My Week Eating Only Food Represented by Emoji
“Why isn’t there a sandwich emoji?”
The instant message flashed on my screen from a co-worker suggesting lunch. It was followed by: “TRAGEDY.”
Tragedy may be an overstatement to apply to emoji, the standardized set of symbols used in texts and online messaging. But when the Unicode Consortium released an update this July expanding its library to include 250 new emoji, my co-worker wasn’t the only one disappointed that the only new food is a chili pepper. A Change.org petition calls for a hot dog emoji, a Facebook page demanding a taco emoji has more than 1,000 likes, and thousands follow a Twitter account advocating for an avocado emoji.
As these foods continue to wait for emoji immortalization, I wondered why so many of my everyday foods lack a presence in computer text. Including the chili pepper, there are 59 food-themed emoji. What are they? How can they be assembled into recipes? And most importantly, could someone live on emoji alone?
I had to know. I undertook a challenge:
For seven days, I would eat only foods represented by emoji.
I would eat every emoji food by the end of the seven days.
Some further specifications were needed. Though it can be argued that pigs, cows, and other emoji in Apple’s Nature category are food sources, I sacrificed bacon and stuck with the clearly defined foods grouped under Objects to avoid sliding down the “technically edible” slope. As I scoured New York for items such as oden and dango, I also learned about the origins of these tiny pictographs from Japan.
I start the first day of the diet by assessing the contents of my refrigerator. A breakfast smoothie uses bananas, milk (which I judge to be the bottle character), and strawberries, checking three items off the list already. Confidence sets in: This week will be a breeze.
I begin to make a list of what I plan to eat for the week, but some pictures prove hard to interpret. My confusion is cleared up with a visit to Emojipedia, which lists the symbols’ official names as designated by the Unicode Consortium. Some of the names give me more dietary leeway than I expected, such as the ambiguous “pot of food,” which I eat for lunch in the form of a vegetable stew. Others I’ve been misinterpreting all along — what I thought was rice and beans is actually curry, and the orange is technically a tangerine. I edit my list accordingly and stock up on fruits and veggies for the week.
Day One’s produce-shopping bounty. (Kelsey Rexroat)