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Meet the Method: Google My Maps

A screenshot of the Google My Map: A Vegan's Guide to Eating in Boston by Emily Sullivan

This NULab blog series, “Meet the Method,” serves to showcase some of the DITI’s publicly available learning resources. This installment focuses on Google My Maps.

Written by Emily Sullivan

I come from an Italian family—for us, the dinner table is the hub of conversation, connection, and of course, appetite. As our family unit grows with spouses, children, and grandchildren, shared meals consistently link us together. To our expanding network of care: food is tasty, food is service, food is appreciation, food is stories, food is mediator, food is memory. A few years ago, most of the people in my family started eating plant-based, with a couple of us committing fully to the vegan diet (including my 3-year-old nephew, Banks). Vegan cuisine slipped easily into our mealtime traditions, even facilitating further culinary collaboration with new and exciting recipes frequently circulating between me, my mom, and my siblings. 

For a family that’s full of people who love to cook, going vegan was pretty seamless. However, being vegan and trying to eat out is a different story. Fully vegan or vegetarian restaurants are growing in number, but still remain limited. Oftentimes, “regular” restaurants only have a single vegan option, usually an Impossibleᵀᴹ or Beyondᵀᴹ burger. As a vegan in Boston, I’ve found it difficult to find spots around town where I can eat stress-free. Whether you’re a devoted vegan or vegetarian, or just like to branch out every now and then, you may have also encountered this challenge. 

Sharing meals with loved ones is really important to me, and the tricky business of negotiating dietary restrictions with restaurant choices can be limiting. For a long time, I have collected screenshots, fragmented lists, or scattered text receipts of restaurant suggestions and recommendations to turn to when I am stumped. I have also tried addressing my questions to Google, scavenging through Yelp reviews, magazine “Top 10 Places to Eat in Boston If You’re Vegan” articles, and the like. Amidst all this continuous recon, I found myself wishing for a “Vegan’s Guide to Boston”, some assembly of the best places to get vegan options or even restaurants with vegan-specific menus. Then I realized: why don’t I make one?

As a frequent Google Maps navigator, I decided to poke around Google My Maps, a user-friendly tool for recording locations or routes. Currently, the DITI’s template resources on Google My Maps are in short supply, but we will soon have a generalized slideset that you can use to teach yourself the tool. For now, if you navigate to the DITI page, and check under “see a list of all DITI modules”, you will find course-specific slides on Google My Maps. To inform my own efforts at map-making, I reviewed our slides for Dr. Nicole Aljoe’s course, Early African-American literature (Aljoe Google My Maps materials here), and our slides for Dr. Diamanti-Karanou’s course, Globalization and International Affairs (Diamanti-Karanou Google My Maps materials here). If you’re a Northeastern faculty member or graduate student, you can also obtain access to the full archive of DITI teaching materials via Canvas Commons; contact the DITI Team if you need assistance navigating the Canvas page.

With my own map, since I’m new to the tool, I decided to keep it simple. I started with one layer and labeled it: “Vegan-Vegetarian SPECIFIC restaurants” (I’m a fan of using all-caps for emphasis). I then created another layer and labeled it: “Best Vegan-Vegetarian OPTIONS”. With these two layers, users can filter what kind of restaurant experience they are looking for. I added 12 locations to each layer, a mixture of restaurants I’ve actually been to and enjoyed and restaurants that have been recommended to me that I want to try. For each location, I wrote in the address and a link to their menu in the description box. I color-coded the location markers according to cost: red is for prices that range upwards of $15 per dish, and green means that dishes are $15 or below. I also wanted to track which spots I liked the most, so I added lines connecting four of the best (in my opinion) restaurants in each layer. This version is just the starting point; I want to continuously revisit this map, adding in more restaurants as I try them, embedding images of the meals I have at each place, along with reviews or stories of my time dining there. You can view my map here: A Vegan’s Guide to Eating in Boston

Sharing meals has always been part of the human experience, solidifying established bonds, creating new connections, crafting traditions, preserving memories—the list could go on. In an age where diets vary greatly, and food remains integral to our self-expression and relationships (and our tummies!), Google My Maps can help to find, record, and share places where everyone can eat at ease.

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