General Community
Request for Comments: 4
Category: Taxonomy, General
Status: Draft

Brian Schrader
April 2022

Status of this Memo

This memo contains a proposed standard for the community. It makes no claim to enforce the proposal contained herein. Distribution of this memo is unlimited.

Copyright Notice

Copyright (C) IIFRP (2022). All Rights Reserved.


This document proposes a standard general taxonomy and hierarchy to classify all foods according to their charactaristics.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    1.1. Rational and Scope
    1.2. Terminology
    1.2.1. Additional Terminology

  2. Formal Specification: A General Taxonomy
    2.1. Domains
    2.1.1. Catino (Domain Dish)
    2.1.2. Potus (Domain Beverage)
    2.1.3. Condimentum (Domain Condiment)
    2.2. Catino (Dish) Kingdoms
    2.2.1. Acetaria (Kingdom Salad)
    2.2.2. Tabula (Kingdom Slab)
    2.2.3. Pulmenti (Kingdom Soup)
    2.2.4. Cincta (Kingdom Sandwich)
    2.2.5. Examples
    2.3. Notes Regarding Phyla
    2.4. Notes Regarding Sauce

  3. Transformations
    3.1. Elementary Transformations
    3.2. Substantive Transformations
    3.2.1. Level I.
    3.2.2. Level II.
    3.2.3. Level III. and onwards

  4. Socratic Categorization Guidelines
    4.1. The Principle of Least Assumptions
    4.2. The Principle of Uniqueness
    4.3. The Principle of Universality
    4.3.1. Plating Universality
    4.3.2. Temporal Universality
    4.4. Socratic Criteria
    4.4.1. Determining Domain
    4.4.2. Determining Dish Kingdom
    4.5. Drawbacks
  5. Regarding Ingredients
  6. Refuted Alternate Taxonomies
  7. Extensibility Considerations
  8. International Considerations
  9. Related Work
  10. Acknowledgements


Since time immemorial, mankind has lacked an adequate method for describing, categorizing, and classifying food. To this day there exists no generalized method for classifying all FOODSTUFFS. While many methods attempt to classify certain kinds of food (e.g. sandwich classifiers, The Cube Rule) there has been little effort to create a standard that unifies all of the various kinds of foods under one single classification.

It is the mission of the Internation Institute of Food-Related Protocols (IIFRP) to take on such challenges, and this document describes the results of painstaking work on the subject. This work was achieved by a joint effort by nearly all IIFRP members, and has been the subject of heated and vigorous debate.

This document describes the first, and perhaps most important pieces of the task of classifying food: the designation and justification of the most top-level classifications. In keeping with the tradition set out by biologists from nearly 300 years ago, IIFRP has elected to leverage similar terminology to describe its hierarchical classification system. No doubt many will find issue with the specific categories, as many have throughout the research and development period, but let it be known that the system presented here is the result of years of effort.

FOODSTUFFS come in a variety of shapes and sizes, they are served in a variety of manners, and they are eaten with a variety of utensils. Because of this, any classification system that leverages the size or shape, plating, or utensils associated with a food are doomed to fail. Instead a compositional or constitutive approach must be used to achieve success.

1.1. Rationale and Scope

The task of creating a generalizable taxonomy is not a simple one, and there is no doubt that for such a thing to come about, years of work would be required to finalize definitions and harden rulesets in order to determine an ultimate classification system with as few rough edges as possible.

This document describes the first two layers of a proposed general taxonomy: domains and kingdoms. Other layers are still pending further research and debate.

1.2. Terminology

The key words “MUST”, “MUST NOT”, “REQUIRED”, “SHALL”, “SHALL NOT”, “SHOULD”, “SHOULD NOT”, “RECOMMENDED”, “NOT RECOMMENDED”, “may”, and “OPTIONAL” in this document are to be interpreted as described in IETF RFC2119.

1.2.1. Additional Terminology

CLASSIFIER: An individual attempting to perform a taxonomic classification within the given system proposed in this document.

FOOD/FOODS/FOODSTUFF/FOODSTUFFS: A general term for an item that is consumed for enjoyment and/or nutrition that can be classified within the taxonomy.


This section describes the highest order categories in the Generalized Taxonomy.

The taxonomy is described by Latin names with English translations. This decision was made after years of research yielded the discovery that while the definitions that made up the categories were useful and becoming only moreso with time, public disquiet with the original English names caused significant issues that affected widespread adoption of the useful system.

