July 18, 2022

Spicy out, sour in: Lemon / citrus mania, as the 2020s revive mellow vibe of the '90s / y2k

Last week I had the most intense craving for something with a fatty richness and tangy / sour / tart kick to it as well. And then it hit me that I've been indulging in sour and citrus tastes since 2020. I was never a big sour cream person, but I've made it a staple since that year, along with tortilla chips "with a lime kick," lemon-lime seltzer, and so on and so forth.

Was it just me?

I looked around the supermarket, and there was lemon-flavored EVERYTHING, even expanding into orange-flavored versions as well. I don't ever remember seeing orange cake / loaf, but there it was -- right next to the lemon one, of course. "Lemon cake batter" cookies, "glazed lemon loaf" herbal tea, "lemon cheesecake" ice cream, Moroccan preserved lemons in the imported section (never saw them before), and on and on and on.

Thinking back on it, the "lime kick" tortilla chips were always more sold out, compared to the regular white or yellow ones. And the lemon-lime seltzer was more sold out than the other flavors. Someone noticed this huge demand for citrus, and started putting it in everything else -- and now those items are flying off the shelves as well.

It's gotten so bad that I'm going to start making my own tzatziki sauce at home, since I'm craving it like crazy in a way I never used to, and the pre-made stuff is too expensive. I'm going to be making some ground beef and rice in the crock pot, and that citrusy dairy sauce is exactly what I need for it. Just a couple years ago, it would've been more cumin-y and spicy, but now I'm leaning more on a lemon pepper spice mix, a seasoning I first bought last year and would never have considered in the 2010s.

I'm already a zealous convert of Stash's meyer lemon herbal tea (really a blend of rosehip & hibiscus with lemongrass, orange peel, citric acid and lemon oil, but the bright lemon really stands out). I'll be trying out lemon yoghurt, or maybe just add some lemon to inexpensive plain yoghurt.

And by far my favorite new go-to cologne is the '60s chypre Aramis. I was not a fan of citrus when I was buying up all sorts of late '70s and '80s colognes during the early 2010s. My fave back then would've been Kouros. But I've found myself drawn to the chypre profile now, with its citrusy top notes and mossy base notes.

Who else is on board the lemon train? Mumei mentioned buying a lemon loaf during a meet-up with her fellow Hololive streamers a few weeks ago. Thotton Mather on Twitter (now privated) has been making lemon meringue, maybe lemon curd, and even lemon & thyme ice cream! From 2020, I distinctly remember Heather Habsburg (deactivated), the 6' tall anti-woke left cottagecore lesbian aspiring tradwife, having an entire tree full of lemons that she didn't know what to do with, getting tons of eager recommendations on what to make. I don't remember hearing so many off-hand references to lemon items during the 2010s.

Now we're all on a quest -- a quest for zest.

* * *

So what's with the abrupt change? Well, first we also have to look at what is fading out, as well as what's coming in, in order to characterize the changes. The main flavor profile that used to be everywhere in the late 2000s and 2010s, but has been going out lately, is spicy. Not long ago, it was like a status contest -- who could handle the spiciest pepper, the most death-defying hot sauce, etc. It was about spiciness, and intensity.

Now, it's about tartness, but also mellowness -- we're not competing over who can handle the most mouth-puckering sour raw wild citrons. It's just, "Mmmm, I feel like a little tart in my dessert, so why not make it a lemon loaf this summer?"

What changed in 2020 was the shift from a high-energy 15-year excitement cycle (2005-'19) to a low-energy cycle (2020-'34). The 2005-'19 period was one of the most intense zeitgeists in world history, certainly since the last high-energy cycle in 1975-'89 ("the Eighties"). We're going to be dialing down the intensity for our baseline, even as the 15-year excitement cycle moves through its three phases (restless, manic, and vulnerable).

Spicy intensity easily dovetails with a high-energy period, just as a mellow tartness goes with a more laid-back period. It doesn't overload your senses, and if anything puts just a slight downer note on things -- while still making a bright and refreshing impression as well, without becoming sweet or saccharine.

