by Natalie Shmulik

Breakfast, lunch and dinner — that’s what you’ll get at any good food show. And, let’s be honest, that’s why most of us go. We sneak our way toward the less chatty sales reps for a sample of creamy bisque, a spoonful of ravioli, and a “please fill up the entire plastic cup” tasting of any alcoholic beverage. And yes, we are all eyeing the coupons for “free” products tucked behind the lavish displays of new-age culinary snacks. But, as hard as it is to believe, there is oh so much more to digest at these extravagant food shows than the food.

After attending the Canadian Restaurant Food Association (CRFA) Show, the New England Food Show, and the  International Boston Seafood Show in the first couple weeks of March, I couldn’t help but notice some distinct trends that every North American cook, shopper, and eater should be aware of. Even after stealing an hour of everyone’s sleep, daylight savings did not keep vendors from showcasing their best and boldest product lines. Electric oyster shucking, multi-colored caviar, and full sized chunks of shrimp, lobster, clam, and crab wrapped in buttery rolls doled out by tall, leggy Russian models made it clear that hungry eyes are worth more than hungry bellies.

Keeping up with demand, each of these shows was laden with new and advanced mechanized contraptions pumping, prepping, and pouring foods. Suffering from an intense food coma at the CRFA show, I hazily wandered into unfamiliar territory — a booth with no visible fare. As if they had crawled their way out of a Transformers film, robotic boxes filled with soups, shakes, and instant-meals hummed familiar sultry songs of convenience. From automatic cupcake dispensers to hotdog grills and the latest instant oatmeal dispensers, we have certainly come a long way from the pop and chip machines of yesteryear. You would think with all this technology we could finally perfect the everlasting gobstopper without any inflated-Violet tragedies. But alas, even in this wonderland of spectacular automations, Willy Wonka was nowhere to be found; after all, he too is replaceable.

I did occasionally wonder at the New England Food Show: amidst the French fruit purees, Italian sparkling beverages and coffees, Canadian cheeses, and Spanish cured meats, where were all the New England companies? Luckily there were some familiar New England edibles, including the always delightful Pete & Gerry’s Eggs (my favorite!), who displayed a cracked heirloom variety with its glowing sapphire yolk; a line surrounded Harpoon and its micro-brewery neighbors; clam chowdahs appeared by the bucket load; and locally roasted coffee companies kept serious snackers alert as they made their way from booth to booth.

The food show is truly a spectacular arena to taste, discover, and observe all the latest in ingredients, packaging, and technology. And although metallic hands are rapidly replacing human hands in food production, and getting a quick and hot dish from an electric box is tempting, I still like my machines to dispense money, not meals.

Read more about the latest food trends, according to Natalie –>  

Natalie Shmulik is a Gastronomy student. After successfully running her own restaurant for two years and working in one of the largest grocery chains in Toronto, Canada, Natalie ventured into the culinary world of New England. She is currently a member of the Gastronomy Students’ Association and is working on several food related projects.

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