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A Sumptuous, Surreal Dinner of Edible Data Visualizations

Delicious dishes based on Greece’s economy, Switzerland’s dying honeybees, and Japan’s epidemic of male virgins.

It’s thought that as many as one in four Japanese men aged 30 or older hasn’t had sex. Perhaps that fact is sad for them, but it was a treat for attendees at a recent and highly unusual dinner, who feasted on a delicious representation of Japan’s virginity made from sesame, seaweed, and buttery white chocolate.

Yes, the folks responsible for the strangest trend in data nerdom—visualizations you chew and swallow—were at it again these past two weekends in Basel and Berlin. As with previous European events, chefs whipped up toothsome, puzzling dishes about population stats and economic trends, turning the Greek economy into a black olive-gruyere dip, for example, and Switzerland’s honeybee crisis into an almond panna cotta sprinkled with bee pollen.

Susanne Jaschko and Moritz Stefaner, whose “Data Cuisine” group staged the meal along with high-end stove maker Schott Ceran, explain their mission this way:

Have you ever tried to imagine how a fish soup tastes whose recipe is based on publicly available local fishing data? Or what a pizza would be like if it was based on Helsinki’s population mix? Data Cuisine explores food as a means of data expression—or, if you like—edible diagrams.

Here are some of the small plates diners mentally and physically digested, beginning with a sausage and potato-salad dish highlighting gender inequality in home and restaurant kitchens:

People threaded these skewers with different types of ingredients to show what they’ve recently been cooking:

In a salad only hardcore herbivores could love, this geometric arrangement of grains and legumes presents vegan-centric Instagram posts last year in Berlin:

Europeans rely heavily on electric stoves to cook, thus the simmered bouillabaisse at right; Asians overwhelmingly use gas stoves, such as the one used to make the wok-fired stir fry at left:

This savory cheese-and-olive spread points out the immense reserves of cash Greeks have stashed away in Swiss banks, as well as the large number of Greek workers who fail to report income:

A duo of sardine tins contrasts New Delhi’s packed population density to the even more-stuffed Monaco. With the addition of a champagne-based sauce, the dish also riffs on Monaco’s wealth compared to the poverty-stricken Indian capital:

That one-in-four Japanese dude who’s never scored is represented as this dessert’s lonely white truffle:

Finally, diners were faced with a troubling vision of a future where people have to pollenize flowers instead of bees. The caramel, pollen, and almond-pudding dish references the 50 percent of honeybees that didn’t last through the winter of 2011-2012:

Photos by Uli Wood. The “Data Cuisine” meal was a collaboration of Moritz Stefaner, Susanne Jaschko, and Schott Ceran.

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.