Five Popular Working-Class Foodstuffs That'll Never Become Hipster Trends or Foodie Fads
Betcha there'll never be a tamale pie truck...
Cupcakes are on their way out, pies are supposedly in--but it seems Orange County's going to go through a Summer of Doughnut. M & M Donuts in Anaheim has hundreds of Yelp reviews (!), all over a simple blueberry doughnut, a fried thing studded with them, glazed lightly--good, but hardly worth the Kogi-like hype. And all over doughnuts, long the domain of early birds, office meetings and church groups? Gypsy Den just debuted a maple-glazed cinnamon roll (better than M & M's blueberry god, but still nowhere near the fried perfection that is a cinnamon roll at Jax Donut House in Anaheim), and I expect more places to gourmet the treat soon, especially as it's supposed to be National Donut Day soon.
Anyhoo, the current hipness of doughnuts reminded me there are some dishes that simply can't become trends, mostly because their main demographic are the working class of the working class: elderly, minority or retrograde.
1. Jell-O Salad
Jell-O's only progression in food trends is down. High schoolers long ago created Jell-O poppers to get drunk, and while I have nothing against Mormons, save for their Proposition 8 meddling, you know something's goofy about a group that embraces this Space Age relic so enthusiastically.
2. Egg Foo Young
Chinese food, of course, is the country's third-most popular ethnic cuisine after Italian and Mexican, but most chefs, whether working in luxe loncheras or restaurants, understandably concentrate on regional Chinese treats if they want to put a spin on it. Ignored is the Chinese-American cuisine that rule the United States: pupu platters, crab Rangoon, but especially egg foo young, the mushy concoction of egg, gravy, meat and veggies. In fact, the only region that bothers with modifying egg foo young is St. Louis, where the St. Paul sandwich (egg foo young in sandwich form!) has delighted city residents for decades--and perplexed everyone else.
3. Tamale Pie
The only gourmet tamale pie you'll ever see...
Only people of a certain age even know what a tamale pie is, but that certain age loved them. It's really just a casserole prepared with cornmeal, meat, some veggies and chili powder, an imitation of what American housewives thought tamales tasted like, created in the 1920s in Southern California (if not earlier) and replicated across the country for decades afterward. Tamale pie is no longer necessary now that masa is readily available, and the only chefs crazy enough to try and upgrade it were the folks at Avanti, who created a killer vegan tamale pie and got hell for it.
Hipsters have already reclaimed ugly Christmas sweaters, the beanie, coffee, scarfs, mittens and nearly everything else from our holiday seasons. What about fruitcake? Exactly.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Orange County dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.