In an effort to improve adoption of the standard, more classical (i.e. obscure) names were decided. In all cases it is RECOMMENDED to prefer the official Latin names in correspondence seeking to further adoption of the standard, or in communication with those not versed in the technical definitions defined in the standard.

2.1. Domains

In the realm of biological sciences, a Domain is the highest order classification. It describes many different kinds of Life and groups them into three distinct groups: often called the three-domain system.

When considering the taxonomy of food there are likewise a collection of Domains that make up the world of FOODSTUFFS.

2.1.1. Catino (Dish Domain)

FOODSTUFFS classified in the Catino (Dish) Domain, often simply referred to as Dishes, are those that comprise a significant or otherwise REQUIRED component of a full meal. Dishes are eaten with either the hands or assistive utensils.

The Catino (Dish) Domain is vast, and is necessarily broken down into more helpful classifications, which are the main focus of this document. Dishes can be classified into a number of distinct categories best befitting their characteristics and composition. These kingdoms, or sub-domain classifications, are explained further in section 3 of this document.

In order to meet the definition of a Catino (Dish), a food must meet the following formal definition:

Dish (Domain Catino):

A FOODSTUFF that constitutes a significant portion of the experience of consumption; that is comprised of one or more ingredients of varying importance to the food; that is intended to be consumed wholly or entirely in a single sitting or other finite sittings; and that is substantive and culinary in nature.

This definition requires that a food be “substantive and culinary in nature””, meaning that a single, unprepared, ingredient does not constitute a dish (e.g. a single carrot or a box of dried noodles). For more information see Section 5: Regarding Ingredients.

2.1.2. Potus (Beverage Domain)

FOODSTUFFS classified in the Potus (Beverage) Domain, often referred to as drinks, are those that comprise a significant or otherwise RECOMMENDED component of a full meal, but that do nevertheless convey caloric, nutritional, or enjoyment when consumed. They are often consumed by drinking (both with and without utensils) and are usually without distinguishable component parts.

In order to meet the definition of a Potus (Dish), a food must meet the following formal definition:

Potus (Beverage Domain):

A FOODSTUFF that constitutes a significant portion of the experience of consumption; that is comprised of one or more ingredients that are either difficult or impossible to distinguish at consumption-time and are of varying importance to the food; that is intended to be consumed within a single or finite number of sittings; that is consumed by drinking; and that are substantive and culinary in nature.

Similar to items classified within the Domain Catino (Dish), Beverages/Drinks must be “substantive and culinary in nature”. As such, a glass of water does not constitute a food within the Potus Domain. Such a thing is likely an ingredient. For more information see Section 5: Regarding Ingredients.

2.1.3. Condimentum (Condiment Domain)

FOODSTUFFS classified in the Condimentum (Condiment) Domain, often referred to as simply Condiments, are those that do not comprise a significant or otherwise RECOMMENDED component of a full meal, though they may convey caloric, nutritional, or enjoyment when consumed. FOODSTUFFS in this domain are rarely consumed alone without paring with FOODSTUFFS from the other two domains.

In order to meet the definition of a Condimentum (Condiment), a food must meet the following formal definition:

Condimentum (Condiment Domain):

A FOODSTUFF that does not constitute a significant portion of the experience of consumption; that is comprised of one or more ingredients of varying importance to the food; that is culinary in nature.

Domain Condimentum is a domain of primitive foods; those just within the classification of Food itself. Notice the definition of foods within this domain do not require substance as the other domains do, nor do they require ingredients to be difficult to distinguish (as in Domain Potus) or that they be consumed within a single or finite setting.

2.1.4. Diagram

Below is a visual depiction of the Domains as they relate to Food. This diagram will be helpful in later sections as it is expanded on by adding Kingdoms and other orders.

| Food |
   |            |              |
---------  ------------  -------------
| Dish  |  | Beverage |  | Condiment |
---------  ------------  -------------

2.2. Dish Kingdoms

This section contains the proposed kingdoms for classifying all forms of foods within the Dish Domain.

The kingdoms are: Acetaria (Salad), Tabula (Slab), Pulmenti (Soup), and Cincta (Sandwich).

2.2.1. Acetaria (Salads)

To be classified as belonging to the Kingdom Acetaria, a FOODSTUFF MUST meet the following formal definition:

Acetaria (Kingdom Salad):

A FOODSTUFF, being already defined as within the Catino (Dish) Domain, that is comprised of various distinct components, each of relatively equal value to the dish, that is optionally amended by, but not principally composed of, a sauce.

