Special Report

The Biggest Food Fads of the Past 50 Years

Source: GI15702993 / iStock

Fad: Fondue
> Era: 1970s

The Swiss introduced fondue to America at their pavilions at the New York World’s Fairs of 1939 and 1964. It wasn’t until the 1970s, though, that fondue became a full-fledged trend, thanks in part to a chain of fondue restaurants called The Melting Pot, launched in 1975, and to the increased availability in the U.S. of fondue-appropriate cheeses like gruyère, appenzeller, and emmenthaler. Soon, the fondue set — a pot set over a burner, with long-handled forks for dunking hunks of bread into the melted cheese — was vital to every food-conscious household.

Source: 1700-talet / Wikimedia Commons

Fad: General Tso’s Chicken
> Era: 1970s

The first iteration of this dish was invented in Taiwan in the 1950s. Roughly 20 years later, a Chinese chef in New York City adapted it for American tastes (the original wasn’t sweet or deep-fried, and was served on the bone), and it took off. Today it would be hard to find a strip mall Chinese menu that doesn’t offer General Tso’s — but in the ’70s, it seemed like the height of international culinary sophistication.

Source: Alexa / Wikimedia Commons

Fad: Quiche
> Era: 1970s

Quiche began to gain popularity after Julia Child made it on her TV show in the mid-1960s, but this rich bacon-filled custard in a pastry crust (with many other ingredients added to various recipes) came into its own in the ’70s, edging out fondue on trendy tables. By the early 1980s, amid growing concerns about cholesterol, its popularity began to fade. A 1982 satirical best-seller called “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche” didn’t help. Quiche is still certainly around, but its fad days are long gone.

Source: praveenpn4u / Flickr

Fad: Blackened anything
> Era: 1980s

Famed New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme introduced America to blackened redfish — filets of a local fish also known as red drum, crusted in Cajun spices and blackened in butter in a white-hot cast-iron pan — in a cookbook published in 1984. Soon, chefs everywhere were copying it, and those who didn’t have access to redfish began blackening all kinds of other seafood, as well as chicken, pork chops, prime rib, even tofu. To make things easier for home cooks, Prudhomme marketed a Blackened Redfish Magic spice mix.

Source: Hiperpinguino / Wikimedia Commons

Fad: Kiwi fruit
> Era: 1980s

Native to China, this green-fleshed fruit with the furry brown skin was exported to New Zealand in the 1800s, where it thrived. From there it was later exported — under the name Chinese gooseberry — to California, where a produce dealer renamed it in honor of New Zealand’s similarly fuzzy iconic kiwi bird. Chefs discovered it and began using it not just for tarts and other desserts but in salsas and salads, with seafood, even with pork and other meats. For some years, it was hard to avoid.

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