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Why does the new falafel emoji look like potatoes?

Maura Judkis

By Maura Judkis The Washington Post

Published Feb. 8, 2019

Why does the new falafel emoji look like potatoes?
	What real falafel looks like. Photo by Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post
News of an emoji update is welcomed as eagerly as a new season of "Game of Thrones." We've waited so long, and it's finally here: According to the Unicode Consortium, your 2019 emoji will include wheelchair users, interracial couples, a sloth, a banjo, underpants, butter and a yawning face.


But it's the new emoji for falafel that is raising some questions, namely: Is that really a falafel? Because, uh, it looks a little bit like a potato.


According to the Jerusalem Post, the proposal for the falafel emoji was submitted in April 2018 by Ben Klemens, who said it would be "the first [vegan, halal and kosher] Middle Eastern food represented in emoji." Both Israelis and Palestinians claim falafel as their own. On Twitter, plenty of users were enthusiastic that the deep-fried balls of chickpeas and spices were finally being recognized.


But some of them pointed out that the falafel looked a bit . . . odd. Kind of like rocks or potatoes. (There is already a potato emoji, and it's a bit more oblong and speckled than the falafel.) The Jewish magazine the Forward said it looked like "soot-covered tennis balls, iced sloppily with phlegm." A Jewish Food website, the Nosher, said it "bears little resemblance to the deep-fried chickpeas we know and love," with some staff members there suggesting it looks like coconuts or "German marzipan potatoes."



While different operating systems have different emoji design, Emojipedia's explanation of the updates was depicted in a "glossy 'Apple-like' style."


This is not the first time a food emoji has missed the mark. Remember the gnashing of teeth over the bagel emoji last year? After Unicode approved the bagel emoji, its initial design was wan and plasticky, like a freezer-aisle bagel, and without any cream cheese. New Yorkers were outraged. It was "the most gentile bagel ever baked," tweeted reporter Josh Glancy. Forward wrote: "If they wanted to create an emoji for 'two hemorrhoid doughnut cushions balanced on each other,' then they have succeeded. But as a bagel - feh. It wouldn't even pass muster at Bruegger's." Apple eventually revised its emoji to be puffier and contain cream cheese.


Perhaps the falafel emoji will meet a similar fate. But the new emoji aren't available yet - they will be added to operating systems throughout 2019.

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