2.2.2. Tabula (Slab)

To be classified as belonging to the Kingdom Tabula, a FOODSTUFF MUST meet the following formal definition:

Tabula (Kingdom Slab):

A FOODSTUFF, being already defined as within the Catino (Dish) Domain, that is comprised of a primary component and optionally one or more additional supporting components of lesser importance and value to the dish, that is optionally amended by, but not principally composed of, a sauce.

2.2.3. Pulmenti (Soup)

To be classified as belonging to the Kingdom Pulmenti, a FOODSTUFF MUST meet the following formal definition:

Pulmenti (Kingdom Soup):

A FOODSTUFF, being already defined as within the Catino (Dish) Domain, that is comprised of various distinct components, each of relatively equal value to the dish, that is principally composed of, and held together by, a sauce.

Importantly, a dish in the kingdom Pulmenti is distinguished by its difference from the previous two kingdoms. In this case, it is the collection of distinct components, being held together by a sauce that makes dishes in this kingdom different from those in other kingdoms.

It should be noted that the definition of the kingdom does not specify the physical state of the sauce and therefore it need not be liquid as common sense would usually dictate. What instead matters is whether the sauce is the primary constitutive element and whether it binds the dish together.

Where dishes in kingdom Acetaria may be without a sauce, by design or by choice, a dish in kingdom Pulmenti may not lose its sauce without suffering a loss of classification within the kingdom.

2.2.4. Cincta (Sandwich)

To be classified as belonging to the Kingdom Cincta, a FOODSTUFF MUST meet the following formal definition:

Cincta (Kingdom Sandwich):

A FOODSTUFF, being already defined as within the Catino (Dish) Domain, that is comprised of either a set of various distinct components of relatively equal value or a primary component supported by other lesser components that is principally circumscribed, either partially or completely, by single kind of ingredient such that said circumscription forms the bounds of the dish, and is optionally amended by, but not principally composed of, a sauce.

This definition is different from the others above in that it describes multiple additional criteria for classification within kingdom Cincta (e.g. single-ingredient circumscription) as well as the looser definition of the dish’s component parts. This is intended as the principle defining element of a dish in this kingdom is not its ingredients, but how those ingredients—assuming they are not principally composed of or held together by a sauce—are contained by the food itself.

Note that this kingdom explicitly does not require that the dish be entirely circumscribed. Indeed such a definition would split the kingdom along rather tenuous lines (as we will see in section 3: Transformations). Thus, kingdom Cincta contains all manner of items that are either wholly or partially self-bounded.

Note the line between certain dishes in this kingdom and those of kingdom Tabula can be, at times, less distinct than most others in this general taxonomy. Cases where it may be difficult to describe and discern a dish’s kingdom it may be useful to consult Section 4: Categorization Guidelines.

2.2.5. Examples

This section provides a visual set of examples of items so far assumed to be of certain Domains and Kingdoms. Readers should be aware that these items are not yet accepted by the IIFRP as being within the given categories. Such determinations are currently speculative, however they have been extensively researched.

--------                                     ------------  -------------
| Dish |                                     | Beverage |  | Condiment |
--------                                     ------------  -------------
   |                                              |              |
   +-----------+--------+-----------+             |              |
   |           |        |           |             |              |
---------  --------  --------  ------------       |              |
| Salad |  | Soup |  | Slab |  | Sandwich |       |              |
---------  --------  --------  ------------       |              |
   |           |        |           |             |              | - Olive Oil
   |           |        |           |             |              | - Salsa
   |           |        |           |             |              | - Steak Sauce
   |           |        |           |             |              | - Mustard
   |           |        |           |             |
   |           |        |           |             | - Sports Drinks
   |           |        |           |             | - Soda
   |           |        |           |             | - Cocktails
   |           |        |           |
   |           |        |           | - Hot Dog
   |           |        |           | - Burrito
   |           |        |           | - Egg Rolls
   |           |        |           | - Rueben
   |           |        |           | - Sushi
   |           |        |
   |           |        | - Cake
   |           |        | - Pancakes
   |           |        | - Steak
   |           |        | - Lamb Chops
   |           |
   |           | - Breakfast Cereal
   |           | - Ice Cream
   |           | - Beef Stew
   |           | - Tonkotsu Ramen
   | - Ceasar Salad
   | - Fruit Salad
   | - Burrito Bowl
   | - Pasta
   | - Kung Pao Chicken
   | - Sauerkraut

2.3. Notes Regarding Phyla

Though this document does attempt to describe a complete list of Domains and Kingdoms within the Dish Domain, it makes no effort to describe such a classification system for Phyla or other levels below that of the Kingdom. Such an exercise is left for other proposals.

