How does your city taste?

What do the 1980s taste like? What’s the difference between the flavor of the Bronx and the flavor of Staten Island? What is the difference between the self-described flavor of Brooklyn and the clean scrubbed stats produced by the census?

This video is from Census Spices, a Masters Thesis completed by our good friend Hanna Kang Brown at Tisch’s ITP. (you can read more below)

In the project, Hanna calls us to confront the gritty reality behind the data we receive in the form of the census: to consider that it comes from eye and heart to hand to pen to machine…and to wonder if it still tastes real and true after all that? She begs the question, can we find ways to reabsorb aggregated data in a way more natural to us? Can this help us clarify our means and methods?

I often don’t think about the amount of data that I am constantly absorbing about my world that does not come in the form of words or numbers, symbols or figures, but comes raw and disorganized and yet probably has a lot more to do with how I see the world than any book I have read.

The truth is, I know my partner by his hugs, his sniffles, the way he walks in flip flops and the funny dances he does when he is stressed out. I’d have trouble putting any of that into a bio I wrote about him, but it wouldn’t be complete without it.

I suppose God is the same way. I’m not sure about any of these words or images or texts or creeds we have about God, but I know there is something more in the smell of the sea, the warmth of a crowd, the rustle of a bird diving into a bush, more wholeness and love and mystery and hope than can be articulated by any mouth or pen.

And I wonder, how can I play a part in making real again the real truth behind the data of my organized religion? Does it even still taste true to me?

You should know that Hanna was one of the minds behind the blog you are currently reading and I believe may have been the one to come up with the name “The Daily Cake.” She has been busy at the Tisch School at NYU in the Interactive Telecommunications Program for the past couple years and we’ve missed her greatly ( What is ITP? I’m still not quite sure but it looks amazing) Here’s what she has to say about the project:

“Census Spices offers a new medium–the taste of spices–for understanding the US Census. The project creates a conversational space around Census design and how it shapes what we know about who we are and where we are from. By pairing food with neighborhood data, the spice mixes provide a shared sensory experience in which to talk about the places we come from and live, the ways in which we identify ourselves and others and the ways in which that is determined for us by the Census Bureau. Ingredients are selected based on a study of spices used in ethnic cuisines, supported by data collected from a recipe API. The census data integrates ancestry, ethnicity and race data sets.

“So far, I have made spice mixes for the 5 boroughs of NYC and the city as a whole from the 2010 Census and 2011 American Community Survey ancestry data.

“I’ve also made 1980 spice mixes for the same areas to get a taste of the change in demographics as well as Census reporting. I’m planning on doing more cities (my next one is Los Angeles), more years, and doing race mixes inspired by supermarket aisle categories such as Asian Spice Mix and Latino Spice Mix.”

 (I like the way that tastes.)

3 responses to “How does your city taste?

  1. LaurenCaldwell

    Very nice Hanna!!! Glad to see some of what you have been up to. What a great way of interpreting her work, Jason (and reminding me of our origins and the wonderful people who helped us get here). I have never thought of the fact that you can’t put those little nuances into a bio. It really would be a shame to explain someone you love so much without including all the things that make you love them. The church is completely that way. Most people don’t understand why I say that I love old, dark, musty churches but it is one of those nuances that I couldn’t love without.

  2. Thanks, Lauren. I thought it was a super cool project and I like the way she’s thinking about marketing it/turning it into a business. Very cool! 🙂 What’s a detail about your church you love but you couldn’t say why?

  3. LaurenCaldwell

    It is simple things like the way a church smells like incense or the dents in the pews that show all the people who have sat in that exact spot. I love the echos off of brick or stone when people walk, sing, or preach. I love the way almost all older churches share these things in common.

    In my specific church, I love the wear on the carpet around the altar. I love the spot where the sub-deacon kneels because it is very pronounced. I love the way the women in the church take care of the parish hall and how much they love doing, no matter how annoyed they act when others use it 🙂 Also, the fact that it has only been around for 80 something years but feels like it was built hundreds of years ago. I go to the church that was created in the 20’s for those people in my diocese who were very high church. It has a statue in the back of Mary for gosh sakes and they pray to her every Sunday (I am not quite that high church) 🙂

    They are so many churches that have a modern look and atmosphere. They have convertible spaces that could adjust to almost any need. They are open and light. They appeal to many people, for great reasons, but not to me. I love a church that makes me feel like I am standing in the footsteps of hundreds of years worth of Christians. I need to feel connected to the lengthy history of the church. I love a church whose building feels old and disconnected from the modern world but contains a community that is modern, vibrant, and unashamed of who they are.

    As I write this I realize that I am describing a place that is indescribable. I could spend all day naming things that make a church appealing to me but I would never do it justice. You would just have to know it when you see it and unless you are me, I guess that wouldn’t be possible 🙂

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