You might think bitter or pungent tastes would be more up to the task, but they're too niche. Sour / tart / tangy is perfectly able to appeal to the masses, though. I'm not even sure that bitter and pungent are appropriate now, since they're pretty intense, making them more suited to a high-energy cycle -- and indeed, the late 2000s and 2010s saw a new fascination with stinky cheeses and darker and darker levels of dark chocolate.

* * *

This suggests we ought to see a similar pattern during other low-energy cycles, such as 1990-2004, 1960-'74, 1930-'44, and perhaps 1900-'14.

I'll mainly focus on the '90s and y2k period, since that is undergoing a revival right now, and is the easiest reference point for anyone reading this. But first, I noticed when browsing around that the Orange Crush drink was introduced in 1911, during a low-energy cycle. Key lime pie was invented / caught on during the '30s, a low-energy cycle. And Sunny Delight was released in the '60s, also a low-energy cycle.

Chypre perfumes and colognes were also most popular during the '60-'74 cycle, although they have existed before and since.

Looking back, there was quite a citrus craze during the '90s and y2k.

First, there was a renewed fascination with Sunny Delight / Sunny D, which was just not there during the '80s. The company officially rebranded the product as SunnyD in 2000, riding the hype train.

Then there was the revival of citrus notes in perfumes and colognes. The '90s / y2k is most known for the aquatic trend (itself part of the low-energy mellow vibe of the period), but it was just as citrus-infused. The decade-defining unisex scent, cK One, is loaded with citrus, and somewhat of a spin on the chypre concept. Acqua di Gio, notable mainly for its aquatic profile, also has a citrus-heavy opening. And the ubiquitous Dolce & Gabbana Pour Homme (the first cologne I ever bought, in college during the early 2000s), is somewhat like the aromatic fougeres of the late '70s and '80s -- except it has a huge citrus blast at the outset, which did not exist in the heavier, stinkier, more animalic predecessors (other than Drakkar Noir).

U2 had a hit song / music video in 1993 called "Lemon", and there was a popular alternative band called the Lemonheads.

The pen name Lemony Snicket was used to write a popular series of children's books, A Series of Unfortunate Events, almost all of which were published from '99 to '04 (the movie adaptation was also part of the y2k era, in '04).

I'm sure there are other pop culture references to lemons from this period, and I'll add them in the comments if I come across more (or leave your own examples).

As for food, I remember eating the lemonheads candy most during the '90s, not the '80s, although it had been out for decades (beginning in the mellow cycle of the '60s). Same with Sour Patch Kids (originally called Mars Men when they debuted during a mellow cycle, in the early '70s). I have a million memories of kids junk food from the '80s, and none of them are sour.

I don't know about every food fad of the '90s and early 2000s, but by far the most trendy ethnic cuisines that took over were Eastern Mediterranean -- Greek nationwide, and Lebanese / Levantine where there were diaspora communities.

There had been Italian dressing, suddenly there had to be Greek dressing as well. Gyros, tzatziki sauce, dolmas in cans in the supermarket, mini spanakopita in the frozen section of Trader Joe's, Wendy's even debuting a line of pita / wrap sandwiches with feta cheese, and so on and so forth.

I think a key component of those flavors was citrus -- especially in the sauces, like tzatziki and hummus (which we had not tasted before the '90s), but also dolmas, since the meat and grains themselves were not novel to us. Beef / lamb, and rice? Had it already. What's special about this dish? A tangy citrusy sauce? Hmmm, not like ketchup, mustard, BBQ, hot sauce, or mayo, let's give it a try. Just what we needed during a tart-craving mellow cycle.

I also remember my mother putting lemon slices over fish in the oven, something I don't remember from the '80s, or anytime since when she has cooked.

