100 Years of Amazing Food Trends
Big birthdays tend to make all of us long for the good old days. To mark Food Network Magazine's first 10 years, we looked back at the past 100 — and some unforgettable crazes.
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1920s: Outrageous Sandwiches
Wonder Bread hit shelves in 1921, ushering in a new era for the humble sandwich. Suddenly, Americans were putting everything imaginable between bread, and hostesses began serving whole loaves filled with deviled ham or tuna salad and frosted with cream cheese to look like cake. These spectacles were the best things until...sliced bread, which arrived in 1928.
1930s: Jiggly Salads
During the height of the Great Depression, colorful Jell-O molds — fruit, vegetables, meat and seafood suspended in flavored gelatin — brought a bright spot to American tables. At about 10 cents per packet, gelatin was an affordable way to stretch ingredients, which helps explain why about a third of cookbook recipes at the time featured it.
1940s: Can-to-Table Cuisine
As the government started rationing meat, cheese and other staples during World War II, home cooks had to make the most of what they had on hand, even if the resulting dish seemed unthinkable — like Mystery Cake, made with condensed tomato soup.
1950s: Food in a Flash
The advent of the space age called for whiz-bang foods and instant versions of everything: Dehydrated potatoes, Cheez Whiz and Tang were invented or popularized during this time. The new products came in handy as Americans rushed to install bomb shelters and stock up on shelf-stable food in case of nuclear attack.
1960s: Tiki Time
Hawaii became a state in 1959, and the 1961 Elvis film Blue Hawaii sparked a wave of enthusiasm for the tropics. Hosts handed out leis and served scorpion-bowl cocktails along with Polynesian-seeming dishes like soy sauce–glazed ribs and pineapple upside-down cake.
1970s: Hungry, Hungry Hippies
Hippies weren’t going to fuel the counterculture by eating the processed food their parents ate. They turned to natural foods, like whole grains and organic produce. The problem: Many of them didn’t really know how to cook! Questionable food resulted, including nut loaf (a baked nut-mushroom mixture), sprout sandwiches and carob brownies.
1980s: Microwave Cuisine
The microwave oven was invented in 1945, but decades passed before the technology became accessible to most home cooks. In the 1980s, a quarter of US households had one, and companies were hurrying to bring microwave- specific products to market, including General Mills with the first patent for bagged microwave popcorn, in 1981.
1990s: Lean Times
Consumers started turning away from fat in the late 1980s, and by the ’90s, a fat backlash was in full effect as we gobbled down low-fat cookies and bagels. The trend culminated in 1998 with the release of Wow chips — made with olestra, a fat substitute that the body can’t absorb or digest. Sales grew quickly, but so did concerns about gastrointestinal side effects. The chips, and the low-fat trend, soon faded.
2000s: Salt for All
Post-Y2K, America went mad for salted caramel thanks in part to San Francisco chocolate-maker Michael Recchiuti, who started selling chocolate-covered salted caramels around 1999. Pastry chefs across the country helped fuel the trend, adding salt to sweets with pretzels, chips and, of course, bacon.
2010s: Bright Ideas
Soon after Instagram launched in 2010, “viral” food became a good thing, and everyone started making food that would pop on camera. Avocado toast became a social media darling around 2011, followed by unicorn cookies, outlandish milkshakes, rainbow bagels, mermaid toast and other colorful creations.