Article Thumbnail

The Simple Pleasure of Wikipedia-ing What You’re Eating When You’re Eating It

Well, do you know how that cottage cheese was made?

Every so often, the internet has a laugh at the idea of some guy reading the Wikipedia page for a phenomenon like wind as it blows across his face or a common food like sausage as he eats it. Most often, the joke is about the simplicity of man, our ability to find novelty in the everyday. But the joke is on you if you miss out on the joy of Wikipedia-ing something as basic as what you’re currently eating. 

Today for lunch I ordered chicken curry ramen from a Japanese restaurant. Did you know that curry powder was originally brought to Japan during the Meiji era of 1868 to 1912 from India by Anglo-Indian officers in the British Royal Navy and was adopted by the Japanese Imperial Navy to ward off beriberi? Today, Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force serves curry every Friday, and curry is now more commonly consumed in Japan than sushi or tempura. Truly, riveting stuff. 

I wouldn’t have known any of this had I not decided to pop open the Japanese curry Wikipedia page. In doing so, I learned those anecdotes that I now feel enriched to possess. Of course, something like Japanese curry feels specific enough that you could expect to yield some interesting facts from its Wikipedia. But the logic of Wiki-ing while eating applies to something as broad as sausage, too — arguably, it’s even better. The “Sausage” page, for example, explores everything from etymology to traditional casings to classifications to the specific histories and details of sausages from 43 countries. It will take you on a mental journey you never anticipated. Click on any of the other Wikipedia pages hyperlinked out on the Sausage page? Oh, buddy, you’re gonna find something truly thrilling. 

“Sometimes in the middle of the day, the thought ‘I simply must learn everything about this’ strikes me like lightning and I go straight to Wikipedia,” says Annie Rauwerda, the mind behind the popular @DepthsofWikipedia Instagram account. “The things I find are crazy. Ciabatta was invented in 1982 by an Italian who wanted to rival French baguettes. Pistachios are a fruit, kind of. Pretty soon I’m reading about the 1893 landmark Supreme Court case that determined that a tomato is classified as a vegetable,” she tells me. 

Regardless of what it is you’re looking for or reading about, there are seemingly infinite ways to branch off and discover something else. Sure, it’s funny that a Wikipedia page titled “Wind” even exists, but be honest with yourself — you don’t know anything about wind or how it works. If you think it’s silly to read the Wikipedia page for something so commonplace, your natural curiosity has gone missing and I feel sorry for you. 

“Wikipedia rabbit holes are one of the most uncomplicated joys that we have on the internet,” says Rauwerda. “We have a modern-day Library of Alexandria that’s a click away with 6.4 million English articles that can answer even your most impractical questions, like how cottage cheese is made.” 

And really, how is cottage cheese made? Thank God, there’s a place for me to find the answer in layperson’s terms, with references and recommended reading clearly labeled for my exploration to continue. 

I don’t know what I will eat next, or what topics will pique my interest, but I do feel secure in the knowledge that wherever life takes me, Wikipedia will be there to walk me through it.