That said, it should be noted the potential for Phyla that have already been discussed during the development of this taxonomic system as a starting point for others wishing to do further investigation.

The examples contained in this section pertain to the kingdom Cincta (Sandwich). This kingdom has already received the vast majority of attention regarding classification [See CUBERULE].

  1. Phyla Aperto (Open-Faced Sandwich)

An open-faced sandwich is likely any sandwich that is partially, but not mostly circumscribed by a single type of bounding ingredient. This differs from a closed faced sandwich as it does not require complete or majority circumscription.

Examples of open-faced sandwiches are: pizza, open-faced turkey sandwiches, tacos, and gyros.

  1. Phyla Clausa (Close-Faced Sandwich)

A closed-faced sandwich is likely any sandwich that is either mostly or completely circumscribed by a single type of bounding ingredient.

Examples include: burritos, wraps, hot dogs, sushi, and tuna melts.

2.4. Notes Regarding Sauce

As many observant readers have assuredly noticed, many of the definitions of kingdoms within the Dish domain are concerned not only with the composition of foods and their relation to primary and auxiliary components, but with the foods intrinsic or expected relationship with a sauce.

Sauces are of the Domain condiment and can be varied in composition, constitution, viscosity, and use, however their importance to the Dish domain is one of special significance. Sauces are, at their core, an augmentation that can and often do distinguish items of one domain from that of another. Consider for a moment the differences between the formal definition of items within the kingdom Acetaria (Salad) and those in kingdom Pulmenti (Soup). The formal definition differs exclusively around the importance of the sauce.

The relation of a given item to its sauce (whether optional, required, or forbidden) was a spark of clarity that has lead the discussions of this standard since its inception. To quote an enthusiastic and seemingly prolific friend of the author “food is the thing that goes under the sauce.” Such a statement, on its surface may seem to contain more sarcasm or wit than taxonomic use, but in subsequent discussions and thorough research, the statement seems to contain far more intrinsic wisdom than may be apparent at first glance.

While the proposed taxonomic system does not rely exclusively on a foods relation to its sauce, said relation is of no doubt great import to the classification and definition of a food within the system. As such is has been suggested that the system proposed here be referred to as a “Sauce-based Taxonomy”, however such a name is obviously incomplete and therefore to be disregarded.

Regardless of the name given to this taxonomic system, it is to be noted the import of a sauce’s relation to the food it constitutes. As it seems, food is at least partially just a thing under, around, or within a sauce.


Because FOODSTUFFS, once created, can be manipulated in ways that can necessitate a change in classification, such a system for how foods can be manipulated must be introduced and prudently constructed.

FOODSTUFFS of all domains are necessarily created with “culinary intent” and said intent could be to modify existing foods rather than recreate them in a new form from scratch.

One could easily imagine a culinary actor, such as a home chef, unwrapping a burrito and putting it into a bowl. In such a case it would be only reasonable for a CLASSIFIER to once again attempt to make judgements about the food. Since food is not a fixed and timeless entity there must exist some way to judge these kinds of manipulations and how they affect a food.

Such a system though must not be too permissive and broad. To allow every simple manipulation to change a food’s classification is to surrender the taxonomy to the whims of every destructive actor and render the system useless. However to be too prescriptive would petrify the standard and lead to confusing and inconsistent classifications.

Instead, the system proposed in this section defines a simple set of tools that can be used to classify a transformation on a food and therefore how that transformation affects the food and its classification within the taxonomy.

3.1. Elementary Transformations

The first, and simplest, transformation within the system is an Elementary Transformation. Elementary transformations are usually non-transitive, meaning they by themselves are not sufficient to change a food’s high-level classification. Foods that undergo one and only one elementary transformation are always non-transitive.

Elementary transformations are defined thus:

Elementary Transformation (Non-Transitive)

Any single simple, mechanical operation that is applied universally to the FOODSTUFF.

Examples of elementary transformations are listed below.

