I seem to remember reading a Malcolm Gladwell book that touched on this topic, but it always confounds me how trends come to be. Fashion is one thing — I saw some tweets yesterday about the return of brightly-colored jeans to the mainstream fashion scene, and I can imagine that a Kardashian probably started wearing hot pink jeans sometime in 2009, and two years later they’ve trickled down to the racks at your local Target.
But food? Who is the Kardashian of the food world? How come, seemingly, out of nowhere, my twitter stream will be alight with chefs, bloggers, and restaurants touting the same star ingredient? Does Eric Ripert offer it up one night at Le Bernardin, and then months later every facet of food media is on the same bandwagon?
(And yes, I did just compare Eric Ripert to the Kardashians. Thus is the state of this dulled, microscopic facet of food media.)
So the latest trend I’ve noticed is cotechino. It would be so 2012, except that I noticed it back in November (I’m always a few weeks/years/decades behind on trends), and there was a reason it was trending: it is traditionally a holiday charcuterie. Before Thanksgiving I was offered a basket of goods from Creminelli Fine Meats, and one of the seasonal choices was their cotechino. It sounded interesting — something I’d not had before — an Italian salami that must be cooked before serving (as opposed to most salamis which are cured and ready to eat as sliced), spiced with clove and garlic. It arrived, and I followed the preparation directions by boiling the link in its plastic sleeve for 20 minutes, slicing into medallions, and serving it up at our community group’s holiday party. It was quite rich and mild, and I loved it.
And then I started seeing all these blog posts about it. And then after that, I went by my local amazing source for charcuterie, and they were also touting cotechino, which is apparently the hot pink jean of the holiday food world.
So of course I had to bring my other foot firmly onto the bandwagon. I ordered a half-pound, ready to grace our New Year’s Day good-luck table with a new form of pig.
My butcher that day told me how he’d prepare it, which was a little different than boiling in a plastic pouch: he said to slice it into medallions, sear it in hot oil, and then lay it on top of my black-eyed peas under the broiler, letting all the fat and juices seep into the beans. I did this, and while I found that most of the delectable fat ended up in my skillet rather than dripping onto my peas (perhaps I seared too long), it was still an amazingly delicious way to ring in 2012. A bit saltier than the Creminelli version, but cut into smaller pieces and stirred into the dish, it was a unique (and decidedly Italian) way to enjoy our traditional once-a-year meal.
So much so, I didn’t realize just how much it added until I ate leftovers for lunch the next day, sans-cotechino, which had been gobbled up on New Year’s Day. My black-eyed peas seemed dull and neutral in its absence — in want of seasoning, texture, and spice.
Not unlike my closet, which is (and will likely remain) void of brightly-colored jeans. Kardashian, schmardashian.
I suppose in the world of trends, I’ll do best to stick with food.