“Food is not rational. Food is culture, habit, craving and identity.”
– Jonathan Safran Foer
Have you ever met someone who “just wasn’t really into food”? I have, and I’m still confused about where they find their joy. Homemade family classics, a nostalgic fast food item, or a Michelin Star meal are all equal in my eyes if they make you celebrate how lucky you are to have taste buds. Celebrate National Food Day by educating yourself on food people obsessed over in each decade…chances are you will recognize a few!
This traditional German and Scandinavian staple has been around since the 5th century, but gained popularity during the Great Depression in America. Cooks were able to extend the limited supply of protein available so that more people could be fed with less meat.
Unconventional Diner Meatloaf – Sriracha glaze, mashed potato, morel gravy
Spam (spiced ham) was first produced in 1937 and has been a subject of scrutiny ever since. However, this canned meat served as a crucial item overseas when it was included in Red Cross distributions sent to Allied POWs in Germany during World War II.
Coconut Club Spam Fried Rice – Soft egg, crispy shallot, furikak
1953: Deviled Eggs
The most time consuming, yet delicious cocktail party snack still to this day. Today there are many variations with even celebrities putting their spin on this iconic 1950’s trendy bite.
1964: Pineapple Upside Down Cake
The pineapple was all the rage of the 1960s. It topped ham, was molded into gelatin, and baked into cakes like this classic, post-dinner party treat. It is saturated with butter and pineapple juice (and sometimes rum), and who can resist the big reveal when flipped?
Nowadays, people mock the delicious treat that is fondue. But why argue with the retro, communal meal of melted cheese and wine dip? In the free-spirited ’70s, the idea of breaking away from the traditional dinner table setting was celebrated in a big way. In modern times, The Melting Pot has a fantastic happy hour, and I’m not ashamed to admit I secretly miss it.
The Melting Pot Bacon Cheddar Bourbon – Aged cheddar, emmenthaler, lager beer, bacon, dry mustard, garlic, Worcestershire, bourbon
1982: Sloppy Joes
Along with prepackaged meals like Hamburger Helper and Chef Boyardee, Sloppy Joes also became popular in the 1980s. Meaty, messy, and convenient with only a few ingredients, this became a family favorite almost as fast as it took to whip up in the kitchen.
Ted’s Bulletin Sloppy Joe – Potato bun, coleslaw, hand-cut fries
1991: Chinese Chicken Salad
In the early 90s, TIME called Cal-Asian cuisine the new food trend, and this salad featuring noodles, cabbage, and edamame with an Asian-inspired dressing was its front-runner. We all felt fancy yet healthy when ordering this entrée salad at our favorite fusion restaurant on a Friday night.
Sex and the City can take responsibility for this movement when viewers fell in love with Magnolia Bakery in Manhattan’s West Village. Soon cupcake shops began popping up all over the country, and lines stretched around the block.
2011: Avocado on everything (bonus for adding Sriracha)
Avocado and Sriracha have been around forever, but suddenly the youths decided to make this the new hotness. Avocado is the healthy fat we need, and if you top that off with a squirt of the red rooster sauce, you have yourself an Instagram-worthy food prop.
Duke’s Grocery Avocado Toast – Avocado, brekkie radish, runny egg, red chili, rocket sauce, on multigrain
And in case you wondered what the Hungry Lobbyist team is obsessed with currently, below are our top picks for our “last meal”
Hungry Lobbyist – Hot Tiger from Lucky Buns, a burger from Le Dip, hot soft shell crab from The Salt Line, spicy larb ped from Beau Thai, smoked whitefish from Convivial, lobster ravioli from Fiola, wings from Clyde’s (double-dipped obvi), and a massive slice of carrot cake from St Anslem.
Hailie D – Grandfather’s pork chile verde or homemade caesar dressing, Crunchwrap Supreme from Taco Bell with a side of jalapeno sauce, champagne chicken, zwiebach, anything from Taco Bravo in San Jose, a Costco hotdog with mustard and raw onions from the onion crank, Swachos from American Ice Company, wings from Nite Owl in Omaha, and the charcuterie board from Le Gabin in Paris.
Hangry Michelle – Pork and kimchi dumplings from Chiko, wood-fired wings from Comet Ping Pong, Mixed Grill (skewers of shrimp, pork, and beef on rice noodles with nuoc cham sauce), and crispy spring rolls from Nam Viet.
Elby H – Easy. A Maryland crab cake from Mama’s on the Half Shell, a side of boardwalk fries doused in Old Bay, and a cheese pupusa. I would couple that with an Orange Crush (another Maryland staple consisting of orange juice, vodka, triple sec, and lemon-lime soda).
Meghan M – Mine would probably be the Dirty Bird from Lucky Buns with a Spice Bag on the side. Or the spicy tuna roll from Hando Medo. And the chicken dripping rice at Bantam King.
Francessa P – Pad Thai and Chicken Satay from Beau Thai. SO delicious and the best comfort meal in DC, in my opinion. I could eat it every single day.
Shelbi S – Saag Chicken from Indigo, Pork Bao from Maketto, chili Scallops at Tail Up Goat, finished with coffee at Kinship that comes with the brittle to break into it with a metal hammer.
Andie H – Thip Khao’s Chuenh Taohu (crispy tofu) and crispy sesame beef jerky.
David H – Maketto fried chicken & crispy gruyere dumplings, Fiola lobster dumplings, Indigo butter chicken, Rasika palak chaat, Red hen mezze rigatoni, Roses Luxury cacio y pepe (bonus points for truffles), Bresca duck press, Masseria foienoli for dessert.
Gabrielle F – Duck Confit from Kyirisan, Lobster French Toast from Kinship, Mezze rigatoni from Red Hen, and a shot glass of mumbo sauce.
Raquel B – Meal: Fried chicken from Makketo, Foie Gras Cake Pop from Bresca, Whole Roast Duck from Spoken English, Chicken Shawarma from Muncheez, Palak Chaat from Rasika, Green Monster with Pepperoni from Timber. Drinks: Red Beard from Cotton and Reed, Lado Oscuro de la Luna from Serenata, Aperol Spritz from Osteria Morini.
Sumayya T – My mom’s butternut squash soup, burger, and mac-n-cheese from Dukes, sweet potato fries, oxtail from Kith and Kin, and a Good Stuff Eatery milkshake.
Ally L – Truffle risotto from RPM! They shave fresh truffles on your plate tableside, and it is the perfect pasta for any meal of the day.