Pardon the cliché, but occasionally in the food world, everything old becomes new again. Foods beloved by an entire generation fall out of favor for decades, only to be revived by chefs and party hosts looking to dig into the deep well of culinary Americana (American culinaria?).
Foods go into and out of style for a whole host of reasons. During the Tiki trend of the ‘40s and ‘50s, for example, dishes like the pu pu platter came into vogue, but as soon as the trend died down, so did the popularity of this assortment of faux-Polynesian appetizers. Other dishes that seemed to be everywhere several decades ago, like duck à l’orange, fell out of fashion for other reasons, perhaps in this case because it’s a dish that requires some subtle nuances, and many chefs who cooked it weren’t up to the task and ended up serving a sweet, gloopy mess — so people stopped ordering it.
Even the most venerable classic dishes can end up on the ropes when prepared poorly by too many cooks for too long, but when a dish is rediscovered — or reinvented — by a great chef or enterprising home cook, it can easily work its way back into the culinary lexicon. Many of the dishes primed to make a comeback have never gone away entirely, they’ve just been relegated to the back burner as celebrity chefs dismiss them out of hand and work on perfecting the Next Great American Burger.
Now, in this era of nostalgia and comfort food, these dishes are just waiting to return to Americans’ hearts and minds. So read on for a trip down culinary memory lane, and don’t be surprised if the next time you head out for a fancy dinner at that new hot spot in town, some of these dishes are on the menu.