Readers can either graze or binge their way through this superb collection of infographics, but will need both hands to lift the trilingual tome, which weighs around a kilogram.
While it may sound strange to tell stories about food using data, Food & Drink Infographics’ subtitle “A Visual Guide to Culinary Pleasures” is surprisingly apt.
The good wine infographic
The wealth of information contained in the graphics will whet the appetite of casual readers who can dip in and out of the book, but it will be manna from heaven for foodies and infographic enthusiasts, who will consume it as fast as possible.
Simone Klabin explains in her introductory essay how food visualisations have evolved from a Mesolithic cave painting of bees attacking a person collecting honey to contemporary videos uploaded to the internet, by way of ancient recipes on clay tablets, illuminated medieval manuscripts and the Victorian era cookbook, Mrs Newton’s book of Household Management.
After reading this book, I now know how a chunk of raw beef, for example, arrived at my supermarket. I can identify the cut, explain how the fridge which keeps it fresh works and whether it was sourced locally.
I have learned multiple ways to cure, age, grill, barbecue and roast joints of meat, and how a microwave oven heats food. I discovered that meat was first roasted 1.8 million years ago and the recipe for the mustard I would choose for a condiment probably originates from a Roman cookbook dating back to 4AD.
I now feel confident about pairing the right wine with a meal thanks to a graphic on wine appreciation by my colleague, Adolfo Arranz, the deputy head of infographics and illustration at the South China Morning Post. Other graphics explain how our taste buds work and that roast beef shares over 100 flavour compounds with beer, peanut butter, coffee and bacon.
Another graphic shows there are no nutrients in beef that are not also available in a balanced vegetarian diet and that a single cricket packs more protein and contains less fat than 85 grams of beef.
That particular graphic, also published by the South China Morning Post, explains why an increasing number of researchers are calling on the widespread adoption of an insect-based diet to alleviate concerns there will not be enough food for everyone by the year 2050 if we continue on our present path of consumption.
Global in scope, the book brings together infographics from every corner of the world with plenty focusing on Asian cuisine.
Foodies will learn about the history of their matcha latte – which traces its origins to ancient China before being adopted by Zen Buddhists in 960AD – as well as how to eat fugu without killing themselves.
A fold-out timeline dates the birth of noodles at 2,000AD, after the discovery of millet-based noodles in an earthenware bowl in northwestern China, while a piece of cheese dating from around 1615BC has been found in a desert location in Xinjiang.