Comfort food seen in vogue as credit crunch bites

Tue Dec 30, 2008 8:24am EST
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By Richard Leong

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - As the world's economy heads for its deepest slide in decades, cheap, comfort food is back in vogue while fanciful, culinary experiments are falling out of favor, according to culinary experts.

People are expected to opt for familiar fare with beans, pasta and chicken -- and eat at home more, making 2009 the year of the home cook.

"Wacky, weird-science cuisine that requires fancy-schmancy equipment doesn't necessarily make food taste better, and more often than not it adds needless complexity," said food Web site in its predictions for 2009.

"Expect to see comfort food stage a comeback again."

While no one expects lauded molecular gastronomic restaurants like Alinea in Chicago or elBulli in Spain to suffer, families are clearly reaching into their pantries more now instead of reaching for their phones to make reservations.

"People are looking at the family table in a new way, and trying to save as much as possible," said Susan Stockton, senior vice president of culinary production at the Food Network in New York. "This will be the year of the home-cook."

The move to economize has benefited food makers like Campbell Soup Co.and General Mills. They have seen sales gains as consumers eat more cereal and canned soups.

But the eat-at-home trend has put the heat on U.S. restaurants whose sales have nearly flat-lined since the summer.   Continued...

<p>A plate of tortelli di zucca (tortelli pasta with courgettes) is seen at a restaurant in the northern Italian town of Canneto Sull'Oglio May 4, 2006. REUTERS/Daniele La Monaca</p>