Ever heard of Frog Eye Salad? How about Funeral Potatoes? And when was the last time you had a slice of Millionaire Pie?
In this inaugural post we’ll visualize Yummly searches during the holiday season to answer questions like “What makes holiday meals in California different than in Texas?”, and “How are searches on Thanksgiving different than searches on Black Friday?”
We’ll start with regional differences.
Click a dish in the visualization to see how often people in different regions searched for it. Darker blue states had a larger percentage of searches for the selected dish.
Most dishes above were automatically identified as worthy of visualization, so many of them were unfamiliar and surprising to us! Here are some dishes we learned about:
- Lemon Icebox Pie: “…a dessert consisting of lemon juice, eggs, and condensed milk in a pie crust, frequently made of graham crackers and butter.” (source: Wikipedia)
- Millionaire Pie (a.k.a. Million Dollar Pie): “Millionaire pie has been a staple at Furr’s, a Southwestern chain of cafeterias, since 1946. The pie is so named because it’s rich (from eggs and cream), it’s gold (from lots of crushed pineapple), and it’s supposed to taste like a million bucks.” (source : America’s Test Kitchen)
- Sugar Cream Pie (a.k.a. Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie): “Sugar pie is a typical dessert of … Midwestern United States states such as Indiana, … Sugar pie is a single-crust pie with a filling made from flour, butter, salt, vanilla, and cream, with brown sugar or maple syrup (sometimes both) often used as additional filler.” (source: Wikipedia)
- Congealed Salad: “… salad made with flavored gelatin, fruit and sometimes grated carrots or, more rarely, other vegetables.” (source: Wikipedia)
- Frog Eye Salad: “It is made with acini di pepe pasta, whipped topping and egg yolks. Fruit, such as mandarin oranges and pineapples, is often mixed in, and it is sometimes topped with marshmallows. The salad has a strong regional presence in Utah and among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (source: Wikipedia)
- Funeral Potatoes: “Funeral potatoes are a traditional Mormon potato hotdish, or casserole, that originated in the U.S. state of Utah.” (source: Wikipedia)
- Boiled Custard: “In the American South the dessert is known as boiled custard, and it can be served like eggnog during the Christmas season.” (source: Wikipedia)
The diversity of the dishes above also illustrates the multiculturalism of the US:
- Eating seafood on Christmas Eve is an Italian tradition. The two seafood dishes we looked at for Christmas were most popular in Southern New England, a region with a large Italian American population.
- Tamales are a common holiday food in Mexico. In our data, they were much more common in states with large Mexican American populations.
- Funeral potatoes, frog eye salad and not drinking champagne were popular in Utah, the state with the largest Mormon population.
- Depending on where you live, eating pork and sauerkraut, blacked eyed peas, or greens on New Year’s Day is said to bring good luck. Sauerkraut was especially popular in Pennsylvania and Ohio, states with German heritage.
Searches on Different Days
In addition to delving into the regional spectrum of dishes, we also looked at how searches evolved during the holidays. Click a holiday below to see how the probability of certain searches changed on different days.
So what do these trends tell us about our culinary customs? The stories summarized below tell us that as a country, we like to put time and thought into our food, from our trimmings to our leftovers.
- Thanksgiving Eve: brining turkey
- Thanksgiving Day: making gravy (with drippings)
- Black Friday: working through leftovers
Christmas through New Year’s:
- Christmas Day: glazing ham
- December 26th-28th: working through leftovers
- New Year’s Eve: making and drinking champagne cocktails
- New Year’s Day: cooking black eyed peas for luck and starting New Year’s resolutions
To identify regional dishes, we first identified dishes in the queries around each holiday using our query interpretation system. For each dish, we computed its probability of appearing in a query. Then, we looked at the state each query came from, and computed probabilities for each dish and state pair, as well as dish and multi-state region pairs. To identify interesting dishes for visualization, we searched for dishes that had much higher probability in particular states or regions than in the US as a whole. (More specifically, we ranked candidate dishes for states and regions by Pointwise Mutual Information.) We selected a few interesting or surprising dishes for this post, as well as a few common dishes for comparison. We used an analogous method to find associations between search phrases and days.