other. So, here are three reasons why some trends are worth trying.

1. Learn the basics and build culinary foundations

Remember all those mesmerizing videos of making and scoring bread online? Breadmaking has become one of the most popular quarantine trends. After all, the empty store shelves devoid of flour and yeast are strong indicators of the many people who are baking up a storm.  

Bread is the kind of basic staple that you don’t really think about making. I used to view anything made from scratch as incredibly daunting, but foods such as bread and pasta are foundational to many recipes. Anyone can do it — you just need the right ingredients and right ratios. It’s also incredibly stress-relieving to work the dough and watch the yeast do its magic.

By mastering basics such as bread and pasta, you gain skills needed for more advanced baked goods like biscuits and babka. Even with other skills, it’s the same. If you’re a painter, you want to start off on color theory and basic brush strokes.

Having a strong foundation allows you to become more confident in trying new things. You’ll be able to make recipes you never thought you would make and you learn to serve yourself, which makes you appreciate what you have.

2. Practice sustainability 

Food trends can also help people practice sustainability by reducing waste — many have started home gardening or simply regrowing their vegetables with stubs of store-bought ones. I used to think that you have to own certain supplies like fertilizer to grow vegetables, but that’s not true.

In fact, there are vegetables that are able to regrow with just water and light. Staples such as romaine lettuce, scallions, carrots, fennel and celery can be regrown in just a week, while herbs such as basil and lemongrass can be regrown by adding clippings or the bottom of the stem into water until roots have sprouted. Growing vegetables at home is a sustainable and rewarding way to reuse what you have and eat what you’ve grown.

Here’s a tip: Never throw away overripe bananas! When bananas turn brown, they become perfect for baked goods because they’re sweeter. You can turn a few unattractive mushy bananas into a lovely batch of banana bread, cookies or pancakes. As an avid fan of banana bread (especially the one from Pitzer College’s McConnell Dining Hall), I always look forward to making it. 

Though my banana bread will never match up to Pitzer’s magical concoction, nothing beats the smell of banana bread baking in the oven. It’s one of the best ways to “go bananas” during quarantine.

Focaccia dough lines a baking pan. Bell peppers and rosemary have been placed atop the dough to look like flowers and butterflies.
Stephanie Du SC ’21 baked a trendy focaccia garden with bell peppers, rosemary and garlic.

3. Inspire creativity

Quarantine has also been a way for some to express their creativity. Like I previously mentioned, bread is a staple in many meals. But why not make it cute?

Apparently, froggy bread made its first appearance on a food blog called “The Fresh Loaf” in 2005. But over the past few months, froggy bread resurfaced and leapt into popularity. The dough itself is quite versatile — you can customize the bread to your taste and then shape it into whatever amphibious tetrapod you desire.

Cooking is an art, but making it look like art brings it to new levels. My favorite trend would be focaccia gardens. Focaccia is easily one of my favorite breads; there’s something about the fragrance of herbs and olive oil that makes it absolutely irresistible.

But focaccia gardens are a world in itself — picture a crisp exterior with an arrangement of flora and fauna made from sliced vegetables and herbs. It’s a cathartic and delicious way of showing the beauty that nature has to offer.

Pancake cereal is another popular find, where you make a whole load of tiny, 1 cm wide pancakes and then put it in a bowl with the milk of your choice. Personally, I’m not a fan of this trend because I’m that oddball that doesn’t like cereal with milk, and in my mind, mini pancakes will get soggy from the milk faster than actual cereal. But if the mini pancakes are drizzled with syrup, I’m sure they’ll become bite-sized wonders.

Whether you’re a first-time baker or the next Masterchef, add a little flavor to your quarantined life by engaging with these food trends. Who knows — some of them might surprise you.

Stephanie Du SC ’21 is TSL’s food columnist. She is a biology major and aspires to work in health care. Her favorite quarantine activities include making noodles and experimenting with new dessert recipes.

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