  1. Heating/Cooling. Warming soup in the microwave does not change the fact that it is soup; neither does melting frozen soup.
  2. Flipping. Turning a sandwich upside-down does not make it a slab.
  3. Cutting/Chopping. A cut steak is still a steak.

3.2. Substantive Transformations

Distinct from elementary transformations are the Substantive Transformations. Substantive transformations are transitive meaning they do change a food’s classification.

Substantive transformations are defined thus:

Substantive Transformation (Transitive):

Any transformation that is significant to the construction of the FOODSTUFF that is comprised of multiple connected elementary or sub-substantive transformations such that they substantially alter the classification of the FOOD.

3.2.1. Level I.

A Level I Substantive Transformation is any transformation that is significant enough to change the overall domain of the food in question. Because they affect the highest level of the taxonomy, these kinds of transformations are necessarily the most significant and drastic. As such, they often leave the food in a completely unrecognizable state and are usually rare.

Examples of a Level I substantive transformation are as follows:

  1. Blending a sandwith with water to create a liquid.
  2. Boiling fish in water so as to extract all flavors and create a stock.

Usually, FOODSTUFFS that undergo a Level I substantive transformation end the transformation as either a food in Domain Potus (Beverage) or Domain Condimentum (Condiment). It is rare for a food to enter a Level I substantive transformation as a condiment or beverage and exit as a dish.

3.2.3. Level II.

A Level II substantive transformation is one that is significant enough to change the kingdom to which a food can be classified. These transformations are significant enough to substantially alter the food’s categorization at a high level but fall short of changing the food’s domain.

Examples of a Level II substantive transformation are as follows:

  1. Adding slices of bread around a steak; making it a sandwich.
  2. Unrolling a burrito.
  3. Draining a soup and serving the leftover ingredients as a salad.

3.2.3. Level III. and onwards

The remaining levels of substantive transformations follow in the same manner as the previous two. Each additional level of tranformation is by definition substantial enough to alter the corresponding level of the taxonomy. For example a Level III substantive transformation would be sufficient to change a FOODSTUFF’s Phyla, but not its kingdom.


Categorizing food, in all of its shapes and forms, is a complex task. By their very nature, foods can be created and manipulated into a variety of shapes, sizes, and compositions. Given any strict set of rules, there will no doubt be some effort made to abuse the rules and attempt to create a food which does not fit nicely into any given category, at least not at first glance.

In the biological sciences, this problem is less of an issue: as a frog cannot, through the application of sheer will, change its classification within the taxonomy. This is not the case with food. While a bowl of soup cannot exert will, at least not in a way the IIFRP has yet been able to discern and measure, people make food, and therefore they can exert their own will in how and why they make it. This, unfortunately, creates unavoidable taxonomic issues.

As such no strict, top-down classification system can be decided upon without necessarily introducing ambiguity and opportunities for abuse. Instead, this document proposes a “socratic method” of taxonomic categorization for classifying food.

This socratic categorization method uses the principle, originally borrowed from computer science, known as Duck Typing. Such a system, by design, does not seek to know for certainty what classification—or type—a given FOODSTUFF is. To know such a thing seems tantamount to possessing omnipotence over the final state of all food in all time.

Instead of asking, what a thing is, the socratic (Duck Typed) method asks, what a thing is like. In using this method, the CLASSIFIER attempts to explain a given food and its relation to the domains, kingdoms, etc given by the taxonomy. In a way, this method seeks to approximate a given food and explain not its nature, but its relation to the pseudo-platonic definitions given above. The CLASSIFIER does not assign these classifications; they simply discover them.

4.1. The Principle of Least Assumptions

When attempting to discover a given food’s classification, whatever the level of the taxonomy in question, is is REQUIRED that the CLASSIFIER prefer classifications where the food matches most closely the criteria in each question asked. Foods should always be classified in a way that requires the fewest exceptions to be made.

When in doubt, start from the formal definitions. They are the source of light you use to illuminate the darkness.

4.2. The Principle of Uniqueness

Within the proposed taxonomic system, foods MUST be classified into one and only one strict classification path within the taxonomic tree. Foods MUST NOT be classified within multiple paths and paths MUST NOT converge once they have diverged.

4.3. The Principle of Universality

This section describes the various components of the Principle of Universality.

