Food Culture Trends

Chef Marissa slices handmade, gluten-free pizzas as they are pulled from the brick ovens at La Locanda in Italy.

My recent trip to Umbria, Italy’s bread basket, taught me a lesson: some food trends are universal. Gluten-free is one example. Europeans are adapting their culinary traditions to accommodate gluten intolerance. Pasta and pizza innovations abound.

During my stay in Orvieto, I picked up pizza-making tips from one of the chefs at La Locanda, an organic farm-to-table retreat house. I learned the basics of how to make a gluten-free pizza dough scrumptious enough to fool even Mario Batali.

Many nutritionists believe that the gluten-free phenomenon has been caused by a lack of grain diversity in food production. Enter farro. This nutty, complex ancient grain is produced in Umbria. At one time, farro was a staple in European cooking.

Farro is heading for a renaissance. The confluence of anti-carb dieting and gluten intolerance has generated pent up hunger for healthy fiber.

As this trending analysis from the Hartman Group (pdf) points out, brown rice is trending out, farro is trending in.

Takeaway: Cultural forces shape demand for certain kinds of food. Ancient grains and old-time processes offer drama AND utility for consumers. Look for a renaissance in old-world staples like farro. Food ingredients that are rare make consumers feel special, and if they help consumers overcome their food issues, it’s a triumph.

All photos taken by Patricia Martin, 2012