The Rhythm of Food: a DH Project

Home page of the Rythm of Food project

Back in the old days before TikTok was prominent, people would use Google to search for recipes. In fact, so many people use Google to find their recipes that “Google search interest can reveal key food trends over the years.” The Rhythm of Food is a Digital Humanities project created in collaboration by Google News Lab and Truth & Beauty that aims to capture these trends and display them in easy-to-digest, interactive graphics. The target audience seems to be the broader public, but great use of the site could be made by nutritionists, chefs, and athletes.

The Black Box


Over the course of the project, FooDB was used to analyze ingredients, recipes, and other related search terms. The Google search data was pulled from Google Trends, more specifically Google Knowledge Graph. GKG can distinguish between food and non-food searches (like apple computers vs apples) and allowed the project to be more focused on the US.


On Google Trends provides the number of searches done on a particular entry for a given time of the year, whether it be a certain day, month, or season. Exactly how this data was scraped is not perfectly clear. I would imagine some programming language such as Python or R was used to retrieve and compile this data. It is also not specified how this compiled data is then translated into the interactive graphs. Based on my previous computer science knowledge and a little “inspect element”, I would guess that the site was designed and formatted using JavaScript and some design language such as CSS, and the interactive graphs were made using some outside source.


The presentation of the data is unique without sacrificing readability. In fact, I believe the choice of presentation is clever considering that the analysis is based on time. For example, you can analyze the search trends for strawberries between different months and years (here is a direct link to this example). The most common graphs on the site are circular with the months being placed around its perimeter and the radius of points representing the number of searches. These points are also color coded so that darker colors are more recent years.

Clicking play starts a short video of points being added to the graph by year.

Linear graphs and histograms are also used to show certain trends over time. By hovering the mouse over any point on a graph, the site will provide a numerical value over that point.

Question: I wonder if this website could include a way to explore trends in real time. In other words, could they incorporate a section that allows me to see how many food searches are being done today? Could the website automatically update each graph once the day is over?

Eric Gassel


  1. Very cool presentation of this huge dataset, I imagine that privacy of search history and interpreting that data gives us a delay on how updated the information is.

  2. Great review of this DH project! I also wish this project could be updated as it only uses data up to 2018 which keeps getting more and more outdated.

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