Saturday, December 20, 2014

Hungry Planet, Faith D'Aluisio & Peter Menzel

Hungry Planet: What the World Eats
Faith D’Aluisio & Peter Menzel (photos)

Category: Photojournalism; World Cultures

Synopsis: D’Aluisio and Menzel take you around the world to explore what and how people eat.

Date finished: 1 September 2014 

Rating: *****

This is one of my favorite books. I read it several years ago, and since then I’ve really wanted to read it again. I enjoyed it just as much on the re-read as I did originally.

The book is hard to categorize. You might say it’s photojournalism, I guess. That’s the term I settled on. It’s a husband and wife team who travel to six continents, 24 countries total, and select a family in each location to chat with about what they eat. The couples’ experience with each family is presented as an essay and is accompanied by sidebars and various photos of the family and their country. But the pièce de résistance is a large photo of the family with a full (artfully-arranged) display of everything they eat and drink in a week. With countries as diverse as Chad, Cuba, Japan, Iceland, Ecuador, and Australia, those pictures really do speak a thousand words.

The amount of cultural interest in this book is astounding. The authors also include some heavy-handed essays on global issues, which I could take or leave. But those photos and personal observations which are as free of bias as possible, are stellar. I learn something new every time I pick up this book, and I’m sure I’ll go through several more times over the years. It really prompts some soul-searching about haves and have nots, about hunger and obesity, about what we eat and who we are because of it. Compare the vegetable-heavy diet of the Okinawans, considered the people with the longest life expectancy, with the amount of Coca-Cola consumed by the Mexican family. Compare the meager rations of the Sudanese refuges with the excessive fast-food diets of the American and Australian families.

There is just so much to learn here. I think this would be a great book to go through with children as young as grade school. It’s eye-opening for young and old alike.

And I dare you to read this book and NOT imagine what your weekly groceries would look like fanned out on your kitchen table!

Would you recommend this to a friend?
Anyone who is interested in world cultures, food, cooking, family dynamics, and global issues will love this book.

You might also enjoy:
Material World: A Global Family Portrait (the same idea but with possessions instead of food)

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