Are we facing a paradigm shift?

What can an architect who lived and worked decades ago tell us about the food and cooking of today? John Wernbom takes some time in the library and starts thinking about the future.

15 May 2020 •

The oth­er day, I stum­bled upon an old copy of the Gastronomic Calendar. It is a book that is pub­lished annu­al­ly by the Swedish Gastronomic Academy and con­tains a col­lec­tion of essays regard­ing every­thing that has to do with food.

I was sit­ting in my arm­chair and found myself with a copy from 1963. At the end of the book, there is a text that today would be some­thing of a trend watch into the future. A gen­tle­man by the name of H. Carlheim-Gyllensköld writes about ‘Tomorrow’s Cooking’.

Two things pop up in my mind: One: This will be inter­est­ing. Two: I will sit and gig­gle at all the fool­ish con­clu­sions. Much like an old sci­ence-fic­tion movie from the same time that pre­dicts fly­ing cars and cap­sule food.

But am I wrong or what? Mr Carlheim-Gyllensköld is aston­ish­ing­ly sure-hand­ed. Sure, he is not com­plete­ly accu­rate. The fish of the future is appar­ent­ly always fresh and trans­port­ed by air from the fish­ing boats. With no exceptions.

It is an opti­mistic view that is con­veyed and the author’s pre­dic­tions are – as stat­ed – astound­ing­ly good. Carlheim-Gyllensköld pre­dicts a future with a vari­ety of dish­es and ingre­di­ents. Deep-fried octo­pus and grati­nat­ed mus­sels are noth­ing to be sur­prised by and ‘the despi­ca­ble cig­a­rette smok­ing between the cours­es that ruins the culi­nary expe­ri­ence has van­ished as if by a mag­ic trick’.

A lux­u­ri­ous din­ner of the future is not lim­it­ed to the com­mon sole, deer meat or a fil­let of any kind. Cooking is some­thing that inter­ests and engages every­one, regard­less of gen­der, age or role in the fam­i­ly. And we always want to learn more.

The text makes me reflect on our own time – and future. It makes me think of the role sug­ar has in food and the fact that we his­tor­i­cal­ly not have been able to crit­i­cize this indis­pens­able ingre­di­ent. Sugar has almost been mag­i­cal but this has large­ly been due to the absence of real alter­na­tives with equiv­a­lent properties.

I asked a ques­tion the oth­er day to Ola Broström, Innovation Manager at Bayn. Do you think the 2020s will be the decade when we will see a par­a­digm shift for sug­ar reduc­tion and sug­ar com­pen­sa­tion? He answered yes with no hesitation.

And if you think about it, it is not dif­fi­cult to under­stand why. We have today high-inten­si­ty sweet­en­ers, dietary fibres and sug­ar alco­hols that togeth­er can give the sug­ar a good match. And research is ongo­ing and new ingre­di­ents pop up all the time.

You can even think of com­bi­na­tions of ingre­di­ents that not only mim­ic sug­ar but also excels sug­ar and fun­da­men­tal­ly change our per­cep­tion of what is per­ceived as sweet and tasty.

Maybe we will look at sug­ar with a roman­tic shim­mer, just as we view an old fan­cy Cadillac with a pushrod V8 and chromed grill. Or com­mon sole and quail for that mat­ter. Our view of lux­u­ry and van­i­ty has changed, so why couldn’t our view of sugar’s indis­pens­abil­i­ty also under­go a shift?

What will the store shelves look like 2073? It’s, of course, impos­si­ble to make cer­tain pre­dic­tions. But if I’m half as sure-hand­ed as H. Carlheim-Gyllensköld, I might see it as a feat. Perhaps I also have a future as a pre­dic­tor of the future?

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