Bourdieu’s Food Space chart, from fast food to French Laundry

In Pierre Bourdieu’s Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste from 1979 is a chart that shows the taste of food against economic capital and cultural capital. Gastronomica updated the chart. Mmmmm, underground super club food truck. [Thanks, Jonathan]


  • Seems a bit like a smug way of sorting by “trendy (high-low)” and “expensive (high-low)”. It does make me chuckle because the top right box is clearly some guy’s idea of “that is soooo last year, darling”.

    You could probably automate this – every six months, half the trendy/expensive foods move down to trendy/cheap, half the old trendy/cheap become this season’s untrendy/expensive, half the untrendy/expensive become untrendy/cheap, half the untrendy/cheap slip off the chart completely to a seperate list labelled “no-one eats THAT anymore”, and the gap in trendy/expensive gets filled by a random selection from the “no-one eats THAT anymore” list, usually with a new name (e.g. “whole animal” for “tripe, offal”, “active cultures” for “unpasturised, full of bacteria”, “wheat free” for “recipe not updated based on popular demand for wheat”, “seasonal” for “recipe not updated to make use of cold storage and greenhouse technology”).

    Why are herbs and umami (MSG, marmite, cheese, gravy, right?) given as examples of the high end of expensive?

  • Gunnar Tveiten June 26, 2012 at 2:18 am

    Homemade pickles, made from some recipee you found on the Internet, is *high* cultural capital while homemade pickles made the way grandmother taught you is *low* cultural capital ?

    On what planet ?

    • Well spotted. “Cultural capital” here seems to mean “grasping at passing fads to fill the gaping empty void where culture should be”. This is by, and for, wannabe trendy kids who don’t have grandmothers who learnt to make their own pickles, who instead had grandmothers who grew up with foie gras and truffle oil from the local gourmet boutique because it was trendy at the time.

      This graphic is essentially some soulless privileged kids patting themselves on the back and trying to convince themselves that they’re culturally relevant. “We must be culturally relevant! Someone else on the internet is into this thing I read about on the internet too! It’s like a movement!”

      • Gunnar Tveiten June 27, 2012 at 1:46 am

        I don’t know what it means actually, it seems that the author really likes pickles since they, alone among all foods, exist in all 4 quadrants. It’s not clear to me why baby lettuce would be “expensive, but lacking culture” while agave is, apparently, both expensive and chock-full of delicious cultural capital.

        If we’re picking this thing apart anyway: can anyone explain why the x-axis goes the wrong way ? You normally make plus be up on the Y-axis and right on the X-axis, but here, for some reason, the X-axis is flipped.

        Also, canned beer is cultured if you lowercase it, I’m sure that’s deeply profound or absolutely hilarious, possibly both.

  • Steven Peele June 27, 2012 at 5:27 am

    I think “culture capital” is a mislabel. What the artist is really meaning to highlight here is closer to what Al mentioned: what one group perceives as cultured or not. It would do better to have labeled the quadrants yoga moms, business men, hipsters, and white trash, but that takes away the whole necessity for graphing, for it would no longer be a spectrum of any kind.

  • “Higher Cultural Capital”… from the standpoint of anglo-saxon-mediterranean-nordic-french-german, catholic-protestant culture, what those white and powerfull peoples think as “higher culture”, an axis full of subjective and imprecise (miss)information. ¿Does Hamburger has more culture than agave or more nutritious retro-organic food? ¿Does a white gourmet has more culture than a japanese, moroccan, brazilian or peruvian gourmet? ¿Where is the statistical methodology, data source and confidence measures to get this pathetic plot?. This space chart qualifies to the WORST and NASTY infographics of 2012, if not of all times.