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Over the years, food fads have come and gone

| Sunday, March 30, 2003

Don't you just love food fads• They can be related to food products such as tofu, to particular recipes such as the Baccardi Rum Cake that swept through the country in the 1970s, or even to a piece of kitchen equipment -- a bread machine or juicer.

Some fads have their moment on the stage of popular culture and then disappear forever. Others come and go in cycles. The marathon that WQED produced about slow cookers was broadcast recently on stations nationwide, and I suspect there will be a resurgence of slow cooking over the next year.

So, what is hot right now• It seems as though anything having to do with soy is popular. In addition to eight kinds of tofu -- extra-firm to silky -- there are soy burgers, soy "milk" and "cheese," and even plain old soybeans, raw, roasted or freeze-dried.

It wasn't that long ago that the only thing in a supermarket with the word "soy" on the label was the salty brown liquid we sprinkled on Chinese food. This latest fad appears to have staying power.

Farm-raised salmon seems to be the current champ at the fish counter. And why not• Often it is the most reasonable in price. It is available year-round, and you can bake, fry, broil or poach it with an endless variety of flavorings. The health folks constantly are touting the need for the special fatty acids it contains.

Stores are catering to our busy lifestyles with more prepared foods. One quick stop on the way home, and you have a cooked chicken, meatloaf or baked fish entree with sides to put on the table. There also is a growing line of cooked beef and pork roasts you can just heat and serve. That's another fad that might stick around.

Reading through kitchen supply catalogs, I noted two appliances that appear to be gaining popularity. Despite the trend to more healthful cooking, deep-fryers are hot. However, I don't think I'm willing to give up counter space for a gadget I'd only use once or twice a year. And what do you do with all that oil between frying sessions?

The other indulgence is automated espresso/cappuccino machines with price tags topping $1,000. I guess if you've been paying $3 or more per cup of fancy java at a coffee shop, it might look like a bargain if you make your own at home.

I have a basement filled with trendy gadgets of the past and endless piles of recipe clippings that have made the rounds. Maybe I'll get out the fondue set, make the dipping cubes in my bread machine, then serve the entree with grilled portobello mushrooms and finish the meal with one of those rum cakes.


Baccardi Rum Cake

  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 (2-layer size) package yellow cake mix
  • 1 (4-serving size) package instant vanilla pudding
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup dark rum

    For the sauce:

  • 1 stick ( 1/2 cup) butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup dark rum

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a Bundt pan. Sprinkle the pecans evenly on the bottom.

Mix the dry cake mix, dry pudding mix, eggs, 1/2 cup cold water and 1/2 cup rum. Pour over the nuts in the prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Meanwhile, make the sauce : In a saucepan, combine the butter, sugar and water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let the mixture boil for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the rum. Allow to cool completely.

Remove the cake from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes. Invert onto a rack.

Using an ice pick or wooden skewer, poke holes all over the cake. Place back into the Bundt pan.

Pour the cooled syrup over the cake and let it soak in. Let the cake rest for a few minutes or for as much as 2 days before serving. Invert onto a serving plate.

Makes 10 servings.

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