We asked Allison Carruth, an author and assistant professor of English and affiliate of the Institute of Environment and Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles, about what we’ll be eating in 2050.
Allison Carruth: While fusion cuisine seems to be on the decline, the “locavore” eatery is still going strong. But another culinary movement has been percolating in California: underground restaurants and food trucks that fuse not only different ethnic cuisines but also the high tech and the homemade, or molecular gastronomy and comfort food. With LA as an epicenter for this movement, one direction California cuisine may take in the future is away from the sit-down restaurant and toward the culinary “happening.” At the same time, I anticipate a renaissance of natural foods and vegetarian cuisine that, with cold-pressed juice as a current (if expensive) beacon, would counter the increasingly meat-centered menus at many farm-to-table restaurants.
Boom: What kinds of questions should Californians interested in ethical food consumption be asking?
Carruth: We need to get beyond labels like “local” and “organic” and instead compare the upsides and downsides of different forms of farming and food sourcing. What are the climate impacts of grain-fed versus pasture-raised livestock and of meat production versus legume farming? What are a restaurant’s or farm’s labor conditions? What are the ranges of crops that a farm (or region) can grow in ways that mesh with soil, water, and energy constraints? What foods make the most sense to import, and how can communities build reciprocal rather than exploitative trade relationships with other food-producing regions around the world? In the decades ahead, I hope that the criteria for food sourcing and the metrics for incentivizing different agricultural and culinary practices include an attention to labor conditions and climate impacts.
Boom: How to you think American family food rituals will change in the future?
Carruth: What we eat has a lot to do with how we cook. I could imagine one scenario in which middle-class families rehydrate food vials that deliver calories, nutrients, and pleasurable tastes with no cooking required and then reallocate the time they would have spent cooking and eating to new shared rituals of media production (rather than TV consumption). While sipping liquid meats and salads, the family hour each evening might include designing custom video games and producing multimedia home movies. And yet, I also can imagine a very different scenario (or perhaps type of family), in which home gardening and cooking from scratch are more rather than less valued for reasons at once emotional (a means to “unplug”) and practical (a low-cost alternative to food sources whose prices grow exponentially with climate change and the reduction of arable farmland).
Boom: What would you put on the menu at a Boom dinner party in 2050?
- Rooftop-dried, dry-farmed tomatoes with rosemary
- Microgreen* salad with lemon, goat cheese, and rock salt
- Farmed red snapper* over lentil mousse
- Slow smoked, city-grazed goat shank with red wine reduction and in vitro guanciale
- Wild berries with sugar-dusted crickets
* Note the snapper and microgreens are produced together in a state-of-the-art aquaculture farm in Golden Gate Park.
Boom: What would you include in a time capsule for 2050?
Carruth: Menus from some favorite San Francisco restaurants; photographs of Point Reyes National Seashore; a fully-charged MP3 player with the recordings of Allen Ginsberg reading “A Supermarket in California” in Berkeley; a bunch of dried California sage; Green + Black chocolate wrappers; a wine cork.
Photo at top courtesy of haglundc.