Geography of Taste

Geography of Taste

Aylin Öney Tan -
Geography of Taste Every time I look at the face of Foody, I find myself embarrassingly staring at its bulbous nose. The focus point of Foody’s face is definitely the nose; a plump garlic, ribbed with six fat cloves. Foody is the name of the official mascot of Expo Milano 2015, and it is the amalgamation of various fruits and vegetables, twelve in total, to build up a face that represents a taste combination representative of all the Expo’s geographies. 

Obviously inspired by the great Arcimboldo paintings, Foody was designed by Disney Italia, representing the Universal Exposition. Foody is described as an honest, wise, respectful person, a real fan of healthy and tasty food; it is far from being one single character, but has a multi-layered, multi-cultural identity, with the juxtaposition of twelve other characters, chosen out of 8,000 or more proposals received in a contest launched last December. Here are the winners that made up Foody: Josephine the Banana, Rodolfo the Fig, Chicca the Pomegranate, Arabella the Orange, Gury the Watermelon, Manghy the Mango, Piera the Pear, Pomina the Apple, Rap Brothers the Rapanelli or a gang of radishes, Max Maize the Blue Corn, Julienne the Zucchini or Squash and finally the nose that I’m obsessed with, Guagliò the Garlic. The names chosen for the characters were either derived from Italian names for the particular food, or more culturally oriented, like Josephine for banana, which I think is clearly inspired from the iconic banana skirt of Josephine Baker. 

All these characters united in a single personality represent an ideal synergy between those countries in the word that must address the planet’s food challenges, positively and energetically, and united as a true family. Each character has a short identity card, containing bits of information about its origins, or its importance and stance as a food item, or giving messages to children about the future of food, its sustainability and ethics in saving waste, all cleverly conveying the message through an entertaining medium.  

Guagliò, (from garlic and aglio, the Italian for garlic) is defined as: He’s curious to the point of being nosy, and a bit self-centered; he boasts having six PhDs but his enduring dream is to find himself in the spotlight. Single by choice, he hates being mistaken for an onion. He is someone who stands out even at a distance of kilometers and has got a trail of followers, not just for his blue eyes. He ironically works as a perfume sales clerk. 

Another character is the vibrant Chicca the pomegranate; funnily, Turkey also has a pomegranate symbol, which is inevitably mistaken with the flashy red, sporty Chicca character. On the National Day of Turkey a huge pomegranate was greeting people at the entrance gate, but nowhere on the spherical red cutie was a sign of Turkey, so every visitor was thinking that it was Chicca. Well done Turkey, another opportunity missed!

As represented in the mascot, all the Expo exhibitions and events focus on regions’ particular ingredients. Italy is represented by all its regions, geographically indicating its special ingredients and food items. Like Foody’s nose, even a certain type of garlic can be an important ingredient worth exhibiting by its entire means. 

Geography of Taste

Sadly, the bulbous nose of Foody keeps reminding me of our great Taşköprü garlic, a special variety that has a Geographical Indication Certificate. Just before departing for the Milano Expo, I attended a press conference focused on this fantastic variety of garlic by the Metro Cash and Carry Group in Turkey. For three years now, Metro Cash & Carry has launched a project to give visibility to these products, directly supporting local producers. During the course of these past three years, director of Metro Turkey Kubilay Özerdem said, they have supported 12,400 local farmers and producers, promoting 60 products with the Geographical Indication Certificate. In the case of Taşköprü garlic, as long as they have the garlic seasonally available, they do not sell other varieties of garlic, just to support its existence in the market. 

Geography is defined as “the study of the physical features of the earth and its atmosphere and of human activity as it affects and is affected by these, including the distribution of populations and resources and political and economic activities.”  Geography is not only about nature and land; it is about people. Foody gives us a taste of all geographies and peoples of the world at a single glance. If only we could get our geographically indicated foods represented at the Expo, even that alone would be sufficient to hit the target.

If the products of the Metro project were displayed in the Turkish pavilion, even that would be sufficient to convey our message to the world and would be more in line with the concept of the Milano Expo. 

Geography defines the taste of Turkey. Our history is also shaped by our geography. 

Turkey’s current theme, “Digging into History for Future Food,” could have been a fertile concept, if only it was well presented and the umbilical cord between the past nurturing the future could be creatively demonstrated; but as always, instead we dug our heads in the ground like an ostrich and missed an opportunity to show the bounty, plenty and future potential of Turkey.