13 Sep

Culinary variables

For data visualization in graphical form, the basic building blocks are well identified: Visual marks such as lines or areas carry information – and they have roughly the following “visual variables” that can be modified in order to express information:

What excites us about data cuisine is the abundance of additional “culinary variables”we can use to express information!

Of course, all of the above are available (2D painting with food). Then we have all kinds of sculptural 3D possibilities. We can work with taste – from the basic tastes of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami to complex combinations or hotness. There is texture – immensely important in cooking! Then we have all the cultural connotations of ingredients and dishes (potatoes, caviar, …). We can work with cooking parameters (e.g. baking temperature or duration). Or the temperature of the dish itself, when served! And all the little decision that go into plating and food presentation…

The possibilities seem endless!

One open question here is definitely the perception of these new “culinary variables”. We know how people, for instance, tend to estimate the size of areas – but how do you make something “twice as salty”? Will adding the double amount of salt lead to the desired result? Or is the relation between stimulus (amount of salt) and perception of the amount non-linear?

(from Stevens, On the Theory of Scales of Measurement, Science 103:2684, 1946)