I was given an interesting task this week, something seemingly far from my comfort zone. My objective was to approach a stranger and have them allow me to take a picture of their refrigerator. More importantly I was to capture the contents within the refrigerator. This would be to infer about what story the food and drink they had told about them in many different aspects. To do this I had I would have to go "door to door" in the East Lansing area ringing doorbells in the hopes of a taker. Often considered a more introverted person, this presented somewhat of a challenge for me.
Nonetheless, I hopped in my red Chevrolet Aveo this past Sunday afternoon and took to the streets. I began the journey, weaving up and down residential streets in search an inviting home to try my hand at first. After nearly 15 minutes, I parked the car and approached a modest, two-story home. I headed for the door, going over what I was going to say in my head, hoping for the best. I rang the doorbell, waited for about 30-45 seconds before realizing there would be no answer. So, I continued on, noticing the house next door also looked like a good option. I walked over from the first house, rang the doorbell and waited patiently yet again. Unfortunately, I was met with the same outcome and similarly at two other houses in the neighborhood.
Though I had yet to yield the picture I needed, I was proud of myself, for I had been calm and ready at each home to communicate the message. I foraged on turning out of that neighborhood back on to the main road. I turned into a different neighborhood, quickly finding a potential winner. I parked the car and approached a small, blue one-story sprinkled with bright flowers. I rang the doorbell and to my excitement noticed movement inside. An elderly woman approached the door, opening the first of two doors, looking at me. Just as I began to open my mouth, ready to explain why I was there, she shook her head and said no, presuming me to be a solicitor. Slightly dejected, I got back into the Aveo, heading back out there. I entered yet another neighborhood and found a home well decorated for halloween, with many lights on inside, indicating someone was home. I decided to make this my next pursuit walking up a long driveway to the burgundy porch. I gave the bell a ring and immediately saw a middle-aged woman head my way through the clear, glass door. She open the door and said "hello", to which I began to explain to her my request. She looked at me with an air of unease and inquired about what I would take the picture with and if there was anyway for me to prove she could trust me to enter her home. I told her I was going to use my iPhone and showed her my MSU ID card thinking this may be enough to convince her. It was not, as she politely told me that she did not feel good about the arrangement, closing the door. As I walked back to the car I decided that was enough for the day, satisfied with my efforts. Yet, I had not gained access into a home to get what I really wanted.
To account for this, other measures had to be taken. When I returned to my residence hall that night I texted my mom asking her to if she could text a friend of hers asking them for a refrigerator picture. She graciously agreed, saying it should not be a problem. I told her not to tell me who the person the refrigerator belonged to or anything about them. Soon after she sent me the picture that appears above and I was all set to begin.
Right off the bat, the refrigerator appears very full indicating those living in the home likely have a stable income. The absence of free space seems to lean towards a household that is certainly food secure. Furthermore, assessing the overall food and beverage profile it seems the household has a fairly healthy diet given the existing state it came to me in. I spot items like grape tomatoes, raspberries, strawberries, carrots, frozen peas, and I believe those are onions in the bottom right drawer. Something that I noticed after many scans over is the abundance of coffee creamer products. A large container of Coffee-Mate appears on the main top shelf and another smaller container in the door. This observation lead to an inference that those living in this home drink a fair amount of coffee.
Though many good components appear, foods such as ice cream, (likely) KFC mashed potatoes, processed cheese, toaster strudels, and pizza rolls are also spotted. I'd be interested to find out if these processed foods are incorporated more often into daily meals rather than the fruits and vegetables. In this way, I feel that those who live here are similar to the American families captured in Hungry Planet. Both examples appear to have an abundance of food available on a weekly basis and have multiple processed foods. Another interesting component was the loaf of bread appearing on the second shelf, sealed in a plastic bag. Given the sealed packaging and plastic bag around that I would guess this is unprocessed, bakery bread with a few days left before mold begins to grow. This draws one back to thoughts of author, Melanie Warner's mentions in Pandora's Lunchbox of the simplicity that can be bread. However, in many cases, like Subway, it much more of a feat of food science. They have ovens right in the store, it must be fresh and wholesome? That's what they say about it right? That's what they want you to think. Where in fact, this bread is loaded up with preservatives and dough conditioners likely to keep it without mold days after the truly wholesome local bread (102).
In addition to being lovers of coffee, this household is also one of pickle connoisseurs. A jar appears in on the second shelf next to the bread and two jars in the door. I do not see any alcohol in both the refrigerator or the freezer. Although, this could have been due to the time and season. In fact, the entire food and drink profile could have looked very different on say a summertime Friday versus the fall Sunday which was used. It reasonable to say that the gallon of apple cider wouldn't be there in that case. Whatever the case, a trip inside the refrigerator can say a lot more about the owner than you think. That is, if you are allowed inside to do so.