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DAVID GREENE, host:

It's the beginning of a new year, a good time to start those diets we've been talking about, and a good time to check in with our food expert, Weekend Edition food essayist Bonny Wolf. She's been studying the trends we might see in the world of food in 2009, and she's with me today to talk about what she's learned. Hi, Bonny.

BONNY WOLF: Hi, David.

GREENE: So, looking at 2009, are there two or three words that might sort of capture the food scene that we're going to see?

WOLF: Well, definitely comfort and value. As you've probably noticed, we're in uncertain times. And this is the time when we crave comfort food. The cover of Gourmet Magazine this month is a plate of spaghetti and meatballs.

GREENE: Just the cure for tough economic times.

WOLF: Yeah. And people are looking for bargains, too, in restaurants and at the market. Everybody's looking for a deal.

GREENE: Well, how uncertain or rough have these times been if you're a restaurant owner?

WOLF: Well, restaurants are sort of lagging indicators, but the predictions are that we are over the era of pretension, and that what we're going to see is a lot more casual, simple kind of restaurants. And they're bringing in a lot of things to entice people to spend money. So there'll be bar menus, more fixed-price meals, more flexible hours. And one thing I've heard about is breakfast all day. This is the most comforting meal to people, and now you should be able to get it whenever you want it.

GREENE: As an omelet lover, that makes me very happy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GREENE: So, let's say you're a home cook most of the time and you're cooking in your own kitchen. Is this rough economic time affecting you at all?

WOLF: Well, home cooking is totally back. So it'll also mean an increase in cooking classes because people have to learn how to cook since we haven't been cooking at home for many years. And we'll have comfort food. You'll have mashed potatoes and meatloaf, and spaghetti and meatballs. But it won't exactly be like your grandma's. There'll be slightly more sophisticated twists to the, you know, artisanal cheese mixed in with your mashed potatoes. And things will be probably healthier - less butter, more vegetables.

And this also may bring back, the trend-spotters say, the family dinner, which has been a victim of two-income families and after-school activities for the last few years. And it's supposed to be very good for kids. And kitchens will be greener. People will think of the ecological concerns when they put together their kitchens.

GREENE: So if I want to make that really trendy meal and impress my friends, what foods are going to be trendy in 2009?

WOLF: Well, you should probably put out a charcuterie platter. This is...

GREENE: Sounds good.

WOLF: Yeah. Pates and cured meats is very big in restaurants and possibly at home, too. Bite-sized desserts, so you don't have to eat a whole piece of German chocolate cake. You can just have a little, tiny one that comes in a spoon. A lot of things will come in spoons. Peruvian seems to be the next ethnic food that's going to be coming in. Certainly, at least Peruvian drinks. Pisco sours are expected to be big. And noodle bars, which you see a lot of in New York, may be...

GREENE: Plenty of them.

WOLF: Yeah. And there - I know there's one opening in Washington, and I think they're - that we'll see them in other places as well.

GREENE: And noodles are great comfort food.

WOLF: Absolutely. And noodles will be in soups. They'll be in main dishes. I've heard that anything with an egg on top is going to be very trendy this year, that people are going to go back to smoking food. And bargain wines - people are going to be looking for good wines that don't cost a fortune. Cost is out, and thrift is in.

GREENE: Now that you've made us all hungry, we will say goodbye. Weekend Edition food essayist Bonny Wolf, thank you.

WOLF: Thank you, David.

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