Fried, baked, steamed, mashed, smashed, or boiled. One of the most popular crops worldwide, the spud is arguably the root of human nourishment. Just about 50% of vegetables consumed in the US are potatoes and tomatoes—familiar pair?
How Things are Consumed depicts the interdependency of societal systems by taking the economic and industrial ecologies surrounding the manufacturing and distribution of food products—such as French fries—as an example. The value of food is in constant change through social phenomena, most notably affected by dining environments such as restaurants and fast food chains. Rate of consumption and ability to nourish does not always build direct economic value. However, depending on how it is distributed and experienced by the consumer, food may be valued as high end, fancy, fine-dining, or as budget, junk, cheap. The distribution and consumption environments largely impose economic value, with the food itself contributing very little to perceived value. Subsidiary elements of dining, such as drive-in versus sit-down, influence consumption practices worldwide. We pay $2.98 for fries at a fast food joint, and $8.00 for the same potatoes and oil at a fine dining restaurant. How does the commercialization of food distribution and consumption practices influence our perception and judgment of the value of foods?
Using French fries as an example, the work leads viewers through two different ways potatoes are regularly consumed and questions perceived differences in value along the way. The underlying connections to other processes cannot be ignored when it comes to the final presentation and consumption of the food. What we pay for is a lot more than just what’s on our plates—or in our paper boxes.