I Loaf Geography Lessons

Tinker Plots World Domination in the Kitchen

About this Project:

I Loaf Geography was created during a plane flight from San Salvador to San Francisco this summer. I had just visited my friend in Peru, I hadn’t slept the night before, and had been travelling and waiting in airports for 20 hours. Suddenly mid-flight, in a semi-conscious state, I thought of the Spanish flag, and realized that the red & yellow of the flag could be replaced with ketchup & mustard. The concept was born.

I started listing countries, mentioned it to friends over the following weeks, and at some point the idea changed from ‘silly’ to ‘silly but potentially exciting art project that I’m definitely going to try.’ I knew that some flags would be tricky, though it was rarely the most intricate ones that turned out strangely. I thought Canada would go very well, but the white space I left in the middle was not wide enough for the maple leaf I started to draw, and the leaf looks sad and flattened. Sorry, Canada.

There was something very satisfying about creating a temporary piece of art, photographing it, and throwing it away. I loved having to focus on writing Tajikistan in ketchup, cleaning away bread crumbs for a pristinely white plate, placing the lamps, choosing the arrow’s angle, shooting each flag about 10 times, then throwing it out (unless I could use it again, see Libya & Bangladesh).

When I finish a jigsaw puzzle, I always show someone. Sometimes I leave it up for a few days to show others, but mostly I tend to take it down the night I complete it, and never return to it.  Detailed work followed by a complete destruction of it is somehow wonderfully satisfying. In the movie Quality of Life, a graffiti artist spends all night creating an intricate art piece on the side of a wall in memory of a friend, and then paints it over the next morning. He had witnessed the completion and immediate destruction of a sand mandala earlier in the movie and was inspired by it. Embrace your work and then let it go. I think this is the same principle behind wanting to hug celebrities rather than take a picture with them. That is for another post.

This project had many potential names over the summer, the best among them were Kitchen Table GeographyBread, White, and Goo, and The Condiment Manifesto. My thanks to Ben and others for their help in brainstorming.

How to Make Condiment Flags:

The First Flag

  • Buy cheap big bottles of ketchup, mayo, mustard, and relish.

On one hand, you’ll want to use the extra condiments for actual meals, on the other hand, you will use a lot of ketchup, and bulk buying is a good idea.

  • Ziploc sandwich bags double as excellent piping bags for ketchup and mustard.

I really got excited about making this idea a reality when I figured out that I could treat condiments like detailed cake decoration. Writing in ketchup is not hard, but practice helps.

  • Only make orange once.

If you want to include orange, do all the orange flags during the same session so the mixture of ketchup and mustard is consistent across the flags. Examples: Cote D’Ivoire, Cyprus, Ireland, Niger.

  • If your flag uses relish or mayo, apply them first.

Mayonnaise is too thick to use in a piping bag, and relish is not one substance but rather a clump of things, and neither of these likes being made into stars and crescents. (Sorry, Islamic countries.) Apply them first and then draw with ketchup and mustard around them.
Best example: Turkey.Worst example: Pakistan. (sorry, Pakistan)

  • Different flags require different tools.

It is helpful to have many tools at your disposal to try out. I would often start with butter knives to spread the condiments, especially when it had one color as the background (field). Then I would switch the the piping bag, or the squirt bottle itself. Toothpicks helped to remove small spots of misplaced color.

  • Have fun. 
It’s a stupid idea, but it was really fun to do. I took it seriously while I was making them, but I knew that it would have a certain inherently flawed look, like a hand-drawn portrait or a video game character made out of post-it notes. Imperfection is okay.

Geography Facts That I Learned:

1. Suriname is in South America, not Africa. I should have known that, but I didn’t. Now I know.  Sorry, Suriname.

2. The Maldives are south of India. I had no idea where they were, just that the Google images are gorgeous. Sorry, Maldives.

3. Cayenne is the capital of French Guiana. Cool. I mean hot.

Flag Facts That I Learned:

1. Pan-African color flags

Out of the 60 flags I created, 21 of them were from Africa. I learned that red, green, gold, and black are Pan-African colors, first inspired by the Ethiopian flag. I couldn’t use black (I only wanted to use pure basic stupid American condiments, this was an intentionally limited number of flags) but I kept my arrow pointing to Africa for a third of the project.

2. Monaco, Indonesia, Poland

Indonesia and Monaco have the same flag: top half white/bottom half red. Poland has the opposite, red/white. I guess that’s alright as long as Indonesians never start a war with Monaco.

Stand-Out Flags

1. China

2. Cyprus

 In Summary:

This was a good way to spend the summer. I hope you enjoyed it. If you can think of a practical or artistic use for these images, please let me know.

To view the collection, go HERE.

January 6, 2012

in bread,condiments,countries,Flags,food,geography,I Loaf Geography,travel

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

타이넨 January 18, 2012 at 2:03 PM

This is well written and cleverly fun. More like this, please.


Marya December 13, 2013 at 10:55 AM

Wow that was in 2012. So much you have done sunce then. Love the idea. Love you


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