4.3.1. Plating Universality

When attempting to classify a given food, the CLASSIFIER MUST NOT consider the plating, or lack thereof, that usually or is expected to accompany the food. Plating of a given food MUST NOT be considered as a SIGNIFICANT PROPERTY of a food because of its inherent variability and lack of consistency across time and space. Foods must be classifiable in a manner that does not change based on availability of items that are not inherent to the food. This property is known as Plating Universality.


Suppose a given food is usually served on a plate. Further, let us suppose that the Principle of Plating Universality was not a factor in our classifications.

Now suppose that the SERVER has run out of plates of a size fitting the item and instead serves the food in a bowl. If the food has not changed, and instead only its plating has, our classification—having been based partly on the plating—would necessitate that we reclassify this otherwise unchanged food because of factors irrelevant to the design of the food.

E.g. A salad is still a salad if it is in a bowl or on a plate.

4.3.2. Temporal Universality

Subsequently, a CLASSIFIER MUST NOT consider the time of day or other such temporal factors when attempting to classify a food using the proposed method. To experienced CLASSIFIERS the reasons for this principle may seem obvious. Others may attempt to use this relatively simple property to create a basic taxonomy, but such an attempt is inherently flawed. Highly variable properties are NOT RECOMMENDED to be considered by the CLASSIFIER when they classify a food. While it may be important to note the typical times of day when the consumption of a given food takes place, it is simply informational (perhaps for International Considerations), and SHOULD serve no taxonomic purpose. This principle is known as Temporal Universality.


Suppose a given food is usually served in a given region in the early morning hours after waking (i.e. at Breakfast). Now consider an individual who works a job that requires they awaken in the evening and sleep during the day. If such a person were to desire a given food, known to everyone else as a breakfast food and thereby classified as such, would this particular individual be classified as consuming a different food simply because of a non-food related factor such as their employment situation or sleep schedule?

If such factors were to be included as taxonomic components, then all food classifications would first depend on the specific individual.

E.g. Breakfast is a relative concept. A hash is still a salad whether it is eaten in the morning or in the evening.

4.4. Socratic Criteria

The exact method of determining a given food’s classification within the taxonomy is not always repeatable in the same way each time. That said, here are some guideline questions to help aid the debate and pursue the true classification. A potential CLASSIFIER should review these questions and understand them, as well as understand the purpose of each question. The latter understanding will help develop the potential CLASSIFIER’s ability to generate future useful socratic classification questions.

4.4.1. Determining Domain

  1. Does the given food provide substantial and repeatable nourishment, or does it seem to serve an auxiliary purpose for another, more nourishing food?

    If the former, it may be of the Dish domain. If the later, it may be of the kingdom Condiment or Beverage.

  2. Would the given food be consumed or enjoyed without other foods present, or does it usually require consumption along with other foods?

    If the former, it may be of the Dish domain or Beverage. If the latter, it may be of the kingdom Condiment.

  3. Does the given food provide refreshment (i.e. a pallate cleanser between bites or sips of another food)?

    If so, it may be of the kingdom Condiment or Beverage.

  4. Is the given food usually consumed through a straw or by sipping?

    If so, it may be of the Dish domain (e.g. kingdom Pulmenti) or Beverage.

4.4.2. Determining Dish Kingdom

  1. Is the given dish primarily composed of a single focal ingredient or subcomponent and optionally served with additional, lesser, assorted components, or is the dish composed of a variety of components of relatively equal value to the dish such that no individual component or item is a focus of the dish?

    If the former, the dish may be of the kingdom Acetaria (Salad) or the kingdom Pulmenti. If the later, the dish may be of the kingdom Tabula (Slab) or the kingdom Cincta (Sandwich).

  2. Is the given dish principally composed of a REQUIRED sauce, or is the sauce RECOMMENDED or OPTIONAL?

    If the former, then the dish is likely of the kingdom Pulmenti (Soup).

  3. Is the given dish bounded and circumscribed, either entirely or partially, by a single kind of ingredient?

    If so, it is likely of the kingdom Cincta (Sandwich).

  4. Is the given dish primarily composed of items suspended in a sauce?

    If so, then the dish is likely of the kingdom Pulmenti (Soup).

4.5. Drawbacks

Any such system not based on objective criteria (such as biologic taxonomies based on genetic information) are by their nature complex and often subjective.

While this may seem to some readers as a critique of the proposed taxonomy, it should be noted that this flexibility is often a strength of the system, rather than a weakness, and is part of the overall design and intention of the standard.