Sprite was my junk drink of choice in the '90s, though I've never been a big sugar-water drinker, and can't really compare to what I've had in the late 2000s and 2010s. I only wanted plain carbonated water during the high-energy cycle, not one with a citrus twist. Oh, that reminds me of the iconic scene in L.A. Story (from '91), where all the yuppies are ordering their drinks "with a lemon twist".

I was not of drinking age for most of that cycle, although I do know that the mojito, with its lime kick, exploded during the early 2000s. And I remember everyone, including me, asking for a lime or lemon wedge to put in the top of a bottle of Corona beer, before turning it upside down to get some citrus into the alcohol. Perhaps that tradition goes back farther in Mexico, but it's something that American kids only started doing in the '90s / y2k.

That reminds me of another rider on the citrus train right now, Marina (@shamshi_adad on Twitter), who favors a negroni. And the OG groyper (@groyper on Gab) enjoys citrus herbal tea, as well as Earl Grey black tea (bergamot).

* * *

As the late 2000s shifted into a high-energy cycle, these mellow and citrusy tastes got left behind, in favor of more intense flavors, especially those that were spicy, pungent, and bitter. From sticking a lemon wedge in your Corona bottle, to ordering "hoppy" IPAs (still never tasted one, can't stand beer, but from reading around, it looks like it refers to a bitter, or perhaps fruity / floral taste of the hops, not necessarily a sour or citrusy one).

But now that the high-energy cycle is over, it's back to the sour and citrusy tastes of the mellow cycle that we last saw during the '90s and early 2000s.

I still prefer earthy, pungent, no-acidity coffees to the bright and citrusy ones. Still love dark chocolate. And stinky cheeses, paired with berries rather than citrus. And seasoning beef with cumin, among other things.

But it's hard to ignore how much tart, sour, and citrus has crept into my meals over the past couple years -- and into everyone else's as well.


  1. "Lemon of Troy," a classic Simpsons episode from '95, has the rival towns of Springfield and Shelbyville battling over possession of a prized lemon tree. Why not any other kind of tree? Because it was the '90s, and lemons were in.

  2. LemonLeafASMR was ahead of the curve by a few years for lemon-themed branding, the channel debuting in the late 2010s.

    How very avant-garde of her...

  3. Aimee, did you know Australia has camembert & fig flavored chips?! From the Kettle brand. Not to mention tzatziki flavored chips from Thins (might've been limited time only).

    Plus you guys have a Cadbury chocolate bar with Turkish delight filling.

    So much Eastern Med influence Down Under, I wouldn't have expected it to cross over into mainstream brands like that. As a distinct ethnic cuisine, sure, but not crossing over.

    And every savory snack comes in a chicken flavor -- we don't have anything like that here. Is that the East Asian influence? We have lots of Mexican / Latin American influence, but not chicken-flavored chips / crackers / etc.

    Just some interesting tidbits I picked up from watching a tier-list of Australian snacks from the two Aussie Hololive streamers, Bae and Sana, and exploring on my own afterwards.

    Also, relieved to hear that you guys call them "chips" instead of "crisps". You guys are spiritual Americans after all. :)

  4. And Gura is a fan of Shirley Temples! That's part lemon / lime juice.

    Oh nyo, I just had an image of her next cooking stream, where she decides to take a big bite out of a raw lemon, like the red onion in the meatloaf stream. Don't do it for the content, sharky! It'll mess with your mouth, and we won't be able to hear that iconic voice.

    If you meet IRL with some of the girls again, you could bond over a small clam bake -- easy way to ride the lemon trend there, and share with them part of your cultural heritage from Atlantis. :)

  5. Lemon pairs with "Honey", the new Big Time Rush song. I had no idea who they were, some Disney boy band from the early 2010s, but Gura name-dropped them when singing One Direction, and I take her references seriously. :)

    I don't really dig their original stuff, but this new one is pretty groovy and danceable:


    Mumei acting as Gura's wingman tonight during Q&A, emphasizing how well Gura can dance. It's not surprising to me: you can't be that good at rhythm games, and not be rhythmic on a whole-body level as well.

