GOOGLE’S ANNUAL “Year in Search” retrospective reveals much about who we are as a global community. The tragedy in Paris, for example, generated more than 897 million searches across the world. What happened in Paris? Why did ISIS attack Paris? Is it safe to travel to Paris? How many people died in Paris? 

The events that transpired in the City of Lights on November 13 broke our hearts. We donated funds to the Red Cross and local French charities. We opened our homes to French nationals stuck on American soil after borders were closed and flights canceled. We placed the French flag overlay on our profile photos and hashtagged our condolences on Facebook and Instagram. #jesuisparis #peaceforparis #prayforparis

But before we pat ourselves on the collective back, let’s dive a little deeper into the data. Had the attacks on Paris not occurred, the most frequently searched big moment of 2015 would have been the Oscars (406
million). Next in line? The Cricket World Cup and the Rugby World Cup, with 323 million and 246 million searches respectively. Sans Paris, we’re left with celebrities and sports.
C’est terrible. 

We were more intrigued by whether The Dress was blue or gold (73 million searches) than we were by water
on Mars, the migrant crisis, Greece’s faltering economy and the Iran nuclear deal.
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What does that say about us as a society? 

I know what it says to me, but I’m paid to write a lighthearted column. That sound you hear? That’s me switching gears. Allow me, dear readers, to take you on a breezier tour of Google’s retrospective in the form of some random observations on the foods and drinks we Googled in 2015. 

Observation #1:
Starbucks is not the devil.

Most people I know have a love-hate relationship with Starbucks. They love those frothy fraps and silkymacchiatos (don’t skip the whip, baby), but they bemoan the bulk it adds to their beach bodies. Of the top-10 trending calorie searches of 2015, three of the spots (including the top search) were occupied by Starbucks products: the toasted graham latte, the flat white and the birthday cake frappuccino—the latter being a little sumpin’ sumpin’ your friendly baristas whipped up to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the frappuccino. 

The caloric load of the Grilled Stuft Nacho from Taco Bell, the Bacon Wrapped Deep Dish Pizza from Little Caesar’s and Palm Breeze, a sparkly alcohol spritz targeting millennial women, were also on our minds and fingertips. What leaves me scratching my noggin is why more people didn’t Google caloric crimes like the New York cheesecake pancakes at IHOP (1,030 calories) or the Peanut Butter and Cookie Dough Dream Master Blast at SONIC (a whopping 2,300 calories). Two hundred eighty calories for a beverage that tastes like cake batter and heaven pales in comparison. 

Observation #2  
The apocalypse has arrived and it tastes like pumpkin.

Blame it on Starbucks. But to reiterate, Starbucks is not the devil. The coffee giant’s wildly popular pumpkin spice latte fueled a craze that shows no signs of abating. The shelves of our local grocers tell the tale. Pumpkin yogurt. Pumpkin beer. Pumpkin baby food. Pumpkin Oreos. Pumpkin ice cream. Pumpkin chips. Pumpkin peanut butter. Pumpkin hummus. Pumpkin gum?! Future generations will gather ’round the fire pit and speak of a time long, long ago…a time before pumpkin was “basic” …a time when pumpkin only came in an actual pumpkin or in a pie. Google’s top trending recipe search for 2015 involved—you guessed it—pumpkin. Pesto and cabbage also made the top 10 list so I haven’t completely lost my faith in humanity. 

Observation #3 
We need to up our holiday cookie game.

Let us now our voices raise in celebration of that harbinger of the holiday season: the cookie platter. As a child, I knew Christmas was nigh when my mother began rolling out the nutmeg cookies. As a gainfully employed adult, I love wandering into the break room and discovering a platter of treats on the counter. I hold my breath as I slowly peel back the foil, hoping to find walnut meltaways, coconut macaroons, pecan tassies…. Nine out of 10 times, it’s a pile of grim gingerbread men waiting to be dismembered. According to Google, gingerbread cookies were the top searched holiday cookie in 40 of the 50 United States. Something about that disturbs me. Like sending roses on Valentine’s Day. So utterly expected. What’s wrong with scarlet red tulips? Or a clutch of poppies? So props to Kansas for breaking the mold with her cake box cookies. Three cheers for Iowa and chocolate crinkle cookies. As for Michigan and with apologies to the state’s founders… “If you seek a pleasant thumbprint, look about you.” And hats off to South Dakota. Long live the snickerdoodle isn’t the state motto. But it ought to be. 

Observation #4 
Classic cocktails are here to stay.

Based on the number of inquiries I received over the past year about the Moscow Mule (a classic cocktail made of vodka, ginger beer and lime), I would have guessed it would have emerged as the number one trending topic in the cocktail category. Seems that most restaurants and bars have one on the menu. Farmhaus Burgers calls theirs a Texas Mule because they use Tito’s Handmade Vodka, distilled in the Lone Star State. Abel Brown mixes a Kentucky Mule made with Bulleit rye. Carolina Ale House sells a tricked up version they’ve named the Blue Spa Mule—made with Blue Coat gin, syrup, cucumber, lime and ginger beer. The Mule definitely kicked up its heels in 2015, but the top spot belongs to sangria, the delightfully boozy blend of red wine, fresh fruit and perhaps a little brandy. The gimlet, a simple mix of gin and lime juice devised by sailors to stave off scurvy, rounds out the top three. As an amateur mixologist (some call me a therapeutic concoctionist), I was pleased to see seven classics among the top 10 trending cocktails of 2015. Whoever is still drinking Long Island Iced Tea and Sex on the Beach…stop it.  

Google’s annual “Year in Search” is a gold mine of cultural information. Who intrigued us in 2015? Lamar Odom, Caitlyn Jenner and Ronda Rousey. What were we reading? The Martian and Fifty Shades of Grey. And what big questions were on our minds? That would be why do dogs wag their tails, how to walk in heels and what to pack for Cancun. 

I could do this all day, but I have a word count to respect. So I’ll wrap up this short tour of Google trends with two last number ones related to food and drink.

The most frequently searched holiday recipe of 2015 was…(drum roll)…green bean casserole. And the top trending beer? Bud Light MIXXTAIL. That’s precisely how Anheuser-Busch presents this beer cocktail hybrid: with two Xs and in all caps. As I had never heard of it, I had to Google it. And, yes, I see the irony in that.

Green bean casserole and Bud Light MIXXTAIL. That, my friends, is the world we in which we live…or at least, the world in which we lived in 2015. This year is sure to be different. For example, the top trending beer of 2014 was…oh, Budweiser. 

Never mind. 

This article appears in the February-March 2016 issue of Augusta Magazine.