Desperately need to brighten your day? You’re not alone.
The latest trend in edible happiness goes by the name of “Unicorn Food”, and it’s easing socio-political stress all over the nation.
Now, to be clear, there are two very divergent trends in Unicorn Food. The more mainstream type is symptomized by carb and sugar loaded technicolour foods, usually including some form of fairy dust i.e. sprinkles or funfetti. Just look at Starbuck’s Unicorn Frappuccino (59 grams of sugar in a grande 16oz). In Brooklyn, people are waiting in line for hours just to get their hands on a rainbow bagel. And no, no one knows or cares if these colors are artificial.
On the other hand, the term Unicorn Food is also being used to refer to food that is not only aesthetic, but also packed with “magical” nutrients. The End in Williamsburg serves a blue Unicorn Latte, coloured with Blue Majik spirulina extract, also containing a tablespoon of maca root powder and a vanilla bean “insides scraped out”. Amanda Chantal Bacon has received international fame for her Moon Juice powders ($30 for 14 servings) which she describes as “a healing force, an etheric potion, a cosmic beacon for those seeking out beauty, wellness, and longevity”.
While on opposite sides of the health spectrum, both types of Unicorn Food weirdly can function as a reprieve from obsessive food culture. On one side, you’re given the opportunity to completely shirk all responsibility and consume contently in the name of childlike whimsy. On the other side, you’re given a food product that is supposedly so wholesome that it, by definition, defies reality.
In the book A Taste of Generation Yum: How the Millennial Generation’s Love for Organic Fare, Celebrity Chefs, and Microbrews Will Make or Break the Future of Food, author Eve Turow partially attributes our obsession with food to sensory deprivation. Our lives are so consumed by screens that we need something tangible. Food is a key that charms the senses while providing access to socialization and community.
It’s also worth mentioning that, maybe, Unicorn Food, in all shapes and sizes, is an extreme form of self-care. And society’s need to embrace “self-care” is very suspect. Why do we need to justify relaxation by giving it this label? Is it because we have become accustomed to striving so hard every day, feeling lost and impotent in a rapidly changing world, that we just need to “give up” for a few hours sometimes? In the last year or years, we’ve watched (in High Definition) so much— mass shootings, the Trump presidency, police brutality, World War III— spiral out of control.
Our obsession with highly personalized and “special” food ingredients is nothing if not a band-aid for the type of real, sustainable wellness that you can feel— not just taste and photograph. Face it, we need a little bit of “fun” and a frosty beige-coloured beverage + three inches of whipped cream just isn’t going to cut it anymore. It may soften the edges of reality but it’s certainly not solving anything.