By Jae S.
The Sugar Factory, an international restaurant chain promoting exuberant food via celebrity endorsement, has taken the world by storm. The Sugar Factory “experience” is fun and colorful, with food that is both for visual and physical consumption. There is a noticeable disparity between those who can afford restaurants such as this one, with bubbling drinks around $45, and those who cannot. Food has come to define where someone falls on the social hierarchy, with some able to indulge in restaurants such as the Sugar Factory.
Boasian Anthropology focuses on how a person’s actions must be understood in the context of their own culture. For Americans, habits of unhealthy eating and overspending are common. Most cultures may look at the Sugar Factory and see it as an utter waste of money, given the food isn’t great and the dishes aren’t truly worth that much, but by using Cultural Relativism, Americans understand the meal goes beyond just nutrition and taste. For the Sugar Factory, it’s about the experience, and the pictures. Being able to “flex” your meal on Instagram or Snapchat is a product in itself for an American consumer. Showing their crazy food escapade on Social Media helps further divide American social classes, and also creates a link between certain kinds of dining experiences and tastes to class.
Practice Theory is noticing the relationship between the social structures in existence, and the way humans actually act within them; it acknowledges how existing hierarchies are reproduced through normal behaviors every day. It can show what we say we do, and what we actually do in practice. Americans consistently say they’re committed to economic equality, as shown through different governmental policies such as tax brackets, and continue to say there isn’t economic disparity. In practice, through seemingly ordinary things like eating food, Americans produce class differences when some choose frivolous choices, such as the Sugar Factory. Conspicuous consumption is the idea of buying something for the point of publicizing your purchase itself. It is a performative way to indicate class, and the non-nutritional, overpriced food at the Sugar Factory only contributes to this. Hegemony is the idea of lived dominance and subordination of classes within a culture or the system of “normals” that people subconsciously agree to. In this case, eating is the subconscious everyday practice, and it is now helping to hold up the hierarchy, without our direct acknowledgment.
Seeing the crazy, creative combinations made at the Sugar Factory, including a cheeseburger milkshake and rainbow patties, it’s easy to see why Americans are drawn in. For Boasian Anthropology, the idea of the Sugar Factory is for the experience and the photograph, past the food itself, which is all culturally relative. As Practice Theory would explain, Americans present the idea of economic equality, but through restaurants such as the Sugar Factory, one can see in practice Americans still perpetuate the hierarchy through unnecessary purchases. In a society so overrun by capitalism, can one blame anyone for falling for the Sugar Factory’s allure?