The New Multicultural American Kitchen – 3 flavor trends for 2017

ABC Family's "The Fosters" - Season Three

The make up of the American household today is quite different than it was just thirty years ago.  In one generation, we have gone from the nuclear family with it’s one mom, one dad and two kids all of the same race to a country of single parent and multi-cultural rentals.  The American dream of owning your own home in the suburbs has fallen to the wayside with the recession of 2008 and a millennial generation that’s more concerned with their phone plan than their life plan.

We currently have more single households in the United States than ever in history with a whopping 34% of children’s today living with an unmarried parent, this is up from just 9% in 1960, and 19% in 1980.  This combined with a fast growing Hispanic population and increasing bi-cultural households has made for quite the change over the last thirty years.  Hispanics made up a minuscule 6.5% of total US households in 1980 and now make up almost 18%.

Not only are we seeing a dramatic change in the overall make up of the household, but the US household is now a multicultural melting pot of Black, White, Asian, Indian, Mexican, Russian and anything and anyone.  Gone are the days of the traditional one man, one woman same race household, today we see no boundaries and no barriers to what makes up an American home.  Even American popular culture has figured it out with shows like The Foster’s which features a multi-ethnic family mix of foster and biological teenaged kids being raised by two moms that recently completed it’s fourth season on FreeForm.

I know this is a lot of data to take in, but it says one clear thing to me, the times they are a changin and so are our palettes.  Today’s kitchen is dramatically different than it was fifty, twenty, even ten years ago and will continue to evolve as cultures mash up and consumers bring their cultures and culinary heritages together in the kitchen.

With this changing dynamic of the American household comes a revolution in the kitchen. With the meshing of these different ethnic backgrounds comes a fusion of authentic flavor profiles and mixed cooking styles.  The millennial generation has not only brought an openness and multicultural influence to the kitchen, but also an appreciation of authenticity and a palette for exploration of new spices, flavor combination and cooking techniques.  The increasing pace of life and access to data through technology has also created a need for new portable formats and requirement of healthy functionality that can be consumed anywhere and anytime.  Day part barriers have been demolished and three squares a day now only refers to the number of bars you have left on your battery life.

As this generation continues to grow older and establish families, they will also be merging their culinary styles that they grew up with.  As acculturation takes hold and this generation becomes Americanized, they will refuse to lose sight of their roots, but blend it into their lifestyles and culinary creations.  They are striving for authentic recipes, flavors, and dishes but are also willing to merge with their counterparts and create an entirely new platform of cooking and flavor.  Hispanic-Asian, Korean-Mexican, Cuban-Vietnamese, Peruvian-Japanese, Italian Indian.  Each of these cooking styles offering its own spectrum of flavor and spice, but being merged with one another to create a fantastic fusion of flavor and form.

As the millennial generation will continue to lead this quest for fantastical fusion flavors the sky is the limit.  I see many combinations coming to fruition in the near future, but here is where I see the next wave of flavor heading.

1) Latino-Indian – as Americans we continue to be scared of curry and Indian spices, but the palette is starting to open and the Mexican platform seems to be a good way for these two formats to merge.  They share similar handheld formats and spices like cumin and cilantro that seem to make an easier connection.  Samosas have a strange resemblance to an empanada, so I could expect to see a yellow curry and potato empanada or a green chili and chicken samosa in the Trader Joe’ frozen aisle in the near future.


2) Mexican merging with Vietnamese cuisine – both formats have similar hand held varieties that seem to work well together.  Tortas and bánh mi will fuse together as these two formats continue to make headway with consumers.  You may see a carne asada bánh mi on a food truck near you soon.


3) Japanese Italian – this format is been running through the streets of Brazil for many years, but this will finally start to take hold in the near future as Japanese street food and Italian profiles become mainstream.  Think about how delicious a pizza filled steamed bun would taste.  It’s the upscale Hipster hot pocket.


Why Monday’s Shouldn’t Suck


(Artwork by Bill Watterson)

 Monday is the first day of the week to most of us. It should be looked upon as a fresh start, a new beginning.  However, in our often over stressed and over worked American culture, Monday’s pretty much suck to most Americans.  They are not only the end of the weekend, but the day we all have to go back to our jobs and back to the grind.  It is an interesting phenomenon that we look upon Monday as the end, instead of the beginning, but why?  Why do we as Americans dread the beginning of a new work week?

First off, Americans hate their jobs.  Right Management, a subsidiary of the staffing firm Manpower Group, did a survey in 2012 and found that only 19% of workers were “satisfied” with their jobs.  That is an embarrassing rate of happiness and makes you wonder what we are doing wrong.  In fact, most were just happy to have “something” in the down economy.

