If you thought eating wasn't a spectator sport, it's time to revise your Instagram follow list. Gone are the days when it was enough that food tasted good and was reasonably well presented. Once we started taking pictures of our meals and posting them on social media, we needed to up the ante — big time. And so the trend for ever more elaborate and "oh no they didn't!" foods began, and continues to expand with every new crazy mashup, daredevil ingredient, colour trend, and milkshake piled so high that we don't know whether to grab a straw or climbing gear (probably both). The crazy food trend is here to stay, and we are here for every last bite. Let's dig in.
While entomophagy (the practice of humans eating insects for food) is hardly new, it has gained traction in the west recently as a sustainable alternative to more traditional forms of protein. Insects are generally high in healthy fats, iron, and calcium, and nothing says "doing it for the 'gram" like putting a giant cockroach in your mouth.
Eating bugs has been normal for centuries in places like East Asia, Africa, and even way back to ancient Greece and Rome, so ALL were way ahead of your adventurous traveller friend. Even if you aren't quite ready to put crickets, larvae, or locusts on your personal menu, it's been hard to miss them on Instagram. Hashtags like #edibleinsects, #cricketprotein, and #bugfood have bewitched both crusaders for eco-protein and those of us who aren't quite ready to go there, but are fascinated all the same. If converts are to be believed, insects are delicious, as crunchy as you think (ew), sustainable, and, well, the future. Chicken tacos are so passé.
Once upon a time, adding sprinkles to your milkshake felt decadent, but today, it's all about the freakshake. Dairy's answer to the loaded bloody mary owes its (now) worldwide fame to Instagram — which took the trend from one cafe in Canberra, Australia, to New York — and just about everywhere else by the Summer of 2015.
While the freakshake's only limit is the maker's imagination, it's typically an ice cream milkshake topped with several inches of double cream, then however many toppings you can handle, from sponge cakes, doughnuts, and waffles to marshmallows, sauce, and even savoury additions like bacon. And if you're really obsessed with adding them to your 'gram, you could even plan a trip around them. Unless your next trip is to a health retreat, we recommend making it short: according to its inventors, even the most basic freakshake clocks in at a minimum of 1,500 calories!
Given that rainbows are nature's way of making us happy, it only follows that the rainbow food trend has completely taken over, and shows no signs of stopping. If you can eat it, somebody somewhere has turned it into a rainbow, and has the Instagram shares to prove it. From bagels and grilled cheese to coffee, virtually every food has been given a pop of colour.
Like all food trends, the rainbow burger's origin story depends on whom you ask, but London, Valencia, and New York make a strong case. The latter's now-shuttered Joe's Bar created its first rainbow burger for Burger Week in May 2016. Of course, in social media, every food trend has a rapidly rising polar opposite. If you're over rainbows, perhaps it's time to move on to food that takes it to the dark side and even integrates charcoal. Now that's what we call balance.
CREATE YOUR FOOD STORY
Ready to start your own viral food trend? Follow #crazyfood here for real-time updates on the hashtag in your feed — and remember to tag your own examples! Next time some crazy food is about to go viral, you'll have been there and eaten that.
Credits: Illustrations: Iris Gottlieb; Design: Diana Weisman