Jessica Leigh Hester is a former senior associate editor at CityLab, covering environment and culture. Her work also appears in the New Yorker, The Atlantic, New York Times, Modern Farmer, Village Voice, Slate, BBC, NPR, and other outlets.
Churros are a hit in Seoul and Singapore; Québécois take lots of photos of poutine.
Though Gothamist recently decreed a maximum of one Instagram per person, per meal, we all know dining companions who let their dish get cold and congealed while they rearrange plates in pursuit of the perfect shot.
The type of dish, though, varies from city to city. European photo-printing company Photoworld used Instagram’s open application programming interface (API) to analyze 100,000 geo-tagged shots of 18 types of food. The goal: To chart what people are tagging, and where.
Each “dot map” illustrates the frequency and location of snapshots of a particular food, from pork buns to macarons. The size of the dot corresponds to the number of photos in that region.
In the spirit of not falling victim to common map mistakes, let’s spell out what the maps don’t tell us:
Which foods are ordered most frequently in a given city. There’s not necessarily a correlation between someone snapping a picture of pizza and the overall number of pizzerias per capita. (Plus, the photos in question were snapped over an eight-day period, and can’t really be used to make a general statement about a city’s culinary landscape.) The data isn’t necessarily representative of the most popular foods in a given location.
Who’s taking the picture. We don't know if the Instagrammers are visitors or residents. (Hey, maybe the majority of people taking snapshots of macarons in Bangkok happened to be Parisians on vacation.)
But even if the data isn’t 100 percent scientific, it’s still pretty interesting.
Paris ranked third for number of pictures of macarons, trailing behind Bangkok and Seoul. Photos of the pastel-hued almond-and-meringue confection popped up all over the world.
The same was true for burgers: This map of photos starring the grilled patties looks like a polka dot pattern. London had the most burger photos—no word on how many shots were snapped of fish and chips.
Xiaolongbao—savory steamed buns often served atop a bed of lettuce in bamboo baskets—also had a global reach, though mostly in the U.S. and Asia. The buns are associated with Shanghai, but the most photos were snapped in New York City, which takes its soup dumplings very seriously.
Other foods didn’t have much international traction. Nearly no one outside of Germany snapped a photo of currywurst, the fried-and-steamed sausage dish doused in curried ketchup. (It was a similar scenario for poutine, the French Canadian delicacy of greasy fries topped with cheese and a dollop of gravy.)
(H/T Los Angeles Times)