Was last night’s supper cooked in a microwave or Crock-Pot?
Then you’re part of a growing number of North Americans switching from the oven to small appliances to prepare meals.
Do you eat at home most of the time? Contrary to popular thinking, Canadians continue to prepare and consume most of their meals at home.
Is dinner most nights a meat, vegetable and potatoes, or some other familiar dish?
That might show your age.
Food trends trackers say these kind of meals are becoming almost exclusively the fare of the 45-and-older crowd.
“If you’re over 45 or 50 you are among the last generation raised on classic European cooking,” said Elizabeth Sloan during a presentation at last week’s Canadian Institute of Food Science and Technology in Winnipeg.
Sloan is the trends editor for Food Technology magazine www.ift.organd former editor-in-chief of McCall’s magazine, the oldest women’s magazine in the U. S.
In a data-packed half-hour session, Sloan spoke of shifting demographics, changing habits and preferences of cooks and eaters, and emerging new markets for foods and food ingredients.
According to Sloan, the family meal eaten at home, both in Canada and the U. S. is here to stay. Data gleaned from NDP Eating Patterns in Canada and other trends-watch surveys show Canadians are cooking at home in numbers not seen since the mid-1980s, with about two-thirds of all meals prepared and consumed at home.
Some call it buckling down in an uncertain economy. Sloan disagrees.
“People think as soon as the economy comes back this is going to change,” she said. “I do not believe that.
“This has been going on for five years so it’s not just the economy. It’s about being able to spend more time at home, relaxing with your friends, watching the Food Channel and trying to experiment with cooking.”
Studies show meals prepared at home are healthier and that family life benefits from meals eaten more often at home.
As a result, sales of skillets, woks, and Panini makers are rising, and families are dusting off their bread machines and slow cookers, Sloan said.
That said, many Canadians and Americans are also evidently lacking in cooking skills, such as ability to understand the basic steps of recipes or cooking terms. That may explain the reliance on appliances to basically heat up prepared foods. The percentage of main meals using a microwave, for example, is at an all-time high in 25 years.
Another trend is expanding interest in regional cuisine.
“One of the most exciting trends in the culinary world right now is the whole idea of discovering your own country,” Sloan said, adding that it’s a trend Canadian producers can definitely benefit from, if they’re proactive about telling their story.
The public has never been more keen, receptive and interested in knowing where food comes from, she said. “It’s amazing what interest they have in it. The more you tell them the more they warm up to you, and the more they’ll continue to buy your product. You develop a brand loyalty by doing that.”
Moreover, Canada has a reputation to uphold – and cash in on, she said.
“I think that uniquely Canadian (food) can be one of the hottest categories in the world,” she said. “You are perceived as having the healthiest and safest food in the world.”