From salad trees to ‘charcuterwreaths,’ has the festive food trend gone overboard?
A food influencer arranges a cheese star at the top of a Christmas tree-shaped display of baby romaine lettuce wedges.
In the background, Mariah Carey rallies all holiday-lovers with her annual call to action, belting “It’s time!” as her Yuletide anthem All I Want for Christmas Is You starts playing. The influencer, with a twinkle in her eye, squirts blue cheese salad dressing out of a squeeze bottle in a criss-cross pattern to look like a garland.
The caption reads, “Everyone needs a good salad this Holiday Season! So why not make it festive?”
The 5.4 million views for this one video on Instagram alone speaks to the appeal of holiday food boards. Hummus wreaths, charcuterie Santas and upright snack-based Christmas trees are being posted and shared across Instagram, Pinterest and TikTok. On TikTok, videos about “Christmas charcuterie boards” have racked up 20.9 million views so far.
The Daily Mail says “buttercream boards” are this year’s trendy festive offering, Marie Claire just proclaimed that “Charcuterwreaths” are the latest it food and U.K. magazine The Grocer has declared “tasty sharing boards” as one of food retailers’ top Christmas trends this year. There are even charcuterie chalets, or meat mansions, because why stop with a gingerbread house?
If you can’t choose just one, well, you’re in luck, because there are also 122.9 million views on trending TikTok videos about Christmas board parties, or “bring a board night,” where every guest brings a different-themed board of their own.
Shareable snacks arranged to look like Christmas themes aren’t necessarily new (think of the gingerbread house), and the infamous butter board started to trend last year. But the craze this year could be related to high food prices, says Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
Boards can be shared, which can make them more economical than a meal, he said. For the same reason, Charlebois sees potlucks being more popular this year, too.
“Hosting is very expensive,” he said. “People are always looking for affordable and imaginative ideas when hosting friends and family.”
Have people gone over-board?
Some of the comments on these videos tell a less enthusiastic story.
Some point out that it seems difficult to keep the food warm (think of the eggs on a brunch board), that dipping cookies into a shared smear of buttercream seems like a quick and easy way to spread germs and that some boards — especially the large charcuterie boards loaded with specialty cheeses and meats — are actually quite expensive to make.
“This is cute but not practical. Difficult to eat,” wrote one viewer on the Instagram salad tree. “Does everything need to be a damn show,” wrote another.
“Have we taken the board trend too far?” one woman asked in a reaction video about buttercream boards. “The thought of cleaning up a board smeared in greasy butter or sticky frosting kind of makes my eye twitch.”
“What bothers me most of all, I think, is that it seems all for show,” a writer quipped about butter boards last year in Food and Wine magazine. “For the love of all that is holy, please just use a plate, napkin, or your hands, without reaching for your phone to capture the moment.”
Some of the boards and displays are more about show than practicality, Charlebois said, but that doesn’t mean the trend is going away anytime soon. For a younger generation, TikTok is the new cookbook, he explained, and lots of people draw their ideas and inspiration from social media.
“Things can go overboard at times, no pun intended,” Charlebois said.
Stores and food manufacturers are looking to take advantage of that potential audience, where individual wedge salad Christmas trees garner 5.4 million views. It’s all about being visual, he added.
“The whole idea is really to get on people’s phones and screens as much as possible.”