That said, such a method does open up the possibility for debate around the edges of each category. Already in various research studies, numerous examples of difficult classification have arisen and been debated. This debate has nearly always, when done in keeping with the criteria and principles behind the classification method, lead to a final agreed upon classification for a given food. Though it should be noted, this process is not guaranteed to be fast or painless. Classifying all FOODSTUFFS is inherently a monumental task, and no classification system, taxonomy, or method however well designed will eliminate the volume of effort required to complete it.


Ingredients are not a FOOD. They are instead its principal components. While ingredients may be consumed as food (e.g. celery sticks, a glass of water) they do not meet the definition under this standard to be considered proper foods deserving of a place within the taxonomy.

In a parallel to biology, ingredients are the amino acids or the proteins of food. They are required for food to exist, and they are what makes a food, but amino acids and proteins are not Life. Such is the same for ingredients.

This leaves some ingredients, which are often consumed as foods, in a strange limbo, but further parallels with the biological sciences yield a remedy to this situation.

In biology, there are many criteria that must be met for a thing to be considered Life. As is explained above, there are also many criteria that need to be met for a thing to be considered Food. Yet, there exists a class, outside the realm of the usual taxonomy, for things that almost meed the definition of Life, and so there is the same for Food.

By definition, Foods must be “substantive and culinary in nature”. This requires that culinary intent be present when crafting the food. Simply plating a collection of celery stalks does not constitute culinary intent. Yet, while a certain collection of proteins can reproduce without meeting the definition of Life, so too can ingredients constitute a meal or a snack without meeting the technical definition of a Food.

A glass of water is a good example. While at first the glass of water may seem to share many similarities with Foods in the Potus (Beverage) Domain, it cannot be accepted as a food as it does not meet the required criteria of being “culinary in nature”.

A CLASSIFIER MUST take these elements into account when attempting to classify a FOODSTUFF.


As noted in the sections detailing the Principles of Universality, it may seem obvious to some that classifications based on plating, time of consumption, cultural factors, or other such characteristics are potential candidates for a taxonomic system of food classification. Hopefully this document in general and those sections in particular have dissuaded those who might hold such assumptions.

Indeed the concept of a plating-based taxonomic system was the heart of the original discussions that would lead to the development of the standard proposed in this document. The author and many other contributors later developed a proto-standard based on such criteria. However further research and debate continually uncovered examples that could not fit within the as-then developed system and further additions or exemptions risked the integrity of the system as a whole, and as such the system was abandoned.


Beyond the taxonomy described in this document, there exists the need for additional layers containing more specific taxonomic groups. Perhaps most pressing is the need for a generalizable criteria for each kingdom’s Phyla.

Some effort has been made here (and in other research by both IIFRP and non-IIFRP individuals) to create such Phyla [CUBERULE]. Most such efforts have been focused on the classification of Dishes within the kingdom Cincta (Sandwich), yet there is a need to discover, classify and develop criteria for every Phyla.

Secondly, there are yet no discovered kingdoms for the other two domains: Beverage and Condiment. Additional effort should be made to better classify items within those criteria.

Thirdly, it is obvious that given such a criteria as these, effort must now be spent to classify common FOODSTUFFS using the criteria given. Additional RFCs should attempt to classify various foods and justify such classifications according to the definitions laid out in the criteria given.


A generalized taxonomy, guided by the Principles of Universality listed above, is intended to be universal and cross-cultural. Efforts have been made, through consultation with IIFRP members from a variety of different cultural backgrounds to ensure that the domains and kingdoms listed above are flexible and useful across cultural boundaries, the author admits that the primary focus has been to classify foods within the bounds of traditional American and Euro-centric diets.

As such additional research is necessary in order to ensure the criteria and classifications can be performed across cultures.

Additionally, there is work needed to ensure access to this document across the non-english speaking world.


  1. CUBERULE: Cube Rule
  2. MEME: Is a Hot Dog a Sandwich? (Meme)
  3. HUFF: Should Tacos Be Considered a Sandwich? The Verdict Is in
  4. WAPO: A hot dog is a taco. A steak is a salad. A Pop-Tart is a calzone. Let the Cube Rule explain.


Primary Author:
Brian Schrader
email: brian “at” brianschrader “dot” com

Core Contributors:
Ramon Guerra
Jennifer Mote
David Mote

Our thanks to the great many people that have helped refine and define this standard over the years. There are too many of you to name, but you know who you are.

Most likely you’re very angry with us.