Remembering 2020; Looking ahead to 2021

Most of us are not sad to leave 2020 behind. It has been a miserable year in many ways, more for some than for others. I am optimistic for 2021, but we are not over the pandemic yet. Normal, whatever that will look like, will not be part of our lives for some time. Will we return to a diet of more processed food in a post-pandemic world? Or will we become a nation of fruit and vegetable eaters avoiding processed foods as much as we can? I suspect that the change will be dramatic in one direction or the other.

plate of roast chicken with crispy, brown skin intact
Photo taken by Linn Steward at Le Coq Rico, a Manhattan restaurant located in the Flatiron District that serves heritage breed whole birds and pays tribute to American farmers and local terroir.  Courtesy of Gourmet Metrics.

Themes. During 2020 I introduced some new themes to the site. Cooking was more prominent on the site with comments on Note-by-Note Cooking from a food scientist and a master chef. Cooks and dietitians do not view healthy meals in the same way. Intuitive eating casts a new light on diets. It suggests that we should not blame obesity on either the food or the person. I also shared my perspective on a lifetime of research on fresh fruits and vegetables. I provided different perspectives on food pantries from a critic and a volunteer.

enticing salad base with veggie sticks, lettuce leaves and a small sandwich in the back
A delicious vegan salad. Photo by Erica Kenney.

Themes from previous years returned during 2020. Diet and health continue to occupy space on the site from vegan to Med. Should the emphasis be on avoidance of the bad stuff, seeking out the good stuff, or achieving a balance? Sustainability and how to achieve it was another topic of discussion. Will technology solve these problems or do we need a more nuanced approach? The flame that drew this moth to the fire was ultra-processed food. Is homemade mayo healthier than the processed product? Is the association between ultra-processed food and poor health outcomes real? OR is it a case of Random Chance?

Milestones. 2020 was the fifth calendar year of the blog. The 200th post appeared in July. The site attracted almost as many views in 2020 as it did the previous four years combined.

At the end of last year, I resolved to be less combative as I continue to defend processed food. I was successful to a point, but I still need to curb my combative behavior. This coming year

I resolve to stop referring to chemicals in food.  

I attribute this year’s resolution to George Zaidan as proposed in Ingredients. Nobody pays attention to someone who talks about chemicals in a positive context. When I write about “chemicals,” I will refer to them as “molecules” which is a much less negative term.

I will also try to be more sympathetic to other points of view.

That resolution will be harder to follow. Not sure if you noticed, but I have worked on my writing style. I use fewer passive verbs and sorter, more straight-forward sentences. Any comments, positive or negative?

Best books reviewed in 2020. The most provocative one was Feeding the Other about the downside of food pantries. The most influential book for me was Ingredients. It put a whole new spin on ultra-processed foods. The Book of the Year had to be Molecules, Microbes, and Meals which gets to the heart of what food science is all about!

Books to be reviewed next year include:

                                               

Top Ten posts viewed in 2020

  1. Veganism: The Good the Bad and the Ugly by Erica Kenney
  2. Challenges in handling perishable foods in small stores that sell food on the side
  3. Fast food and its effect on regional cuisines
  4. Are we eating real food or edible food-like substances?
  5. How Big Food hides undesirable chemicals in its clean labels
  6. My personal experience with Hello Fresh
  7. Who are the best dietary advisors: doctors or dietitians?
  8. Why are foods processed? Extending shelf life
  9. Food deserts, food swamps, food apartheid, grocery gaps and other names for food maldistribution
  10. In Praise of Processed Foods-CoVID-19 by Julie Jones
HF ten
Mostly processed ingredients from a Hello Fresh meal kit

Biggest surprise? Only three of the Top Ten posts were published this year (veganism, dietary advisors, and praise of processed foods). Many of the others were ones that had few views when posted but developed a following this year. Thanks to all the guest bloggers this year who help round out my perspective on these important themes. Thanks also to commenters who either challenged or supported my viewpoints. On to 2021.

Next week: KitchenWise: Essential Food Science for Home Cooks

4 thoughts on “Remembering 2020; Looking ahead to 2021

  1. Congratulations on this years numbers. I’ve only been following the blog now for a year but I’ve found the information to be good and the opinions expressed to be diverse. Having strong opinions makes for good discussions, discussions which are missing from other more protective sites where only agreement is permitted. So I say thank you for creating a fertile environment for the exchange of ideas and opinions. As for that lovely plate of roasted chicken referenced in the previous reply, it’s not surprising that boeuf bourguignon comes to mind. Both Le Coq Rico and it’s chef come out of classic French cuisine. The meal was delicious and that plate of roast chicken was perfectly prepared and presented.

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    1. Thank you Linn. Your comments and contributions to the site have been appreciated. I should mention that the plate of roasted chicken ,which you supplied, was the Photo of the Year for my blog. Here’s wishing all of my readers a very Happy New Year.

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  2. Well, I was really optimistic about 2021, but may not be what I wanted it to be. I was really optimistic about Hadestown coming to Charlotte due to coming in October, but got postponed. However, there might be a chance to see the show in Greenville- close enough to Charlotte and I love the Peace Center.

    That first food picture reminds me of Beouf Beourgenion (French Pot Roast)

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