The popular saying that goes ‘never judge a book by its cover’ holds true when it comes to the ‘unicorn food’ trend, except there is a tiny twist – the ‘book’ is usually more pathetic than the cover itself. I know I’m treading into unchartered waters here as I will be voicing my unpopular opinion since unicorn food is massively popular on social media, but I need to let out my frustration, so do hear me out on this one because I refuse to jump on the bandwagon.


Let’s start with a history lesson, shall we? If we take a trip down memory lane, we find that people were always obsessed with unicorns, shimmer, and colours. Now it’s completely acceptable to fancy them and I am not debunking them at any costs. However, it’s 2017 and obviously, people will take something and blow it up to epic proportions till it becomes sheer absurdity and insanity.

I’m here to talk about the gastronomical scenario, but let me also briefly delve into how ‘magical unicorn’ makeup, associated with drag, is being heavily popularized by Instagram beauty gurus, thus stealing the techniques and the themes from drag makeup which has been around for centuries. That is like taking one aspect of a rich community and defacing it.

And so this mad scramble for all things unicorn continued and now we’re at a place where even food isn’t spared. This makes me utterly livid. I never really bothered looking into the fad until I came across the revered Unicorn Frappuccino endorsed by Starbucks. I was intrigued at first, and I’m not going to lie, I was really excited too. This led to an impulsive purchase of a grande Frappuccino which came to a whopping six-something Canadian dollars, (mind you, I could have bought two venti Cold Brew Iced Coffees with that money) followed by instant regret and copious questioning of my decisions leading up to this moment.

Not only was this drink horrible, it was pure garbage. I was repelled by it instantaneously, mostly because I was confused at the taste of whatever the heck I was drinking out of that cup. It was an awful blend of diabetes-inducing sweetness, blackout sour and… crunch from the sprinkles? Honestly, don’t even ask me.

There was a time when coffee and frappuccinos were simple yet decadent. Can we please bring that back in its full glory?

milkshake, ice cream, strawberry, cream, ice
Trisha Nair

But what really struck me is how thousands of gullible people, including me, went after the ridiculous trend and purchased it. It’s great marketing skills if you ask me because the main purpose of the drink was to look good. People were going to buy it anyway for the way it presented itself, and even if thousands of people buy it once, it’s still a lot of money made. No need for seconds, the profit had been procured anyway.

So what is so starkly attractive about this trend? Well, the looks and the aesthetics of course. And that’s what sells in today’s world. In this age of social media and photo-sharing apps, people live and breathe to document their lives and adventures online, and so filling those Instagram feeds with brightly coloured food was merely a step of the process. It is so easy to live life online now, that even food has lost its delicacy and beauty. Who cares if it tastes good, at least it looks visually and aesthetically pleasing, which is the key ingredient needed to start a brand new craze.

Food used to be hardly too expensive yet simple and fulfilling until it got tarnished by the need of it to look ‘over the top’ and ‘extra.' This is not even about presentation, it’s about the fact that the most bizarre food takes the crown for being a crowd pleaser. Yes, I agree there are many ways to make the mundane more fun, but that doesn’t mean you’ll douse anything and everything in terrible amounts of artificially sourced colouring and mask any flavour with inhuman amounts of sugar. (Did you know that a tall unicorn frapp had 39 grams of sugar in it? Guess it’s time to keep the insulin handy)

And it didn’t even stop there – heck, it didn’t even start there. Rainbow bagels aka poor bagels massacred by rainbows of artificial colours, rainbow grilled cheese (I still like my cheese yellow, brown, orange and beige, thank you), rainbow buns (why), and the most recent rainbow Mexican food (oh god, stop this) are all a part of the global dehumanization of simple foods.

And I get it – you’ll tell me that red velvet is not naturally red, but at least it is a type of cake, not all cakes are painted blood red and inspire a train of humans to popularize it extensively. It’s cute, decent, not abundantly preposterous or prevalent in every corner of social media. Remember the time when your grandmother’s hearty casserole or your father’s meticulous barbecued meat was the best food you’ve ever had? That was the time when simplicity and authenticity ruled; when taste was important, and when social media didn’t ruin our lives. If you want chef approval on this idea, look no more- Anthony Bourdain said some pretty stellar words about this maniacal scene too. (Faith in humanity not entirely restored, but it’ll get there eventually).

With this, I firmly believe that it’s time we start seeing real food being glorified again and leave those boisterous, rainbow-coloured edibles (which you cannot even classify as food) alone. Let’s do ourselves a favour and bring back the good ‘ol recipes which always used to leave us satisfied and craving for more. As far as business is concerned, I bet wholesome hearty food brings back customers much more often than one-time hit wonders that we are so familiar with today.

Originally published on It's Fraîche.