From Sourdough to Inflation: How the Pandemic Changed the Way We Eat – Jamie Feldmar

Remember the great bean shortage of 2020? The window box scallions you killed? Our pandemic food timeline is here to remind you   

The last two-plus years have radically altered just about every aspect of how we eat. From the great bean shortage of 2020 to the meteoric rise of feta pasta on TikTok, here’s a look at the biggest trends, news, and oddities to hit home cooking since the start of the pandemic.

March 2020

Panic at the grocery store! Mile-long lines form outside of Costco, while flour, canned soup, and frozen vegetables disappear from shelves.

The grocery delivery app explosion begins in earnest. By the end of 2020, Instacart’s sales will have increased by an astonishing 229 percent.

Recipes making use of pantry staples such as canned beans and dried pasta see a sudden resurgence in popularity. Related: People who normally eat out for every meal are deluged with advice on how, exactly, to stock their pantries.

To the surprise of no one, comfort food is in. Sales of Campbell’s soup soar by 59 percent this month, and Goldfish crackers are up 23 percent, too.

The waitlist to join the exclusive Rancho Gordo Bean Club is estimated at 10 months.

Sourdough is declared the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Photogenic Dalgona coffee — instant coffee whipped with sugar and water, poured over milk — is ready for its closeup on TikTok.

April 2020

Food banks are overwhelmed by millions seeking assistance; the National Guard is called in to some states to ensure order at distribution centers.

People discover they can’t eat all of the bananas they’ve hoarded, begin making banana bread en masse.

Supply chain woes force the realization for most Americans that there is a supply chain.

Perhaps scarred by grocery shortages, millions attempt to grow their own food in backyard gardens.

-See also: window box scallions.

-Related: The first focaccia gardens are planted.

Marquee restaurant chains such as California Pizza Kitchen, Shake Shack, and Abuelo’s launch home-cook friendly meal kits

Pancake Cereal — tiny pancakes served in a bowl — hits the TikTok airwaves.

One-bowl, pantry-friendly Depression Cake, or, as it’s euphemistically renamed, “Wacky Cake,” takes its turn in the social media spotlight.

May 2020

Community refrigerators stocked with free groceries to combat food insecurity begin popping up across the country.

Self-proclaimed pandemic prom queen/pantry staple maven Alison Roman gets canceled after making critical comments about Chrissy Teigen and Marie Kondo in an interview.

July 2020

Meal delivery kits such as Blue Apron see subscription numbers skyrocket. HelloFresh faces such high demand that it’s forced to close subscriptions for a month while it hires 3,000 extra workers.

August 2020

Yet another TikTok trend takes flight: fluffy, meringue-like Cloud Bread.

October 2020

Fermenting at home gets so popular that we fully run out of Mason jars.

Everyone’s window box scallions start dying.

November 2020

Chefs such as Naomi Pomeroy and Joanne Chang devise plans for digital cooking classes with at-home ingredient kits in an attempt to make up for lost restaurant revenue.

Air Fryers, already increasingly popular, experience a two million-plus strong sales spike; author Susan Orlean tweets to her millions of followers that she, too, has jumped on the bandwagon.

December 2020

New York Magazine launches an investigation into the great bucatini shortage of 2020.

January 2021

TikTokers invent new and bizarre ways to wrap burritos, the #tortillawraphack is born.

February 2021

Grocery store and Instacart workers speak out against workplace abuse and rage-inducing customer behavior. A series of worker strikes are planned.

Feta + tomatoes + pasta = viral hit.

June 2021

The youth are getting drunk on espresso martinis because it’s the ‘90s again.

October 2021

Dalgona candy, an offshoot of the aforementioned Dalgona coffee, blows up, helped in part by the Netflix show Squid Game.

Kellogg’s workers go on strike, affecting all of the brand’s cereal-producing plants (it ends in December).

TikTokker Emily Mariko reheats leftover salmon and rice, 45 million people cheer her along. Lizzo makes a copycat dish.

November 2021

The great American baked good craze continues, with a 42 percent increase in baking-related cookbook sales.

January 2022

Grocery store shelves continue to sit empty between supply chain snafus, the Omicron surge, and brutal winter storms.

February 2022

Supply chain woes continue to wreak havoc on the lucrative avocado toast industry as the US temporarily shuts down imports of avocados from Mexico.

April 2022

Inflation woes: According to the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) report on 2022 food prices, “all food prices are now predicted to increase between 6.5 and 7.5 percent.” Russia’s war in Ukraine and the Federal Reserve’s increase in interest rates are cited as causes.

May 2022

More than two years after it started, the pandemic is still causing supply chain issues that are wreaking havoc in grocery stores. The most dire shortage is in baby formula; across the country, 40 percent of formula is out of stock.

June 2022

The USDA announces details of a “framework to transform the food system”; one that builds on lessons imparted by the pandemic and food supply chain disruptions caused by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Building a more resilient supply chain, creating a fairer food system, broadening access to nutritious food, and “emphasizing equity” for rural and underserved communities are among the plan’s stated goals.

Jamie Feldmar is a Los Angeles-based writer, editor, and cookbook author.
Bri is an Oakland-based writer and illustrator.

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