Sunday, September 19, 2010

American food trends since 1909

Courtesy: Renegade Lunch Lady
Since 1909, American food trends have shifted to cheese, processed eggs, chicken and carbonated drinks over whole milk and beef per USDA’s latest report. 

Economists at Economic Research Service (ERS), one research arm of the United States Department of Agriculture, have compiled an extensive data set which tracks the U.S. food trends dating back to 1909.
The data sets are based on several factors such as national food supply availability, adjusted losses to the supply from spoilage, moisture loss, waste and nutrient availability.

What are some interesting trends?
For most commodities, better processing techniques, health concerns, information availability, education, economic factors such as wars and availability of large selections at numerous locations are factors in the shift. The estimates are converted to pounds per person (PPP) with recognition of the population count for the period.

The fluid milk category which includes whole, skim, low fat and flavored milks plummeted on a per person per pound basis from 1909 onward, although low fat and skim milks within the category have increased. Yogurt demand has increased from .1% in the 1950s to 11.8 PPP.

Within the red meats and poultry category beef, pork and chicken lead, however, by 2008 chicken demand is quickly overtaking a declining beef demand. Beef declined from 88.8 PPP in 1976 to 61.2 PPP by 2008, while chicken steadily rose to 58.8 PPP by 2008. Pork demand has remained relatively stable.

Fish and shellfish, edible stocks have moved from 8.4 PPP in the depression era of 1932 to double the amount by 2008.

In oil and fat category, as butters and lard use reduced, salad oils and shortenings increased. Salad and cooking oils moved from 12.5 PPP in 1965 to 54.3 PPP by 2008.

Legume demand is relatively stable through the century, however imports of dry edible beans increased from negligible amounts in the 1900s to almost 300 million pounds by 2008.

Retail coffee diminished from peak post World War II numbers of 16.5 PPP to 7.2 PPP by 2008 while cocoa numbers improved.

Americans are drinking more carbonated and alcoholic beverages as opposed to milk. Total soft drink availability has increased to 46.4 PPP by 2003, trailing is the alcoholic beverage section which was at  25.7 PPP to date. Milk declined to 20.8 PPP by 2008 from a peak of 31.3 PPP in 1970.

Americans are eating their broccoli demonstrated by the PPP which grew from 1.5 in 1970 to 8.3 in 2008. Potatoes, Tomatoes, Sweet corn and onions are top vegetables for consumption in 2008.

For the fruit category, oranges are consumed the most followed by grapes and bananas.

USDA's data set is unique and the only extensive source of this research in the U.S. today. The data set is a valuable tool which can assist anyone in understanding the socio-economic influences shaping our country and its eating habits.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Caramelized Onion, Fig and Goat Cheese Tarts

Courtesy: California Fig Advisory
Figs and cheese have harmonized well for generations as the flavors contrast the sweet with the salty. There are no die-hard rules for the type of cheese pairing one should consider as the cheese flavors range from mild to sharp. Here is a warm and luscious recipe to ring in the fig season.

Recipe courtesy: California Fig Advisory board

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4 frozen prepared 4-inch puff pastry tart shells
8 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
8 California dried or fresh figs, sliced

In heavy skillet over low heat, heat oil and sauté onions, cooking gently for 10 minutes or until
very soft.

Add butter, brown sugar and balsamic vinegar; continue to cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for 20 to 30 minutes until onions are very soft, caramelized, and jam-like. Cool.

Preheat oven to 375?F. Divide onion mixture among pastry shells; top with sliced figs and crumbled goat cheese. Crimp edges of each tart in about 8 places to make free form; arrange on baking sheet.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or as directed on package, until golden and crisp. Note, for dried mission figs, plump with warm water or fruit juice for 20 minutes before slicing.

Serves 4