We Americans have a lot to say on Twitter about the foods we eat. But what do the foods we eat — and tweet about — say about us?
In a recent study, a group of researchers at the University of Arizona sorted through more than three million food-related tweets — posted between October 2013 and May 2014, with hashtags like #dinner, #breakfast and #lunch — to spot local and regional trends. Their goal was to predict rates of obesity, diabetes and even political preferences in those regions for purposes noble (improving public health efforts) and commercial (cannier target marketing). But along the way they compiled a map highlighting the “most distinctive food word per state from the corpus of food-related tweets.”
It may not be so surprising to learn that in Southern states like Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida, “grits” is a super-popular word to tweet about, though it may intrigue you to learn that people in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Maryland mention it with great frequency as well. Meanwhile, “venison” is all the talk in two Northern states: Minnesota and Vermont.
That Texans tend to tweet about brisket and Idahoans about spuds and Arizonans about tamale and Californians about caviar may make perfect sense to you. You may wonder way Montanans are so interested in soy sauce, Alaskans in tarragon and North Dakota residents in flan, though. Also, Maine, what’s with the durian fixation? And Washington, DC, guava, really?
But lest you start to feel sorry for New York residents for tweeting “prune” so regularly (ahem), the study authors note that “Prune is the name of a popular restaurant” in New York City. Of course, that may not account for the word’s popularity in Kansas. But, hey, maybe they’ve been cutting back a lot of trees.