The New York
City Sub Culinary Map:
September 2003: I was
on an A train headed downtown. I was absentmindedly staring at
the subway map and thinking about lunch, when all the station
names on the map suddenly rearranged themselves in my mind to
become food-related names. “That’s interesting,”
I thought. “What if I redid the subway map to make it a
It seemed a daunting prospect; so many places to rename! So I
went to Maira Kalman, my brilliant partner in
wordplay and funny names. “I love it but I don’t know
if it’s doable,” I told her. Maira knocked the doubt
right out of my head with characteristic subtlety: “You’re
an idiot!” She told me. “It’s brilliant! We’re
doing it, Mister, and we’re doing it right away.”
And so we began. In
the months that followed, we went to ethnic food stores all over
the city. We made lists of funny foods we found. We ate in every
type of restaurant we could find; taking copious notes on the
strange dishes we ordered and sometimes ate. We consulted cookbooks
and food encyclopedias. I compiled our research into a list of
over a thousand names.
We spent months doing
nothing but choosing the funniest names and moving them around
a pencil sketch of the map. We renamed all 468 stations and added
sixteen for the Second Avenue line, which may never even be built.
We renamed all the neighborhoods, parks, cemeteries and waterways
- 650 names in all.
I painted a full-sized
subway map with all the lines in place. Maira and I did food-related
illustrations to add dimension and make the map more than just
a list of names. We worked with designers to set type and help
us put it all together in Adobe Illustrator.
In September, 2004,
a full year after the genesis of the idea, a cropped version of
the New York City Sub-Culinary Map ran in the New Yorker.
The full map, to be produced as a gorgeous poster, was soon to
But it never happened. Complain to the people who created bureaucracies. Maira and I are working on getting it printed. We will post a link here when we get it done. Meanwhile, browse the map, find your stop, and keep tuned for information on the poster.