Some of us plan vacations based on a region's culinary specialties—which, for the record, is completely legitimate and delicious. Scouring travel books for information on locavorous delights is one thing, but in the interest of making cuisine more, um, digestible, we recommend Food Maps, by photographer Henry Hargreaves and chef/stylist Caitlin Levin. Joining forces as Hargreaves and Levin, the duo recently received a DIY Notable in the 2014 Core77 Design Awards for a series of maps depicting each country made up with its popular foodstuffs.
But the maps are much more than messes waiting to happen. "We have taken many of the iconic foods of countries and continents and turned them into physical maps," says the team. "These maps show how food has traveled the globe—transforming and becoming a part of the cultural identity of that place."
The work is detailed, demarcating different states and provinces with different ingredients. The use of perishable materials served as de facto deadlines for creating work. "The food was perishable, so we had to make it quickly so the ingredients didn't start to turn and look awful," says Hargreaves. Because who wants to look at an Italy made up of mushy, bruised tomatoes?
The finished products look good enough to eat, but the process was just as painstaking as any recipe you'd find in a Julia Childs cookbook. Check out this behind-the-scenes video:
Aside from having to work quickly to beat the wilting and browning of their materials, the duo also had to make sure they weren't duplicating any of their arrangements—which proved to be the toughest task. "We never repeated a pattern, so showing each food in so many different forms was very challenging," he says. "We had to play with it but still make it look orderly and appealing."
The team recognizes that the foods depicted in their maps aren't necessarily tracking the origins of the materials. "Who doesn't know the saying, 'throw some shrimp on the barbie,' and not think of Australia? Who goes to France without eating bread and cheese? And who makes a Brazilian caipirinha without a fistful of limes?"
Food Maps strikes a conversation that everyone can participate in, whether we've visited the region and tasted its cuisines or not. Hargreaves and Levin share the real story behind the tasty topography: "This project speaks to the universality of how food unites people, brings us together and starts conversation—just as we hope these beautiful maps will do too."
Check out a full list of the 2014 honorees here.