Monday, August 25, 2014

The Bacon-Kale Map

It’s no secret that eating bacon is is a likely indication of excess body fat, not just because of the fat in bacon, but also the volatile organic compounds and chemical additives. There is an even stronger link, geographically speaking, between obesity and Republican politics. It may not be too surprising, then, that a bacon map created by a geographical analysis of Twitter shows a striking similarity to the obesity and political maps of the United States.

The map, from “Food Politics: The United States of Bacon and Kale” by Eric Chemi at BusinessWeek (click for article and full-size map) shows the state-level ratio of bacon tweets to kale tweets — kale being a green-leaf vegetable rarely combined with bacon in the same meal or even the same kitchen. Astute readers will notice that the “bacon states” are mostly the same as the “red states” and high-obesity states from prior maps, while the “kale states” are mostly the “blue states,” if you ignore a few mismatches like Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Iowa.

The bacon-kale index is not the slightest bit subtle, ranging over a factor of 4. That’s a much bigger range than the differences of a few percent that separate U.S. states politically. Looking at the old question of the link between culture and food, the bacon-kale map strongly suggests that food creates culture just as much as culture creates food.