My Gal Pal Val Hooks Cooks To Her Columns Separating Fads From Food Flair

Author of two cookbooks, Valerie Hart abides in Mount Dora with her hale, happy hubby Buddy, has a weekly TV show, "The Back of the House" and enticingly fills weekly pages in The Daily Commercial with ardently researched food columns.

Here is "Food Fads of the Past and Present"...

"Have you crunched on chocolate-covered ants or grasshopper tacos yet? They're the latest fad! Some environmentalists declare they are the food of the future to dispel world hunger. Others say they are just a disgusting ploy for attention.

Merriam-Webster defines "fad" as a practice or interest followed for a time with exaggerated zeal. We latch onto fads in fashion, pop culture, technology, and yes, in food. Every year there's
a new "it" food. Suddenly, every restaurant is featuring the latest craze, from flavored foam to sun-dried tomatoes or shrimp martinis
.They come and go like a flash storm before drying up into obscurity. Food fads are not an invention of modern society. They might have begun as a result of World War II when meat was rationed. A whole generation grew up after the war believing that canned spam was an essential in their homes. We ate it baked, studded with cloves and covered with sweet and spicy sauces.

We fried it with eggs, placed it between two pieces of white bread with Miracle Whip for school lunches and even chopped it into spaghetti.

Remember the first TV dinners -- not those fancy ones with prismatic pictures of pasta primavera and healthy choices but the little aluminum trays of the 1950s modeled after the dinners served on airplanes. We peeled back the foil to reveal one compartment of steaming hot turkey or Salisbury steak, another with mashed potatoes, a third with corn and the prized fourth containing a few bites of real cherry cobbler.

And say a prayer for Twinkie, an American icon born of Hostess cupcakes during the Depression. While Hostess struggles through bankruptcy because of labor disputes, loyal followers are stocking up at any price.

What if Krispy Kreme is next? The secret recipe from New Orleans swept America in 1937. These sugar-filled yeast circles with the
hole in the middle are as American as apple pie, just like Irving Berlin's"God Bless America."

My mother's generation served Jell-O molds at every occasion. Lime Jell-O mixed with sour cream and crushed pineapple was a staple at every luncheon, as was raspberry loaded with canned peaches, Bing cherries and walnut pieces. The favorite gourmet fad was the unflavored gelatin mold "salad" which during the 1950s could serve as a complete luncheon or dinner party all by itself.

Congealed with chopped celery, pimento olives, cheese, cucumbers and even canned tuna or chicken, the more vegetables piled into the mold the greater the compliments for the hostess.

The '50s also discovered the merits of Cheez Whiz. This thick sauce in a jar embellished everything from baked potatoes and macaroni to apple pie. Then there was Kool-Aid. It was served at every birthday party. I once dyed a blouse blue with it.

How can we forget the cast aluminum pressure cooker craze of the '60s? You had to have one. I tried it once. Luckily I was in the other room when the top blew off and the gravy hit the ceiling.

Remember drinking disgusting Cold Duck and sangria made from horrific wine? Wow, what a headache! Remember that drop-dead cake made with eight Milky Way candy bars? And you had to sit in front of a mirror while eating to watch your dimensions expand.

We brides of the '60s became instant gourmet cooks, thanks to Campbell's cream soups. Our adventures started with cream of mushroom for tuna noodle casseroles, moved upward to add cream of celery to make chicken tetrazzini, demanded attention by adding peas, fresh mushrooms and Parmesan or chopped cheddar, and created a signature for ourselves with the infusion of sherry or wine. We also "doctored up" canned pea soup with sliced hot dogs. We were marvelous!

My father's generation of the late 1920s and early '30s drank bootleg gin and swallowed whole live goldfish to prove their manliness.
There was a resurgence of the goldfish fad in the '60s at the same time students were betting how many people could be packed into a Volkswagen.

During the early '60s, every cocktail party included dips of one sort or another. The favorite was called "California Dip", so named because it originated in that state. A packet of dried Lipton's onion soup mixed with a 16-ounce container of sour cream surrounded by potato chips was a "must."

Dinner that followed was Pittsburgh's famous ham barbecue: The secret of this chopped ham in a bun was Isaly's barbecue sauce. The "secret" turned out to be Heinz ketchup.

During the '70s, we embraced more sophisticated food fads. Lipton was replaced with canned crab meat mixed into Philadelphia
cream cheese and heated in the oven to serve with Ritz crackers. This led to baked brie and Chinese pea pods stuffed with a mixture of cream cheese and Roquefort, followed by fondues bubbling with cheese to dip bread or smoking oil to cook your own meat while drinking an inordinate amount of wine to wash it down. And, once the pot was empty, another appeared filled with chocolate to dip fruit.

Then the '80s flipped us into reverse gear. Fat was out. Fiber was in. Oats and bran shouted at us from the grocery shelves -- from muffins to cookies to frozen foods, everything was enriched to lower our cholesterol. Perhaps because there was something slightly gross about buying products labeled "fiber," oats and bran have become "whole grain." The same rose with a more appealing name.

Can you guess our latest food fad? Bacon!That's right. As our obsession with health reaches an absurd pinnacle, bacon, the worst possible choice of any food, has become the new darling of restaurants, fast food chains, the Internet and TV commercials. Everyone who follows the newest "in" trends is serving candied bacon during cocktail hour.

Possibly the worst food fads have centered on America's obsession with instant diets that failed to work and often led to serious health problems. But, that's a whole column in itself.
Dr. Atkins is dead and, thankfully, so is the grapefruit and cabbage diet along with a list of others too ridiculous to mention.

Pass the chocolate ants, please."