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Girl vs. Food: Food Art on a Whole New Level

By Becky Radolf
On April 19, 2012

Whenever we use the Internet for food-related purposes, it's usually to look up recipes or to look at food porn and become instantly hungry.

I've spent way more time than I'd like to admit delving into the dessert section of Pinterest, but some of the most interesting artwork based on food is not necessarily meant to show awesome pictures of things that probably tasted like an orgasm in your mouth.

While most bloggers are snapping a picture of their Endive salad they made for lunch, other photographers are looking at how food fits into the bigger picture. They examine the relationship food has with different societies and families, and how we often perceive people based upon solely what they eat.

Take, for example, Mark Menjivar's series, "You Are What You Eat," where he showcases the insides of American's refrigerators from all over the country. You see a fridge stocked with four different types of beer, two bottles of wine, and some cranberry juice. You make a rapid alcohol-related judgment about whomever that fridge belongs to. Then, in the caption, it says that that person's efforts have helped send millions of dollars to people in Uganda. You feel ashamed for judging so quickly.

You might realize you have more eating habits in common with a retired train conductor from Jackson, Miss. than you thought. You might draw a different conclusion. Either way, Menjivar's series explores the belief that food is the window to the soul.

If you need a relative perspective on how the world eats compared to you and your family, then the series, "What the World Eats," which was featured in Time Magazine, shows just that. Taken from Peter Menzel's book, "Hungry Planet," the pictures feature families standing alongside the entire collection of food they eats for the week.

If you think that's boring (it's hard to come up with a jazzy description for that), consider this: Seeing a family of six in Chad sit and smile next to three decently-sized bags of grains and ten tiny bags of seasonings (which cost $1.23 in its entirety) it presents a jarring contrast to the American family where two children each happily hold a large delivery pizza.

Fast forward to a svelte, Italian family standing next to a table that seems to be subsisting bread and fresh fruits and vegetables. There is an obvious lack of processed food and a weakness for soda.

With the visual of what people choose to put in their bodies, feed their children and are forced to live on evokes an entirely new sentiment about them and their starkly diverse lifestyles.

As consumers who have limitless options and access to any food we could conceive, we make informed decisions by seeing food with a purpose: it should taste as good as possible, it should be as healthy as possible or it should be as cheap as possible.

Very rarely do we take a step back to see food as a part of our culture. Not in the traditional sense of stuffing ourselves silly together at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but as a basis for conclusions and as a tool for self-reflection.

That might sound cheesy, but when you learn that that barren refrigerator you're looking at sits in the house of a man living alone on a $432 fixed monthly income, it becomes a powerful image. 

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