What we want: meatballs.
What we don’t want: a meatball trend.
Try as they might, the food press could not shoehorn meatballs into the latest food fad.
Bon Appetit dubbed 2010 The Year of the Meatball; People Magazine went with 2011 for Meatball Mania, and The Food Channel tried again in 2012. But for all the meatball-only boutiques and roving meatball food trucks in all the right neighborhoods, meatballs are not now— and will never be— the new cupcake.
Meatballs are universally and perennially loved; so much so that they are trend-proofed and fad-resistant. They never fall out of fashion or favor. They are rarely stylish but always in style.
That’s not to say that meatballs can’t have their moment.
In fact the added attention meatballs have received makes this an excellent moment. They’re more popular than ever in restaurants where they seem to anchor every small-plates menu ever printed. Meatballs can be Indian (köfta), Italian (polpette), Greek (keftedes), or Mexican (albóndigas), and they speak comfort in any language.
Chefs might want to reinvent meatballs with luxe and modern ingredients, but the best are those that barely tweak the classic recipes and humble traditions. They’re not a vehicle for expensive cuts of meat, but benefit from cheap and fatty grindings. They cry out for filler to add flavor and moisture, and are a perfect landing spot for stale bread and cheese rinds.
Meatballs are simple and inexpensive to prepare at home, and are nearly always a bargain on restaurant menus. They are at home in soup, on a sandwich, atop pasta, or stuffed in rice paper, grape leaves, or dumpling wrappers. They make a fine appetizer, a winning lunch, and soothe our frazzled, modern souls in a satisfying dinner.
Who needs trendy when we can have meatballs?