1950’s – “Comfort Foods”: Fried Chicken, Meatloaf, Pot Roast, Pork chops and gravy, tuna casseroles, Stew, Lima beans and ham hocks. Salads were generally just a mix of iceberg, radishes, maybe some shredded carrot and Thousand Island, Blue Cheese or French Dressing. Jello salads were also popular. Desserts were: cakes, pies, Pudding, Ice cream sundaes, and Strawberry Shortcake. People rarely went out to dinner (and there were very few places to go even if you wanted to).
1970’s – Pizza and Chinese food were popular (because they delivered!). Women were more experimental in the kitchen: Swedish meatballs, Mexican casseroles, Beef Stroganoff, Chicken Curry, crepes, quiche, fondue (everyone had a fondue pot). Even salads got a new twist: Ceasar salad, Mexican salads, Chinese salads. Ranch Dressing reigned supreme. Desserts: Fruit tarts, Chocolate mousse, Caramel custards, Souffles, Bundt cakes, Cherries jubilee, Bananas Foster. People went out to dinner. Fast foods were extremely popular and Really good restaurants had plenty of loyal customers.
1990’s –Healthy foods were in the forefront: Pizzas with sundried tomato, feta cheese and basil; low fat, reduced fat, spa cuisine. More exotic foods started appearing: White chili, Southwestern cuisine, Cajun, roasted garlic, balsamic vinegar, cilantro (ugh – still hoping that goes away). Gourmet everything. Everyone went out to dinner… a lot. Plenty of family dining, take out, drive throughs, etc. , and celebrity chefs opened high priced gourmet restaurants in every major city.
2000’s – Low carbs are key. Chipotle, Panini sandwiches, sandwich wraps, Lettuce wraps, flavored martinis, etc. are "Good Things." (I woudn't call cupcakes a good thing, but they are taking over the dessert category in a big way). The Food Network and Food Channel have gotten women in the kitchen again cooking up a storm. The food critics praise foods that are “sweet and savory” have a blend of exotic flavors and aromas, and have “crunch.” Health food markets are taking over (with an emphasis on tofu, soy products, and organically grown foods ). When you dine in an expensive restaurant, you expect to see a “stack” of something, and the portions are much smaller than what you got in the 70’s and 80’s.
Going out to dinner has become so much a part of our culture that we spend less and less time in the kitchen. Unfortunately, the economy has forced the closure of many good restaurants because people can’t afford to go out right now.