The 2010s gave us the first full decade with the complete existence of the social media trinity: Facebook, Twitter, and finally, born at the close of the previous decade, Instagram. In an era of selfies, oversharing, hashtagging, memeing, trending, trolling, and otherwise calling one another out in all manner of online ways, nothing is protected from social scrutiny anymore, least of all our lunches.
It was the dawning of a new kind of food fight. Gone are the days when the term only applied to that which might have begun in a school cafeteria with a thrown hot dog or Twinkie. The food fights of the 2010s often began with a thrown gauntlet: an image, product, event, video, or news item with the power to incite a social media riot. Here’s a look back at 15 of the food-related moments and matchups of the 2010s that most inflamed us.
Cauliflower vs. Carbohydrates (2010-present)
The undisputed food champion of the decade, cauliflower is the new corn, demonstrating its chameleon ability to exist as any carbohydrate from flour, to rice, to potatoes, and beyond, its lack of color and relatively mild flavor making it precisely the right guy for the job. 2020s prediction: Cauliflower runs for public office.
CAULIPOWER Veggie Pizzas, 4 for $49.99 on Amazon
Cauliflower for president!
The People vs. Gluten (2011)
Congratulations, America. We now live in a decade where food allergy envy is actually a thing. 2011 is the first year on record where the number of people on gluten-free diets without having Celiac disease outnumbers those who have a legitimate gluten allergy, and the number has only risen since then. Spurred on by several publications in the early part of the decade that sought to demonize gluten, and encouraged by celebrity diet culture, gluten looks to remain Public Enemy Number One well into the next decade.
Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar by David Perlmutter MD, $14.44 on Amazon
The text that lead the charge against gluten.
Cronuts vs. The Power of Viral Media (2013)
Nine days after the hybrid croissant/doughnut was introduced by Dominique Ansel of his eponymous NYC bakery, he filed for a trademark for the name, after a blog piece in Grub Street Magazine heralding its genius created a many-hours wait to purchase the $5 newborn pastry.
President Obama vs. Green Pea Guacamole (2015)
45 isn’t the first president to wield power via Twitter. What could have been an innocuous, basic ingredient swap-out recipe where mashed peas took the place of some of the classic avocado, instead became the cause for a damn-near revolution, with even President Obama chiming in to side with the anti-pea movement.
Starbucks Red Cup vs. Christmas (2015)
Beginning in 1997, Starbucks began introducing seasonally festive cups featuring winter scenes of snowflakes, ornaments, trees, etc. In 2015 its seasonal offering was simply an austere, plain red cup, causing outrage among Christian evangelists and groups who suggested that Starbucks had declared a war on Christmas, causing the rest of us to wonder whether there were any other worldwide causes more worthy of such fury.
John Kaisch vs. Pizza (2016)
It is a known truth: If you are running for national public office you must carefully adhere to the regional food customs and cultures of any place you are campaigning. Republican primary presidential candidate John Kaisch demonstrated this handily in 2016 by effectively ending his campaign when he dared eat a slice of pizza in New York with a fork and knife. Addendum: One must especially adhere to the customs and cultures in places as intense as New York.
Unicorn Foods vs. Personal Dignity (2017)
Chalk it up to a combination of childhood nostalgia and “doing it for the ‘Gram.” 2017 brought on the meteoric rise of “unicorn” foods, when Starbucks took a growing online trend and applied it to its Frappuccino. Now all manner of unicorn foods are available, outfitted in pink, purple, and sparkle looks, that seek to increase revenue while simultaneously infantilizing us.
Related Reading: Food Trends We’ll Be Happy to Leave Behind
Avocado Toast vs. Your Ability to Buy a Home (2017)
Certainly people have been eating sliced or smashed avocados on toasted bread since well before this decade, especially in places where they are grown. Slowly but surely during the 2010s, however, they evolved from inexpensive, regional snack, to an urban brunch staple, and along with that, became an unlikely marker of Millennials’ financial irresponsibility.
#MeToo Movement vs. Restaurants (2017)
Not all food fights depicted here are without real consequence. With the swell of the #metoo movement that first rocked Hollywood, it’s no surprise that another high-stakes, high-adrenaline, male-dominated industry felt the surge. Following multiple allegations, chefs and restaurateurs across the country were ousted from their businesses, in certain cases, turning formerly beloved on-air personalities into personae non gratae overnight.
Related Reading: The Most Influential Food People of the Past Decade
President Trump vs. New York Strip Steak (2017)
So well done “it would rock on the plate” is a steak description that should rock any culinarily sane person to his or her core. Such is the way President Trump prefers his New York strip, allegedly also doused in ketchup, causing Eater food writer Helen Rosner to soundly reason that, “a person who refuses to try something better is a person who will never make things good.”
Alice Waters’s Egg Spoon vs. The 99% (2018)
Demonstrating the longevity of certain online food fights, a skirmish from 2009 saw a fresh battle in 2018. The culprit: an egg spoon, a hand-crafted pan meant to cook a single egg over an open flame. The uproar shames the slow food movement, whose local and eco-conscious principles seem at odds with the fact that who but the 1% can afford such a niche device, not to mention a fire-burning oven in a home kitchen?
Hand Forged Iron Egg Spoon, $99 on Amazon
Roaring fire not included.
The People of the City of St. Louis vs. Bagels (2019)
New Yorkers especially, and others who understand the basic concept of dignity, came to defend the honor of the beloved bagel after learning of its unholy mutilation in a deconsecrated act known as the St. Louis Bagel Slice. Simply put: No. The argument for the defense is that it is a way to be able to sample more flavors of cream cheese on a single bagel. But still, say I: No.
Peeling Hacks vs. Time Spent in Kitchen (2019)
From woodcutting to computer programming, the word “hack” seems to always have carried a meaning of breaking into something. Though it has evolved into a way to shortcut a process, viral videos promising easy ways to break into foodstuffs from garlic to pineapples have given us methods to quickly get into even the most intricately-packaged fruits and vegetables. Also file under “Peeling Hacks vs. Our Own Ability to Actually Perform Such Hacks.”
Popeyes Chicken Sandwich vs. Supply and Demand (2019)
“The Popeyes Chicken Sandwich is Here to Save America” declared one article in The New Yorker. But its powers were limited by a pesky economic construct called supply and demand, and the Almighty Sandwich ran out in a mere two weeks after it was introduced, leaving a weary population wondering whom to look to next for salvation.
Related Reading: The Biggest Food Trends of 2019
The New York Times vs. Aperol Spritz (2019)
Header image courtesy of Spencer Platt/Getty Images.