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Food that tells stories

Maricelle's picture

We all consume food on a daily basis. It is part of a routine, like having a shower before your day starts or combing your hair before you set a foot outside the house. Without food, I would not be able to write this blog. I need food to help me think- everyone does. It is truly glorious in all its facets.

Food is not only consumed by human beings and animals, but has an influence on health and fitness, dinner parties, science, food security, food consumption, populations and so on and so forth.
We can easily add data visualisation to this ongoing list as food is regarded as a new phenomenon in the representation of information.
The starter: Delicious edible food diagrams
Take the Open Data Cooking Workshop in Helsinki in 2012, hosted by Data Cuisine, experimental research on the representation of data with culinary means, as an example.
Data visualiser, Moritz Stefaner and the process of art and design (“prozessagenten”) explore alternative ways in which to tell the stories that are hidden behind culinary art.
Food is explored as a means of the expression of information that presents itself in the form of edible graphs and diagrams.
“The programme stemmed from the idea that the collection and visualisation of data should 'not be left to the power of corporations and governments, but as a collective act that can empower the individual as well as the community'", says Susanne Jaschko, the brain behind the idea of mapping food and drink.
However, the creation process of these diagrams proved tedious as participants had to carefully regard which topic they would like to pursue and answer a series of questions such as “must all ingredients portray something? How does the principles of data visualisation play an active role in creating diagrams and do all the ingredients together tell a compelling story or form part of a single topic?”
The image represents the map of Finland that shows alcohol consumption differences across the country. Each region is symbolised by typical food from the area; the amount of beer, wine and spirits consumed (compared to the average) is illustrated in the fill height of three glasses per region. Image from Flickr by Data Cuisine.
The main course: Food and wine pairing
If the food workshop does not make your tummy rumble, consider the food and wine pairing infographic created by Wine Folly, the company that helps you to understand wine better by creating various infographics.
Not many of us are familiar with what wines are suitable with what food. We all know that there is a vast majority of wines available on the market, but you alwys find yourself wondering what type of wine goes best with tonight's food.
You do not have to struggle when planning those extravagant cheese and wine evenings, because Wine Folly has put together 5 wine and food pairing guidelines that you should consider when pairing food and drink.
  • Focus on the wine’s best characteristics in order to make it the champion when paired with a food type.
  • Do not pair bitter food with wine that is high in tannin.
  •  The wine must almost always be sweeter than the food itself.
  • The wine’s acidity should be higher than the food that it is paired with.
  • Old World wines are considered earthy and tart. When pairing these wines with earthy dishes such as Vesuvio Potatoes, the wine will taste fruitier.
The dessert: Tasty Tweets
If you still have space for dessert (I always do), Tasty Tweets can help you out.
The students of the Copenhagen Institute for Interactive Design, created a working model that represents information from the micro-blogging platform, Twitter.
The data is represented in the form of a smoothie. Twitter is used to gather the mentions of fruits such as blueberry, apple and pineapple.
According to author, Nestor Bailly, the Tasty Tweets prototype machine “creates a smoothie blend based on the same proportion of fruit flavours mentioned in the tweets. So if “apples” are popular at a particular moment, your smoothie will be dominated by apple flavours”.
It does not come as a surprise that Twitter and trending topics change on a constant basis, so it is important to note that no two smoothies will look or taste exactly the same. But beware, because friends may be jealous during the process of consumption.
The composition of each smoothie is displayed on a screen, in order for the fruit and its history to make more sense. Bailly adds “as an added layer of visualization, their machine was built to be able to layer juices, creating ‘graphs of juice’ showing proportional mixtures in a glass”.
If you are not full after these three courses (which is highly unlikely), visit the South African games website to bring out the cook in you. There are over 50 online cooking games that can be played in the luxury of your own kitchen.
In next week’s post, I will examine data visualisation and its impact on South Africa’s democracy. Be sure to keep your eyes open for this as you can help strengthen South Africa’s democracy.