In many ways, we are all learning to do things over again in this “new” world, and the holidays are no exception. If last year was a Zoom Thanksgiving, what will things be like this year as people meet in person again?
To get a glimpse of what lies ahead for Thanksgiving 2021, I chatted with Kara Nielsen, director of food and beverage for WGSN, a global authority on consumer and design trends. Her job is to spot and predict trends in the food world, and she certainly had a lot to share.
Overall, last year was more about survival, Nielsen told the Courier Journal, and this year, as we go back to what we’ll call normal (I guess?), It’s more about comfort – and that certainly means comfort food.
So what are the top trends to look forward to at Thanksgiving this year? Here are five things you might see:
How to make a charcuterie board for Thanksgiving
Charcuterie boards have become a holistic approach to food presentation. A trend that was boiling before COVID-19, says Nielsen, boards of directors were thwarted by the pandemic when we weren’t serving exactly a dozen people at a time.
“It’s a suspended trend that is picking up again,” she says. So what does this mean for Thanksgiving this year? Nielsen says we could see everything from appetizer boards to dessert boards as people have fun with beautiful holiday presentations.
What is behind the trend? Nielsen only had one word: Instagram. The boards are undeniably candy for the camera. And they’re an accessible option for anyone who wants to get a little fancy.
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“Not everyone is an extraordinary pastry chef,” says Nielsen. “Everyone’s turkey isn’t magazine-worthy, but these boards look pretty good! “
There are also a ton of local places that do custom charcuterie boards, so if you’re unsure of your own plating skills, be sure to check out places like Board & You, Harvey’s Cheese, Cultured and Moreover.
Order a Thanksgiving meal to go
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way restaurants work and the way we think about meals. A Thanksgiving take-out “is run by restaurants and food outlets that have become really expert at delivery menus during COVID-19,” Nielsen said. “We, as consumers, are excited about more types of home restaurant food. “
There have always been people looking for packaged holiday meals at the supermarket, she says. And ‘now that we practice this [takeout] behavior for so many months, ”it will come naturally, especially for people who may not be ready to cook the whole meal themselves, to bring some of that expertise to the holiday table.
It also means that more people can explore the dining options at restaurants in the Louisville area as well. This year, over 20 Louisville restaurants and grocery stores are serving in-place or take-out meals for Thanksgiving, including places like Anoosh Bistro, Churchill Downs, Cracker Barrel, Fork & Barrel, Joe Huber’s Family Farm and Restaurant , Proof on Principal and more. So explore all of your options before making a decision about your holiday feast.
Plan gluten-free and vegetarian guests for Thanksgiving
The days of a large plate of turkey with a few side dishes relying heavily on meat, gravy and traditional stuffing may also be behind us. With the growing popularity of plant-based foods, we can expect to see meals with something for everyone, Nielsen says, whether it’s vegan options, gluten-free, or other dietary restrictions.
“Everyone feels entitled to have the food that is right for them,” she says, and meal alternatives have really gained momentum; it’s not just Tofurkey anymore. Hosts want to make sure everyone has something that interests them, and not only do plant-based dishes offer more options, but they can also “show off the delicious vegetables and seasonal foods”.
Keep in mind that making a gluten-free or vegetarian meal doesn’t have to be stressful or difficult. Often times, you can substitute cow’s milk for oat milk in recipes, and vegan butter can be substituted for regular butter.
In addition, you can also rely on vegetable broths and gluten-free bread for your stuffing and gravy dishes.
Whatever you decide, try something new this Thanksgiving that will appeal to everyone, says Nielsen, even the smallest eater.
Apples are the trend for holiday drinks, desserts
What about the drinks? Apples aren’t just for pie anymore, and it’s here to a large extent, Nielsen says, along with pear, when it comes to alcoholic and non-alcoholic holiday drinks. The apple pops up everywhere, from spiked seltzer to beer and cocktails, and the pear also makes a strong impression. They make sense seasonally; how cool does a whiskey cocktail with a spicy pear syrup sound in november?
Speaking of whiskey, another growing trend is for fancy holiday treats with whiskey flavor profiles. Think maple syrup flavored with bourbon, for example, or bourbon in jam or pie.
Showcase regional and native foods at Thanksgiving
Societal changes are also leading us to revisit the Thanksgiving tradition, says Nielsen, “with a new perspective of respecting Native Americans and Native American tradition … also, as part of that, recognizing their contributions to the table and also [recognizing] the contributions of black cooks to the American table and to the holiday table.
Nielsen went on to say that “a lot of people are reconsidering our food culture in America and looking beyond some of the lessons we have been taught or the myths of the table.”
And it’s not just for vacation. “All year, [people are] really looking at ‘where does this food come from, can I dig a little deeper, where should the credit be, and how can I be inspired by it?’ “
November is Native American Heritage Month, “so I think people will read about it… there are new recipes, new cookbooks, new chefs, and it will make some people think a little more and maybe – be looking for new inspiration.
Looking at local foods can be one of the results of this process, she says. And supply chain disruptions can also cause many diners to look to buy more ingredients locally, so we might see more heritage turkeys and even fodder ingredients on tables this year.
If you’re looking for a farm-to-table turkey, try Dutch Creek Farms, Groce Family Farm, or Skinner Farms, all of which raise turkeys for Thanksgiving. Plus, there are still winter farmers’ markets in the area where you might be able to find local produce perfect for your holiday table.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Contact Dana McMahan at [email protected] and follow @bourbonbarbarella on Instagram.