Good Food Blog
Cupcakes, meatballs and the culinary zeitgeistPosted at 11:02AM, 12 December 2008 by Toby Travis - Food blogger
Google has just released its list of the most popular search terms of the year, including a list of the UK's ten fastest rising recipe searches. This gives a fascinating and curious insight into the British culinary zeitgeist.
Most surprising to me is the number of traditional British dishes on the list, particularly puddings. Lemon posset (#8), crumble topping (#4), rhubarb fool (#7) and the chronically misspelt 'eaton mess' (#5) all rank highly. Is the intense promotion of local, seasonal food awakening an interest in the neglected dishes of our grandparents' generation? Or is this an attempt to rediscover a sense of national identity via the stomach, a gastronomic Last Night of the Proms?
Perhaps all these old favourites just reflect an appetite for comfort food in uncertain times. Yet there's not much evidence in this list of a credit crunch lurch towards cheaper food. Pork belly (#6) might once have been cheap but the eulogising of this cut by Hugh and other champions of the nose-to-tail approach has transformed it into a luxury item. Its inclusion, alongside beer batter and Eton Mess, also suggests that the generic Gastropub menu is starting to have an impact on our domestic eating habits.
The humble cupcake has certainly made a stunning return to form this year
The humble cupcake has certainly made a stunning return to form this year, sitting pretty at number 1 in the list. Cupcake baking and decoration seems to have transcended recipe status and become an art in itself . No doubt the scope for individual expression is a big part of the appeal. I guess many of us have a favourite cupcake of 2008 - mine was a lovingly crafted scale model of an erupting Vesuvius handed to me at a sedate garden party.
The list contains some odd entries. 'Honey comb' (#9) is certainly pushing the definition of 'recipe'. Does its popularity reflect a mass movement towards suburban bee-keeping or has Jamie O been on TV recently gorging himself on combs of dripping nectar?
I have to confess I hadn't heard of 'Rocky Road' (#3) before reading the list. Turns out it's a variation on the cupcake theme which has recently been given a new spin by none other than the Domestic Goddess herself. It looks like the A-list celebrity chefs are still powerful forces shaping our cooking habits.
The list is also revealing for what it leaves out. There are few international recipes, and only two featuring meat. There's no curry, no spag bol, no lasagne. The only non-British dish is meatballs (#2), and I'm assuming here that people are searching for the Italian-style tomato-smothered balls of meaty joy. Perhaps now The Sopranos has finished fans of the show are having to recreate for themselves the endless meals of 'meatballs and gravy' slurped down by Tony S and his motley crew of shell-suited mobsters.
Clearly this top 10 is likely to reflect the kitchen adventures of Britain's more enthusiastic and web-savvy home cooks. Probably only a small percentage of cooks feel the urge to scour the internet for advice on the optimum resting time for beer batter or the perfect lemon posset recipe. Nonetheless, at the very least the list suggests that many of us are rediscovering the delights of old-school British cookery. Roll over Elizabeth David, welcome home Mrs Beeton.