Last week cupcake chain Crumbs Bake Shop closed its 48 locations after 12 straight quarters of declining profits. The company’s financial woes may signal that America’s obsession with frosted treats is over — but don’t expect a sudden extinction of cupcakes. A group of investors plans to acquire the Crumbs brand, reopen select locations, and expand its bakery offerings. “[A food trend] doesn’t just come to a full stop,” explains David Sax, food journalist and author of The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue. “The legacy lives on.” Here are eight once-famous food fads that lost favor yet have lived to see another day.
This Japanese hot-pot dish—meat, vegetables, and other ingredients simmered in mixture of sugar, mirin, and soy sauce—became a staple in many Americans’ diets between the 1930s and the mid-60s. Its popularity reflected a rise in more adventurous palates, “a real change in American dining,” says Paul Freedman, the editor of Food: A History of Taste. Canned sukiyaki became available “for those hurry-up cooks,” says Sylvia Lovegren, the author of Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads. Though its prominence dropped over for several decades, the expansion of David Chang’s momofuku chain has revived Americans’ love of this Japanese stew (with some extra help from ramen).
Popular with teenagers in the ‘50s and ‘60s, malt shops served burgers, ice cream, and small meals like “a Cherry Coke and fries.” Consumer historian Jan Whitaker says they were often strategically located near high schools—the perfect location for lovebirds under the drinking age. The modern malt shop experience? McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King, and the like. Fast food chains’ rapid expansion in the ‘60s and ‘70s stole malt shops’ beloved customers.
Things that probably should never have happened: Gigli, the man bun, and aspic. The gelatinous delicacy came in all types of flavors, from tomato to cow tongue, and decorated countless Jell-O mold enthusiasts’ dinner tables throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s. Because of its preservative properties, families would cook meat into the aspic for long-time storage, says Rachel Laudan, author of Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History. Today, aspic has been rebranded as gelée and often accompanies high-end meals at French restaurants.
Mostly located in the South, tearooms were a social haven for respectable women during the early 1900s, says Whitaker. During World War I, tearooms near women’s colleges nationwide garnered a following of young, educated women. Their popularity declined mid-century, but it’s recently seen a boost: Starbucks (SBUX) acquired Teavana for $620 million in 2012. Since, the brand has opened four tea bars—and a fifth opens this Friday.
Ah, the grownup version of roasting marshmallows. From the ‘50s to the ‘70s, partygoers often sat around the fondue pot, dipping their food into gooey deliciousness while socializing. Because it was served at cocktail and dinner parties, Laudan says that fondue marked a return to families entertaining in their homes. Though it’s now far from ubiquitous, fondue’s legacy has been carried on by restaurants like The Melting Pot.
The 1950s spawned some interesting uses of Bologna. Like Bologna Pie, alternating layers of cream cheese and sliced bologna. Or Barbecue Bologna, a soy sauce-soaked hunk of bologna cooked on a rotisserie and served hamburger style. Though its no longer the life of the party, bologna can still be found at your local deli.
Chocolate Lava Cake
There’s nothing better than smooth chocolate fudge pouring out of a mini chocolate bundt cake. The top chefs in the world agreed and, in the ‘80s and ‘90s, were the only ones who made chocolate lava cake. Foodies fell for the must-have gourmet dessert—only to have imitators spread it to the masses. “Now,” says Laudan, “you can buy one at Costco.”
The canned meat’s relevance during the ‘50s and ‘60s is unmatched. It was everywhere and served with everything. (Like Hawaiian Spam, which Lovegren says is prepared by covering Spam in canned pineapple, soaking it in the pineapple juice, and then cooking it.) Fortunately for the next generation’s growth and brain development, Spam’s no longer found in every home’s pantry cabinet. Unfortunately, it’s back with a new look: Spam Fries.