The simple fact is that weekends rule with Americans.  Who doesn’t love the weekend?  The University of Rochester conducted the first study of daily mood variation in employed adults.  They followed 72 adults, 18-62 with full time jobs for three weeks and discovered their favorite days of the week, are you ready -Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  The study cited that weekends were associated with higher levels of freedom and generally people were involved in activities of their own choosing and spent time with more intimate friends and family members. Surprisingly, the analysis also found that people felt more competent during the weekend.  Evidently as humans, we just feel more secure when we are able to make our own decisions then when forced into a job or typical work week.

To piggyback on the Rochester study, most Americans do not feel in control of their lives and don’t feel that our Government is going to help make it better anytime soon.  According to a recent Gallup poll in February 2013, 81% of Americans disapprove of Congress and only 41% approve of what President Obama is doing.  These historically low approvals continue to drive consumer feelings of hopelessness and “working to get nowhere”, through the roof.  This just adds to the dread most people must be feeling as they head to work each Monday morning.

Monday is even engrained in our popular culture as a negative day of the week.  TGIF, why doesn’t it state TGIM?  Music continues to tell us how miserable or depressing Monday’s are – Manic Monday by the Bangles, I Don’t Like Monday’s by the Boomtown Rats, Rainy Days & Monday’s by the Carpenters, Stormy Monday by Eric Clapton and Blue Monday by New Order to name a few.  At least Jimmy Buffett had the courage to tell us that, “Come Monday, it’ll be alright and I’ll be holding you tight”.  Monday overall is not embraced in our culture as a bright new beginning, but a dreary and dark day of the week.

Finally, Monday’s are the start of the long portion of the week.  Due to the current structure we are forced into a five day work week, leaving only two days off. If you break it down we are working 71.4% and getting less than 1/3 of “our time” to do what we choose.  Psychologically, we are beat down before we even begin the week.  This simple way of looking at our time allotment on a weekly basis is pretty depressing for most of us and just feeds the fire to why Monday is generally looked at as negative.

So, what do we do about it?  We can try and completely rewire the entire population and make them feel that work is actually play and they are in control of their future like The Matrix.  We can have the Government dictate that we work less and play more or we can simply accept it and move on with a better attitude.

I think the most realistic way to look at Monday is, it’s just another day.  It’s another day that we all have to face and without it we wouldn’t have a full week.  Like most things on this planet every element plays a critical part in the survival of the entire system and when one element is out of balance the whole system seems to suffer.  So let’s embrace Monday for its place in the week.  Monday makes us appreciate the rest of the days so much more and without Monday, Friday would be as wonderful.

I do vote for a better balance between work and play in America.  We have been told that if we work hard we will be rewarded. Isn’t that the American dream?  Well, as we continue to see our taxes increased, food and gas prices rise and health care spin out of control it is hard for us to see a positive ending to the American dream story.  With all of this negativity spewing from the media each morning it is hard to see the silver lining.  As Jerry Garcia so elegantly put it, “every silver lining’s got a touch of grey” and I find it best to just realize that a day of the week should not dictate how we feel, so don’t let it. Work hard and be thankful that Monday has arrived at all, that means you hopefully had a happy weekend.

So as you start to enjoy your second cup of coffee this Monday morning, just remember that material goods and stuff is only one part of the American dream.  We are Capitalist, we love stuff and we strive for more, but ask yourself, when is enough, enough?  I am a true Capitalist and believe it is the best system on the planet, but there is one fundamental principle that we need to remember which is at the root of Capitalism.  This one element is what allows Capitalism to thrive and for the human race to survive each Monday morning.  Our founding fathers recognized this and many soldiers have died for us to enjoy it – FREEDOM.

So my solution for the Monday blues is simple and comes down to this one word.  We have the freedom to choose in this country what we wish to do with our time?  We have the freedom in America to decide for ourselves how we want to take on the week and what we feel about Monday.  We have the freedom to embrace Monday for all the mental misery it causes.  We have the freedom to cast aside the negativity and realize it is the start of another great week.  We lived through another weekend and we have another one coming.  It is this ritualistic sacrifice that we make each and every Monday that allows us to persevere and enjoy another weekend with our families and truly appreciate the smaller things that we sometimes forget during the work week.  We are fortunate to have the freedom to enjoy each day of the week for its beauty.

Happy Monday everyone!

P.S. – For five tips to help you battle the Monday blues check out the following article by Michael Poh –

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