How cooking has changed since the 1980s

raspberry mousseIn keeping with Jenny's Friday Flashback theme, today we are going to step into the time machine and head back thirty-odd years, courtesy of food writer John Kessler. Writing for Tasting Table, he reminisces about his early days as a culinary student and novice chef in the mid-1980s

For those of us who had front-row seats to the experience, the descriptions of the dishes immediately conjure the decade of mall hair, shoulder pads, and food that reached for the heavens, both literally and figuratively. Kessler embarks on his nostalgic tour via his grease-splattered culinary school binder. He says "When I look through its chocolate- and blood-stained pages now, I see both the timelessness of French culinary pedagogy and the bold awfulness of '80s restaurant food."

Dishes reflected classical French influences taken to the extreme. Mousse was everywhere and raspberries found their way into almost all desserts. Kessler decided to make one of the menus from his culinary school days, and was by turns pleased and unimpressed with the results. Of the raspberry and chocolate charlotte dessert, Kessler writes, "Notes: Holy hell. If Proust's madeleine could trigger a repressed trauma, that would describe my feelings about trying this dessert again."

Reading through some of my older cookbooks from the late 1980s and early 1990s, I rediscovered trends that don't hold much sway today, like truffle oil in every dish imaginable and over-the-top desserts with names like "Death by chocolate". In most cases I'm glad that, like hairstyles, foods have returned to more reasonable proportions. 

Photo of  Frozen white chocolate and raspberry mousse torte from Epicurious

1 Comment

  • Rinshin  on  9/18/2017 at 11:39 AM

    I remember making a splendid looking and delicious dessert that took 3 days of preparation for a Christmas meal in the late 70's from Bon Appetit. It was over the top but it certainly was beautiful. I also remember making many goulash like fabulous recipes from them too during that same time frame. The Golden Age of magazines.

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