    She could collab with a choreographer on TikTok and make her own novelty dance -- the Sharky Shakey, hehe.

  6. well, IPAs are normally very bitter but they also have citrus aftertastes, one of the most prominent hops use is called 'citra' hops. the hazier, jucier "New England" IPAs make the citrus even more pronounced and are no where near as bitter as traditional "west coast" IPAs.

  7. Warhead candies were all the rage in the late 90’s. Super sour.

  8. Google Trends shows a spike in interest for lemon loaf and lemon cake during the spring of 2020, and a higher climb after that than before. It's not quarantine-related because you can think about cooking or ordering any kind of food -- no reason for it to be lemon-related.

    Also, Ame drinking some raspberry lemonade tonight.

    Also, tonight's Spanish Wordle was "limon" (got it in 3). Major synchronicity going on here...

  9. Fauna, we all felt your pain. But please, don't take their behavior personally. I take it you're a grad student, in evolutionary / ecological bio probably. (Who else is talking on stream about eusocial insect sexes, and greenbeard altruism? Hehe.) So maybe an explanation will help you get through it?

    Females rarely form hierarchies, at least in mammals. That's more of a guy thing. Yes, even if there's "only" 5 females at the lower level, and 1 female above them. You found that out tonight -- it doesn't even need to be a team of dozens, hundreds, or thousands, for mutiny and chaos to break out.

    Females are more egalitarian in their social structures, and do not accept one of their own attempting to lead, guide, or give orders over them. They are adapted to, and specialize in, activities that don't require parties and teams and hierarchies, like looking after the children, and foraging for nuts, berries, and the like. Not tracking and hunting large game, and definitely not warfare.

    One woman leading one other woman, OK. But a group of them? No way. It's not because they're resentful, like "Who died and made her queen?" They just don't get involved in activities that require military-type hierarchies, so they don't accept that kind of authority.

    Trying to play that kind of role, even in a playful or mock-military setting, will not work. It's not *you* who they were disobeying, they would've devolved into ungovernable chaos no matter who attempted to be the leader.

    It was the abstract role of "leader" that they were rebelling against -- not you, Fauna, the individual person, who they still love and value as a friend and colleague, who they just had a bunch of fun hanging out with IRL. :)

    And vice versa, it's not that those particular 5 girls chose to rebel against you, as if your friends or your children were betraying you. *Any* group of 5 girls would've acted that way if you tried to play leader, including strangers (like if you were a substitute teacher).

  10. So, please don't personalize things toward them or toward yourself. Any group of 5 girls will not accept the authority of any 1 girl trying to play the role of leader.

    Maybe if you had begun that way, like you were a teacher or coach, but not when you began as peers.

    Guys can form teams from a peer group, but girls cannot -- and that's OK. That's just the difference between the sexes. You can't hold it against girls for acting like girls.

    Maybe looking at it humorously will help to de-personalize it. "God, what was I thinking -- trying to get a group of female peers to accept leadership from within? It was doomed from the outset!" Just like herding the proverbial cats -- you can't hold it against cats for acting like cats, sometimes even those that are your own pets will scratch you.

    I promise, they were not trying to scratch you in particular. They were making a general point, that we girls do not accept leadership, and if someone -- anyone -- tries to, we will act like ungovernable children, even if we don't normally behave that way. Just to make the general point.

    For entertainment value, it really was a feminine chaos stream for the ages, and although you were on the receiving end of that chaos, you shouldn't take it seriously or personally. It would've happened to any girl who tried to lead any group of 5 girls. In your own pained way, you played a crucial role in creating this Hall of Fame content.

    Maybe to balance things out, you all could take turns attempting to play the leader (in Minecraft or anything else), while the others devolve into chaos. Then the shoe would be on the other foot for awhile, hehe.

