Hello, Scribe readers! Last year, I wrote a blog called “One Nation Under Who”, which centered around Americans’ resentment towards government on both sides of the aisle. The blog originally began as a look at numbers and trying to objectively determine what may be driving greater dissatisfaction towards government. However, the blog morphed into an opinion-driven blog, where I expressed my own dissatisfaction not only with government, but a general lack of political engagement that only fuels dysfunction in government.
This year, I plan on tackling a more light-hearted topic, with my own somewhat-serious twist—food trend that relate to overall trends in society. Obviously, bacon and sriracha are popular because of their taste, but why else are they popular? Doughnuts have always been around, but what has changed that there are now gourmet doughnut shops? Armchair psychology as well as Google Trends will be featured.
During my summer wanderings in Washington DC, I noticed a number of cupcake trucks and cupcake shops, the most famous being Georgetown Cupcakes. I ate cupcakes at Baked and Wired, another DC establishment, a few times, and each time, while I enjoyed the cupcake, I wondered what possessed me to spend almost five dollars on a rather small, overly-sweet frosted cake.
Many sources seem to point to a singular cultural event as the beginning of the cupcake craze: a singular episode of “Sex and the City”, in which New York City’s Magnolia Bakery’s cupcakes were featured. The particular episode was released in 2000, and cupcakes have only gotten more popular.
People often point to the retro nostalgia of pastel-frosted cupcakes. Perhaps in light of the Great Recession, a single cupcake is a relatively affordable, small indulgence that satisfied a craving for childhood sweets or cake in small quantities. Additionally, cupcakes are customizable to doughnuts or petit fours, with more possibilities for exaggerated shapes and different frosting and cake combinations.
While I was in Washington DC, I saw a closed-down Crumbs. Crumbs, a cupcake chain throughout the country, had expanded wildly at the peak of the cupcake phase and was listed on the NASDAQ. As it makes its way out of bankruptcy, Crumbs is set to reopen some of its location. Perhaps the impending doom of cupcakes is not upon us—although cupcakes are no longer quite the same novelty item that they were, cupcake shops are still destinations for friends or a date, perhaps due to social media’s influence.
Cupcakes are still photogenic—a cupcake, with its bright colors and variety of flavors, is far more Instagrammable than a latte (which can only have so much variety). With the media perpetually searching for the newest craze following cupcakes, perhaps they should not be basing their predictions off of the unpredictable tastes of foodies. Instead, they could be looking at the social media aspect. Food has always had a social aspect; meals are often social events. Now, an outing for a cupcake is not only an opportunity to share an experience with friends in person, but a way to maximize likes in a time when food has to be shared online.