Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Book Review: Hungry Planet: What the World Eats

Have any other bloggers had this experience? You have an idea for a post all worked out in your head, and you check your blog for a couple days wondering when it is going to show up before you realize, "Oh. This is my post. It won't show up until I write it!" When this book review still hadn't appeared on the Bookworm by this morning, it finally dawned on me that this was my week, my review, and I hadn't posted it, yet! Anyway, this is a reprint of a book review I did on my own blog a while back, but I wanted to share it here.

I found this beautiful coffee table book fascinating, and not just in the way the authors intended. In brief, Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio, who wrote "Hungry Planet: What the World Eats," traveled around the world visiting families in 24 countries and recording what the families ate for a week. At the end of the week, they took the families shopping to buy "a week’s worth of food" (paid for by the authors) and photographed each family with their groceries. They wrote a few pages about each family and included statistics about the country. The families were not chosen to be representative of the whole country, and sometimes the authors used multiple families from the same country to show differences in, for example, the diet of rural versus urban residents.

The pictures in the book, and it is as much a photography book as it is anything else, were outstanding. The lists of groceries (written in microscopic print!) were fascinating. But what I enjoyed the most was that the text and photo pages of each family gave a snapshot of ordinary life in that country. There was no attempt to be consistent and some families got pages and pages while others got very little. I noticed that whenever there was a particularly cute young child in the family, the family seemed to get more press time! I enjoyed the book so much that instead of devouring it in one sitting, as is my usual manner, I rationed myself to four families per night so I could string it out as long as possible.

I found it both encouraging that there is so much local food culture left in the world, and depressing that our processed food culture has spread so far. The one thing I wish the authors had done differently is I wish they had converted the local prices not only into US dollars, but also into what the food would have cost if purchased in the US. That would have been a really difficult task, though, so I can understand why they didn’t do it. Recommended for all readers, 4.5 stars out of 5.

9 comments:

Joyce said...

I wound up sitting in an arm chair at the book store and reading this for a whole evening. It was so interesting!

kale for sale said...

Yeah! I loved this book too. I keep it out so I can flip through it at whim and every time I see or read something new. I saw the authors a couple of months ago discuss the making of this book and a little bit about the new book they are working on which is also about food. Lucky us. They also have a book from several years ago called Women In The Material World where they had women from around the world remove everything from their house into the front yard, such as they were. It was as astounding as this book. Thanks for posting about this book.

Anonymous said...

I love this book, I've checked it out from the library a couple of times. I brought it up to our cabin and between sledding and CC sking the kids were absorbed in reading and comparing countries. I also enjoyed Material World. There's a similar book for children, published by DK I think.

thanks,
diana

Avid Book Reader said...

Oh, cool, I remember the prequel to this book, the one that showed how different people around the world live. This one looks just as cool. I will have to check it out.

jennconspiracy said...

I love this photography - I saw this exhibit at Copia - and it was really fun to be there with five friends - we got to discuss the pictures in a way that never could have happened if we had all read the book on our own.

Donna said...

Thanks for everyone's comments. Wow! I didn't know I was reviewing such a popular book! I've heard of the other one in which they photograph a family's possessions and if it's as good as this one, I want to see that one, too!

Lucky jennconspiracy getting to see the pictures in an exhibit! The photography is just incredible.

Green Bean said...

I really enjoyed this book. In fact, Donna, I was going to post about it on my week! ;-) It is definitely worth checking out from the library and, if nothing else, flipping through. Great photos.

Donna said...

gb: Sorry I stole your post! Everybody loves the book so much, though, that I bet they wouldn't mind a second opinion. :)

Chile said...

I originally heard the interview with the authors on NPR and it took a while before I got to see the book (several years ago). What I found fascinating was looking at how much slimmer and healthier the folks with a less processed diet looked than the 'wealthier' people with all the rich food.