As it turns out, we won't be launching new careers as fortune tellers...
Nearly a month ago we put out a call for readers to help us predict this year's Thanksgiving trends, and we shared some of our own predictions.
How did we do with our guesses? Not great!
But never fear: Over the past couple weeks, we've pored through stacks of magazines. We've compiled lists of recipes. And we've already cooked 20 (!) of this year's new Thanksgiving recipes, at our annual Fakesgiving dinner, where we invite a bunch of friends over for a big Thanksgiving meal in late October.
So today, just as we have for the past several years, we're kicking off our Thanksgiving coverage with a look at this year's hottest trends. These are based on the Thanksgiving recipes featured in 11 leading food magazines. Tomorrow we'll share an index of all the recipes that inspired these trends. Prepare yourself: You've got some awfully difficult menu choices ahead.
First we're going to tell you some of the main trends we noticed. Then -- as we do every year -- we've compiled word clouds showing the popularity of different ingredients in the titles of this year's recipes.
So let's get to it: What's "in" for Thanksgiving 2015?
1. Ancient Grains in Vogue
This year's food mags read like a cross between the 1835 edition of The Old Farmers' Almanac and the bulk bins at a Berkeley co-op: Ancient grains are everywhere. This isn't a huge surprise, since unusual grains have been a big restaurant trend for a few years. Still, it's noteworthy to see Thanksgiving menus sprouting rye, farro, and polenta -- and even more unusual varieties like sorghum grains, spelt and fonio.
And the treatment of these grains is unusual as well. Barley gets smoked; spelt gets fried; rye berries get pickled.
It's enough to make quinoa look quaint.
2. The Year's "It" Turkey? "Porchetta-Style"
It's a frequent Thanksgiving lamentation: Does anybody actually like turkey? This year, two different magazines came up with the same fix: Pretend it's pork!
Both Bon Appétit and Food & Wine have taken inspiration from the classic pork dish porchetta and applied it to their turkeys this year. The magazines each take very different approaches to the turkey, but are applying common flavors you find in porchetta: fennel, sage, rosemary, thyme and garlic. We've already tried out one of these porchetta birds -- and it's delicious.
3. New Orleans Inspirations
We love eating in New Orleans, so we were excited to see multiple magazines featuring Thanksgiving menus inspired by The Big Easy. (Though none of the magazines mention this explicitly, we assume the attention had to do with the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.)
We didn't grow up with Thanksgiving tables that included andouille stuffing, pickled shrimp, oyster pies, and gumbo. But we're happy to see them on the menu for this year. Laissez les turkey rouler!
4. Tilting Tropical
Next to ancient grains, the most sweeping trend we noticed this year was citrus everything.
Sure, we've seen some citrus pop up in years past, and we've cooked a couple kumquat dishes before. But this year, the bright, tart flavors of citrus fruits are all over the place -- on multiple turkeys, in salads and in side dishes.
Most notable, though, was the plethora of citrusy and tropical fruit sweets: Mango, pineapple, grapefruit, papaya and lemon all are prominent on the dessert table this year. We're definitely on board. After all, there are only so many ways to make a pumpkin pie.
5. Vinegar Sneaks In
Pucker up! If there's a sleeper ingredient this year, it's vinegar.
Personally, we love the sharp tang that vinegar brings. But it's not something we typically think of at Thanksgiving. Turns out that's a big mistake: A little vinegar can infuse a side dish -- or a salad or a turkey or a cocktail -- with a palate-cleansing zing that cuts through all the heavy, rich, starchy flavors typical of Thanksgiving.
This year's food mags have tons of dishes with a hint of vinegar -- plenty of salads with bright vinaigrette, but also vinegar in turnips and Brussels sprouts, on sweet potatoes and white potatoes.There's a squash dish with an agrodolce, a sweet-sour Italian vinegar sauce. And there's even a switchel, that vinegary cocktail we wrote about just a few weeks ago.
6. Cranberry Sauce: They're Just Not That Into You.
We were surprised to see so few recipes for cranberry sauce this year. Only five magazines published one, and most are fairly straightforward takes. In previous years, cranberry sauces have been a place where food magazines trotted out some of their craziest twists: Jalapeño! Chinese five spice! Figs! Port! The aforementioned kumquats!
This year, though, there's just not that much emphasis on cranberry sauce. Is everyone just buying their sauce in a can?
Now let's take a closer look at some trends related to specific dishes, using some word clouds. Take a look at the images and let us know what stands out to you.
This first cloud shows the most common words in all of this year's recipes (the biggest words are the most often mentioned words). You can click these images to enlarge them and zoom in.
All the recipes:
Now here's the same group of recipes, but with the 10 most common words removed ("turkey," "potato," "pie," "roast," "apple," "stuffing," "green," "salad," "cranberry," and "gravy").
STUFFINGS: Here are all the words related to stuffing/dressing recipes (minus the words "stuffing" or "dressing"). Is anyone else's mouth watering thinking about sausage and cornbread?
SIDE DISHES: We do love our potatoes at Thanksgiving, don't we?
DESSERTS: Behold the sheer dominance of pie.
Well, what say you? Will you be having an "on trend" Thanksgiving this year?
Previous Thanksgiving Trends:
Curious about the lead image? We made it for our Fakesgiving dinner invitations this year. We were inspired by this panda meme from a few years back. If a panda can puke rainbows, we thought, why not a turkey?