Small-batch pickles, Greek yogurt, and quinoa are all high-stakes trendy foods with loads of moral and aesthetic baggage. We ingest them to prove to ourselves that we are ethical by way of being health-conscious, multicultural, hard workers. Of course, the labor required to produce and consume a pickle won’t have any measurable effect on the health of your body, the quality of your soul, or the degree of your authenticity. This constellation of foods, which might be crudely labeled “hipster food,” are the means by which our sense of goodness is outsourced through our gut.
The antithetical culinary trend of hipster food, snackwave, seizes on its puritanism and refutes it through slovenliness, shopping mall imagery, and pro-capitalist branding. It is the first prong in the anti-hipster food backlash. As Hazel Cills and Gabrielle Noone write in The Hairpin, snackwave “trickled up from Tumblr dashboards” to counter “Pinterest-worthy twee cupcake recipes.” It is chiefly defined by excessive consumption of junk food and is often couched in the doctrine that women, especially, can do whatever they want to their bodies. An important element of snackwave is its individualism: the meal is communal, the snack is individual.
Normcore food will be the second prong in the anti-hipster food backlash. Normcore and snackwave, though opposites, are both cultural formations that will teach us how to finally stop eating kale. There have been a couple anemic attempts to define normcore food, and they are usually wrong. For example, people who believe normcore food is just junk food done up in a chef hat—your David Chang-type cuisine—are confusing it with typical hipster fare. Bon Appetitmade a better go of it with their April Fool’s Day slideshow, which included items like yogurt and chicken fajitas, and at least one food blogger got it right when she identified the BRAT diet plus plain chicken and bok choy as normcore. In the realm of fine cuisine, The New York Times has unknowingly alluded to at least one normcoreish food movement in a trend piece on “refined slob” nineties food writer Laurie Colwin. Besides normcore being a running joke, it is also very attractive, as increasingly elaborate (or else humblebrag-y) food exhausts itself and gives way to a minimalism that is not regressive or folksy.
If normcore fashion is not just hipsterism made over in worse nineties clothes—which is a common critique—normcore food should also have its own menu. Specifically, it must exclude any variety of trend-forward food: kitsch Americana, artisanal products like pickles and jams, and snackwave-like excess. As with its fashion equivalent, the goods must be ugly and plainly dressed.