A lot happened in 2015: The world met Caitlyn Jenner, learned processed meat causes cancer, watched America legalize gay marriage, saw Jon Snow maybe die, and even managed to come to an agreement on climate change at the very end.
But not all moments can be momentous cultural milestones. In 2015 we saw thousands of smaller stories sandwich themselves between these historical headlines, and a lot of these stories were, fittingly, about food. From new inventions like caffeinated peanut butter and chocolate slices, to new-to-us concepts like eating bugs, and strange food-preparation methods like making soup in a Keurig and eating at a restaurant without human workers, the foods of 2015 felt like they came straight out of the future.
From the crazy (24-karat gold Kit Kats) to the depressing (Salmonella at Chipotle) to the completely bizarre (FATwater) in 2015, it can’t help but feel like we saw it all. Maybe all this food news means we can come away from the year with a heightened sense of awareness about our food supply, or maybe it just means, as a culture, we have finally taken our food obsession too far. But whatever we decide to take away from this year’s food inventions, let us not forget the highs and lows that brought us here, to the end of the journey of our crazy edible year.
Caffeinated peanut butter
Coffee and peanut butter are, to me, two good things that do not need fixing. Yet caffeinated peanut butter, otherwise known as STEEM, is doing just that. The food fusion aims at “providing a consistent release of sustained energy” through the naturally slow digestion of peanut butter. STEEM’s mission is to free you from the humanly distractions of hunger and fatigue in one convenient jar. And a lot of people got very excited about this when STEEM first came out, because apparently we have become too busy to be expected to drink coffee and eat breakfast at the same time. The whole sentiment seems kind of depressing, like we are eventually going to get to a place where we stop enjoying food entirely and sustain ourselves off grey scientific nutrient paste. Wait, that already happened last year…
These are really amazing and it’s hard to believe it took us this long to figure it out. And unlike chocolate spreads, you don’t even need to dirty a knife. Chocolate slices make you realize that anything really is possible, all while wondering what other foods we’re missing out on by not slicing… Anyone?
Activated Charcoal Juice
While 2015 saw no shortage of cold-pressed juiceries, this year we saw liquid bottles of inky black activated charcoal slowly start to replace 2014’s vision of quintessential health: the green juice. Activated charcoal has been traditionally used in medicine to treat poisonings due to its ability to prevent the absorption of chemicals inside the body. Today the juice world touts activated charcoal as the latest answer in our never-ending quest to rid the body of those pesky every day toxins that we seem unable to escape… until now?
Hangover curing salami
Serious Pig, a London-based craft meat business introduced the world to its first hangover curing salami this year. The salami allegedly works as a preventative measure and is supposed to be eaten while you’re still drinking. It boasts ginger and chili to combat the two common hangover symptoms of nausea and fatigue, and is appropriately called Hangover Cured. Ginger is known to help with nausea, and chilli is an endorphin booster, meaning that while there is no scientific evidence to Hangover Cured, eating some when you’ve had one too many could make you feel a little better in the morning.
Otherwise known as “the protein of the future,” TIME Magazine called eating bugs a food trend of 2015, and they weren’t wrong. While in 2014 we heard a lot of talk of eating bugs, the discussions were mostly centered around how gross and unrealistic the eating bugs would be. But in 2015, as we begun to better understand the meat industry’s impact on the environment, we watched bugs mature into a serious, sustainable food option. Gourmet bug recipe books and inventions like cricket flour and cricket chips helped some move past the creepy crawly factor, and we realized over two billion people around the world already consider bugs a dietary staple.
Want a milkshake as big as your head and absolutely stuffed with all kinds of sweet goodies? I mean, who doesn’t. That’s why a tiny cafe in Australia called Patissez went crazy viral with pictures of their fully wonderful, if a tad over-the-top, milkshake creations. I mean, look at them!
Chef Dan Barber’s family farm in the Berkshires Blue Hill Farms, which supplies produce for Chef Barber’s famous farm-to table restaurants in New York City and Pocantico Hills, New York, brought savoury yogurt to our attention in 2015. Available in seasonal flavors like butternut squash, carrot, tomato, and beet, Blue Hill Farm’s savory yogurts turned Americans onto the idea that yogurt doesn’t have to be sweet. Chef Dan Barber is a long-time food environmentalist pioneer, and author of The Third Plate where he also argues eating less meat could help the environment. It seems Barber has his fingerprints all over the food trends of 2015.
24-karat gold Kit Kats
Nestle Japan’s Kit Kat Chocolatory sold its 1 millionth chocolate bar this year and released edible gold-plated Kit Kats to celebrate, giving us a real life Wonka experience.
Burger King’s black burger
Burger King’s infamous black burger, which originally launched in Japan, came to America this year just in time for Halloween. The charcoal burger was an intriguing mix of terrifying and exciting until we found out the dye used to turn the bun black caused people who ate the burger to poop green. Then it was just terrifying.
You can now make chicken noodle soup in your coffee-making Keurig machine and I’m not sure we will ever recover from this. After the world realized how horrible Keurig’s K-cups are for the environment, the company had a horrible year sales-wise, eventually leading it to partner with Campbell’s in hopes of boosting sales by revitalizing their brand to include soup. Campbell’s marketing director Michael Goodman declared the innovation a “winning idea.” Time will tell if the people agree.
FATwater is a 20 calories water beverage with two grams of medium chain triglyceride fat derived from coconut oil per serving. It was invented by the founder of Bulletproof Coffee, you know, the trend that has everyone adding butter and oil to their coffee in hopes of losing weight? FATwater bills itself as a type of sports drinks. But instead of the immediate energy boost you get from other sugary sports drinks, FATwater aims at providing sustainable energy that doesn’t cause you to crash, claiming to also be “more hydrating” than regular water. But some researchers have disagreed with FATwater’s claims, stating that the type of fat in FATwater doesn’t actually give drinkers any energy at all, and that water hydrates the body on its own just fine. That’s a relief, because at $35.95 for a 12-pack, switching to FATwater won’t come cheap.
While self-serve kiosks have been slowly creeping into fast food restaurants for a while, 2015 saw an entirely different type of service: no human workers. Restaurants with no visible human help are called automats, and began popping up in America in 2015. San Francisco saw its first automat in the form of Eatsa, a healthy fast-food eatery with no cashiers or wait staff, requiring customers to place orders on tablets and receive their food at self-serve cubbies. Some claimed the rise of automats is linked to the pressure to increase fast-food worker’s wages, but companies like McDonalds and Panera, who are starting to implement self-serve kiosks of their own, denied the two are related, claiming the new digitized workforce will allow them to have a bigger workforce in the kitchen. But some have prophesized that robots will soon be able to assemble food orders themselves. Either way, one thing is clear: the future is most certainly now.
[Images courtesy Burger King, Hershey’s, and Patissez]