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Data Cuisine creates recipes for food based on cultural statistics

We’ve seen IBM’s Watson computer serve up unlikely food pairings, but Data Cuisine takes culinary experimentation to a whole new level. Developed by data-visualization specialist Mortiz Stefaner and curator Susanne Jaschko, it’s an initiative to create recipes that reflect a particular set of statistics. In the case of a workshop in Helsinki, that meant translating local fishing data, ethnic population stats and crime rates into a variety of dishes, from different types of fish stacked to represent various kinds of crime to a map of the country’s alcoholic consumption made with various amounts of wine and regional dishes.

Data visualizations and infographics are already a staple of our daily media diet. Maybe they can be part of our actual diet, too. That’s what Susanne Jaschko, an author and curator, and Moritz Stefaner, a data viz specialist, are exploring with Data Cuisine, a workshop based entirely around the unlikely intersection of figures and food. At two sessions—one in Helsinki, one in Barcelona—they challenged participants to come up with dishes that reflected some sort of fact, stat, or data point. In Barcelona, for example, a pair of cakes addressed the issue of national science funding. The first was made from a standard recipe; the second used 34% less sugar—the precise amount that science funding is being cut in Spain this year. In that case, the dish turned an abstract budget cut into something much more palpable—the drop in funding literally left a bad taste in your mouth. Another plate tackled youth emigration in Spain, combining different types of fish relating to the six countries youngsters headed to in the highest numbers. Sized by their ranking, fish in wine sauce stood in for France; fish cooked in parsley and beer represented Germany; battered fish stood in for the UK, and ceviche represented Ecuador. The American portion was taken care of by fish fried in bacon fat. (Ha, ha, Euros. We get it. Americans are fat.)

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