  11. Yuzu also came onto the American stage in a big way over the past 2 years or so. It’s the citrus component in ponzu sauce. Flavor like a meyer lemon with a bit of the piney quality mangoes have. You used to just not be able to get them at all in the states but now every sushi joint has a couple of yuzu cocktails and the fruits themselves are being successfully cultivated in California.

  12. LimeWire! It came out in 2000, part of the low-energy cycle of '90-'04. Probably the most remembered file-sharing client, even if others were bigger.

    I seem to remember DirectConnect and Kazaa and others more, but everyone else remembers LimeWire -- because it activates a broader set of associations with that '90s / y2k zeitgeist, namely the citrus mania!

  13. Gura's back tonight! I hope it's regular work stuff that's kept her away, and not COVID round 2 like with everyone else.

    If she is sick, I just want to make her some lemon chicken soup. Never tried it before, but it's just adding lemon to chicken soup, to jump on the lemon craze. Hehe.

    And then some lemon cheesecake ice cream for a nice refreshing, soothing dessert -- no joke, some of the best ice cream I've ever had, and it's the Kroger brand! No fat-free lemon sherbet or Italian ice -- nice rich, saturated fatty ice cream, with a bright lemon breeze. Real cheesecake pieces mixed in, too!

    Here comes the citrus plane, sharky, open wide. :)

    I know you're more of a strawberry fiend, but maybe the lemon scent would help clear out your head if it's stuffy.

  14. I watched Faunya play Stray the other night, but the great thing about streaming is that no two people will behave the same way, even while playing the same game during the same week. It's not about the game itself -- the game is just a pretext for hanging out, and forming an emotional bond with a real person (who happens to wear a 2D anime-girl costume).

    And since Gura and Fauna have different personalities and behavior, why not watch the same game twice? :)

    PS, after hearing "Secret Base" during Council's send-off for Sana the other night, I looked up who else sang it from Hololive, and whaddaya know, the sharky chanteuse herself gave quite the lounge-y jazzy interpretation.

    If you hold another karaoke session before her graduation, maybe you could "duet" along with Council's version? What would that be, a septet? To honor Sana herself, as well as join the great big choral group hug to comfort the other Council girls.

    It wouldn't even need to be an entire karaoke stream, actually. You could set aside 5 minutes during any other stream -- and you wouldn't get DMCA'd, since Council's version is archived.

    I know you all are working through this amongst yourselves behind the screens, this is just a thought for bringing some of that love and comfort to the chumbo audience.

  15. That was such a tender, genuine moment, not only the song, but then the whole group forming a cathartic crying group hug around their graduating member. And tens of thousands in the chat sobbing along, too.

    I've said it periodically before, but this new format is the closest we'll get to the empathy box from Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? TV never did this to its performers and audience at the same time, nor did movies, video games, or anything else.

    It's not to sell them short as artistic media, I just mean they're not empathy boxes like the online streaming platforms are.

    And it's a bittersweet reminder that none of this is fake -- it's real people, with real relationships, real emotions, and real changes that can disrupt their bonds. It's not an AI-generated script, AI-generated images and movements, AI-generated voices, or AI-generated anything.

    Vtubers are not "making anime real" or "bringing fictional anime girls to life" -- it's all totally real to begin with, it's just wearing an anime-themed costume for sub-cultural aesthetic purposes.

  16. It was also a nice demonstration of the egalitarian nature of female bonds. That can veer off in the chaotic direction, where none of them will accept hierarchical leadership from within their peer group (*cough cough* Ender dragon stream, hehe).

    But it also means that they'll all mirror each other's emotions and form a single mass to comfort even one of them who is going through a tough time, or who has to leave the group. It's not only if she were the leader or Queen Bee or the most popular in the broader social context -- most girl groups don't accept such a role in the first place. It happens no matter who among them is feeling down.

    It's very much like hunter-gatherer groups, and unlike the more alienated, fragmented, and callous social atmosphere of a large sedentary civilization.

