You are what you eat: what the inside of your fridge says about your household

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Does anything in one’s home tell as clear a story about its inhabitants as the refrigerator? I hadn’t really thought about it before, until I saw You Are What You Eat, a series of photos by artist Mark Menjivar, who profiled 35 refrigerators and the people who own them.

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. […]

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.

These few portraits made clear the differences between my life and all the “characters'” lives so quickly. The guy from the above photo, the street advertiser, doesn’t pause midway through a tough day at work to fantasize about a comfort food he’ll dip into when he gets home. He can’t afford anything but mayo (I think?) and something wrapped in a black trash bag in his refrigerator. I’m sure it’s not moldy in there at all.

College Students | 3-Person Household

Oh, that takes me back. Being college students and only having liquids and condiments on hand. And clearly, keeping a good inventory: I see two bottles of soysauce in the door, both opened.

2-Person Household | Try to only eat foods found within 100 miles of home.

These people seem to be doing well with their goal. This collection makes me think they’re people who really enjoy eating — look at those jars! Bright, tangy vegetables! I see maybe a black bean dish on the top shelf. Hummus in the middle? And what’s in the stew pot? Maybe there’s cake under that tin foil.

Bartender | Goes to sleep at 8AM and wakes up at 4PM daily.

That looks about right. Food service workers have the shittiest schedules, and ready access to so much crap food. At least this person isn’t going hungry.

2 Person Household | First week after deciding to eat all local produce.

If I may offer a helpful tip? You bought way too much produce. You two will never get through most of that, unless you eat raw — and therefore many, many vegetables. But six cucumbers? We eat a lot of vegetables in this house and we’re lucky to finish two cucumbers before they turn.

But don’t let your anxiety over feeling like you’re not buying enough food ruin this. You’ll get better at figuring out how much stuff you need.

Carpenter/Photographer | San Antonio, TX | 3-Person Household - 12 point buck shot on family property.


Six person household | Parents and three adult children live in an efficiency apartment

That’s not a lot of food for six people, and six people in an efficiency sounds like a hard way to live.

If you’re digging Mark’s work, there are a couple dozen more photos in his portfolio. You can also buy prints at 20×200.

And now? Put your fine art photographer hat on: take a portrait of your icebox, upload it to the Offbeat Home Flickr group, and post a link in the comments. I kicked it off. Let’s see what kinds of stories our refrigerators tell.

Comments on You are what you eat: what the inside of your fridge says about your household

  1. “Six person household | Parents and three adult children live in an efficiency apartment”

    That’s five; who’s the sixth?

  2. Well, I would post a photo of my fridge, but it was only delivered today so we haven’t had a chance to fill it!


    3 person household, one mostly uses different fridge. Husband and I are ovo-lacto pescetarians. The freezer is not normally this full but the Costco frozen waffles aren’t going away very fast. Behind waffles: booze. Bottom of fridge door: more alcohol. We try to buy organic milk and produce. Eggs from my aunt’s chickens.

    I hesitated to upload this actually, even though I like how my fridge is looking right now! The freezer is what makes me cringe. Also, the topmost refrigerator light burnt out a few moons ago and I haven’t gotten around to replacing it. I can still see in there well enough so I let it go.

    Also, re: the snake… um, in my childhood home, there were frequently bats, owls, snakes and other creatures in our freezer. My mom was an interpretive ranger for the NPS and if *ahem* fresh roadkill (not done by her) was in really good condition, she thought she could donate the bodies to the visitor’s centers or something. I don’t think it turned out that way, but her intentions were good I suppose! 🙂

  4. I love this!

    It really makes me wonder what others would think if they opened my fridge. I live with my boyfriend, who’s in grad school while I’m in undergrad. So, we’re scraping by with very little money. He’s also the least healthy eater I’ve ever seen. He stuffs the fridge with kool-aid, bacon and left over pizza while I add random items that I can eat with food allergies and lots of add ins to spice up things like plain rice. We also have two of many items, one labeled “gluten-fied” and the other labeled with something like “add gluten and you will die.”

    I love the fridge full of deer. Reminds my of my parents’.

  5. This is fascinating! Our own fridge often elicits gasps of, “But it’s practically empty,” from my partner’s mother whenever she visits. He’s from a big Italian family where cooking’s an event, so her fridge is always bursting. Being just a two person household, and one that cooks full meals more often than snacks, we usually only have milk, condiments, a few fruits and veggies, cold drinks and sandwich fixings in our fridge. The freezer is whatever “main” course I’ve purchased for us for the week. Our larder–now that’s more full, since we tend to keep a lot of canned veggies, cereal, rice, and pasta. It’s not that we don’t have a lot of food, we just don’t have a lot of *perishable* food. And what is perishable tends to get eaten pretty quickly.

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