You Are What You Eat

Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food Movement, often says, ” “Fridges are tombs – places where food goes to die.”  I tend to agree that it’s easy to forget what’s buried in the back, easy to purchase more than you need and count on the fridge to keep things fresh, and easy to go a little while without opening the door if you’re used to a busy lifestyle or a very whole foods/fresh diet.  The following post comes from Mark Menjivar, a photographer and artist based in Texas. This series of photographs was published in Good Magazine in May 2009.  It’s an interesting reflection of how the contents of our fridges reflect our careers, our lifestyles, and our personalities.  If you’re inspired by it, we welcome you to post a photograph of the contents of a fridge in response!

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Picture Show: You Are What You Eat

We purchase refrigerators the way we fill them: out of necessity-to preserve the milk; to keep the greens from wilting. But from the right vantage point, an open fridge is the perfect staging grounds for a discussion of consumption. And if the aphorism holds true-if we really are what we eat-then refrigerators are like windows into our souls. It’s that sentiment that’s at the heart of Mark Menjivar‘s inventive exploration of hunger, “You Are What You Eat,” for which he photographed the contents of strangers’ refrigerators. As you can see, whether it holds neatly ordered rows of labels-out condiments or zip-locked stacks of shot-and-gutted buck meat, there’s almost certainly a narrative to a fridge’s arrangement.

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You Are What You Eat is a series of portraits made by examining the interiors of refrigerators in homes across the United States.

For three years I traveled around the country exploring food issues. The more time I spent speaking and listening to individual stories, the more I began to think about the foods we consume and the effects they have on us as individuals and communities.

An intense curiosity and questions about stewardship led me to begin to make these unconventional portraits. A refrigerator is both a private and a shared space. One person likened the question, “May I photograph the interior of your fridge?” to asking someone to pose nude for the camera.

Each fridge is photographed “as is”. Nothing added, nothing taken away.

These are portraits of the rich and the poor. Vegetarians, Republicans, members of the NRA, those left out, the under appreciated, former POWs, dreamers, and so much more. We never know the full story of one’s life.

My hope is that we will think deeply about how we care.

How we care for our bodies. How we care for others. And how we care for the land.

Owner of Defunct Amusement Park | Alpine, TX | 1-Person Household | Former WW II Prisoner of War | 2007


Carpenter/Photographer | San Antonio, TX | 3-Person Household | 12-Point Buck | 2008


Street Advertiser | San Antonio, TX | 1-Person Household | Lives on $432 fixed monthly income | 2007


Midwife/Middle School Science Teacher | San Antonio, TX | 3-Person Household (including dog) | First week after deciding to eat locally grown vegetables. | 2008


Retired Train Conductor | Jackson, MS | 1-Person Household | Started Meals on Wheels in his community | 2008


Red Cross Board Member | San Antonio, TX | 1-Person Household | Sleeps with a loaded .45 pistol on nightstand | 2008


Bar Tender | San Antonio, TX | 1-Person Household | Goes to sleep at 8AM and wakes up at 4PM daily. | 2008


Restaurant Owner | Waco, TX | 1-Person Household | Has a photographic memory for useless information. | 2009


Documentary Film Makers | San Diego, CA | 3-Person Household | Efforts have helped send millions of dollars to children in Uganda. | 2008


Botanist | Ft. Wayne, IN | 1-Person Household | Feels more comfortable among flora and fauna of his era than people. | 2008


Community Volunteer | San Angelo, TX | 1-Person Household | Completely blind and lives alone. | 2007


Anesthesiologist | Ft. Worth , TX | 3-Person Household | Youngest son works on lobster boat in Alaska | Day after Thanksgiving, 2007


Short Order Cook | Marathon,TX | 2-Person Household | She can bench press over 300lbs. | 2007


Graphic Designer/Print Shop Owner | 2-Person Household | Founder of http://www.DeliverUsFromLiberals.com | 2008


School Crossing Guard/Nursing Home Assistant | Austin, TX | 6-Person Household | Parents and 3 adult children live in an efficiency apartment. | 2007


Journalist/Designer/School Teacher | 3-Person Household | Austin, TX | Writes the obituaries for the local newspaper. | 2009


College Students | Waco, TX | 3-Person Household | Drummer for a Death Metal band. | 2009


High School Football Coach/Social Worker | Houston, TX | 2-Person Household | Counselor at LGBT crisis center. | 2008

Each caption is the title of the photograph above it. 


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5 thoughts on “You Are What You Eat

  1. I see a LOT of corn and plastic. This causes me to think mournfully about how we care for our bodies, others and our land.

    But… I think there’s a lot more to be told beyond the pictures. There may be an entire story behind each and every item in every fridge. At least, that is the case in my fridge. My fridge right now looks not like it should, and not how I’d like it to look, and not how it “usually” looks (which is every-changing in my case), but even the most embarassing item in there has a story that I’d like to tell beyond a single photograph.

    This photo series is though-provoking and very interesting however I believe there’s a lot more to these stories that I’d be curious to know and it makes me feel uncomfortable about my judgement and reaction to any of these fridges.

  2. The things that really jumped out at me are the proliferation of beverages in everyone’s fridge, including various kinds of alcohol, but also juice and soda. As you mention, Tanya, there’s lots of corn and plastic, and packaging of all varieties, and as a vegetarian looking through, I feel (maybe not so) that there is a lot of meat.

    Looking at my own fridge, I see things I was given, things I bought, things I made, some wilting kale I wish I’d used sooner, sourdough starter suspended in its animation, and containers that fool me with their contents as I attempt to reuse things until no longer possible. I feel more or less fine with what’s in there, but as you say, there is certainly a greater story beyond the fridge contents itself. For instance, I have butter in the fridge. But I don’t regularly use or eat butter, and so it is an item that exists in my life for the guests that pass through. It is Gay Lea butter, because I couldn’t come to terms with paying $10 for a block of organic butter, but in my quest for ethical food choices, I wanted to support a co-operative, Ontario-based dairy rather than a large corporation.

    Another similar project to this one is the Hungry Planet photo series, which asks families around the world to show the contents of their entire pantry, representing a week’s worth of food consumption. It might be a very worthy follow-up post!

  3. Great post! I agree that the contents of our refrigerators (and our cupboards) say a lot about who we are and how we live our lives. Food is nourishment and fuel. What kind of fuel do we want to put in our bodies? Are we going to fuel our bodies with something that is sustaining?

  4. Pingback: What Can We Do? | PeaceMeal Project

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