    Females are the noble savages of the two sexes. And males, the civilized sex, need to connect with them in order to re-humanize themselves, lest they drift too far in the robotic extreme of civilization. Civ has social as well as biological diseases that come with it, especially alienation and autism.

    But even when IRL has vanished, by plugging into the empathy box that has female streamers on the other side of the screen, guys can experience this re-humanization during tender moments like that.

    It's the opposite of using the internet to escape into an autistic echo chamber of shooter video games, and dying because you stayed up 40 hours grinding for better weapons.

    I was never into that stuff, but you can tell a lot of the audience for girl streamers used to be, and are using the new social streaming format as an off-ramp from that ghost-life. And far from a dull, joyless halfway house -- it's a really fun and exciting place to hang out! :)

  17. How does one form effective radical egalitarian groups while avoiding the Tyranny of Structurelessness?


  18. It's not political, it's psychological, re-connecting with your humanity (hunter-gatherer-ness), in order to alleviate the diseases of civilization that plague every denizen of a modern society, especially a collapsing empire like ours.

    I should add that this isn't "connecting with your feminine side" -- guys could hypothetically be the streamers who allow you to experience an egalitarian social context. But guys are more wont to form teams for some kind of battle or another.

    Girls are more comfortable returning to monke, since they aren't adapted to warfare, commerce, and all that other post-H-G stuff.

    And the point of the streamer format being an empathy box is that you are feeling what someone else is feeling -- even if it's not the kind of thing you normally feel.

    I've never been in a group hug that was sobbing as one collective mass, but I can still resonate with it and appreciate what the girls are going through during such an episode.

    That's why I prefer female streamers -- I already know what most guy experiences are like. I'm curious about the unfamiliar ones, and those mainly come from girl-world.

  19. Mmm, lavender lemonade served up tonight by Fauna, who looks rather lemon-lime herself with the chartreuse coloring. :)

    One of the soaps from an earlier ASMR was citrus & lavender scented as well.

    Seriously, if you haven't already, you should try out some chypre perfumes. Citrus top, mossy bottom, other heady green notes in between.

    The heyday was the '60s and early '70s. You could dip your toe in with Charlie Blue, available for about $10 at any drugstore / Walmart / etc.

    Jack Mason swears by Aromatics Elixir, from Clinique (and the elixir name is right up your magical, witchy alley). Hard to find in stores to test, but available online.

  20. How’s your smell/taste?

  21. Getting better now, though still blunted in degree. But at least the weird qualitative changes are gone -- mustard doesn't taste like burnt pine needles and ashes anymore.

    And I can smell the aldehydes and citrus notes in Aramis again, it's just not as intense as usual.

  22. I wonder if now that your olfactory neurons are regenerating, that gives you an opportunity to bombard them with subtle scents and create a super sense. Lol, lemons to lemonade!

  23. Vladimir Berkov7/29/22, 3:09 PM

    Now that you’ve mentioned the citrus hype trend I can’t stop seeing it everywhere. A big name YouTube cooking channel I follow sometimes posted a citrus stir fry recipe, also even at Walmart I’m noticing fewer Flaming Hot flavored chips and more subtle flavors being stocked like chili lime.

  24. Goodbye, Sana.

    And remember, fair space girl, should you need us...

    Yes, should you need us, for any reason at all...

  25. The world is becoming less colourful!


  26. Also, logos are becoming less stylish.


  27. Kronii chased down the ice cream truck IRL, and what does it say on the wrapper of her popsicle? "Even MORE sour!" (From her Twitter feed.)

    The brand is Lick-a-Color by Popsicle, and that company also makes Sours, and Sour Patch Kids popsicles. Someone else makes Warheads popsicles now.

    Sour sour sour!

    BTW, "Sour Times" was a hit alternative song from 1994 by Portishead. ("Nobody loves me, it's true. Not like you do...")


You MUST enter a nickname with the "Name/URL" option if you're not signed in. We can't follow who is saying what if everyone is "Anonymous."