Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.


Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Hungry Planet

In an incredibly lucky score, I found Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio's Hungry Planet used at Pegasus Books--$24 instead of $50. Sometimes I really wonder at what people choose to sell.

The book chronicles thirty families around the world, photographed in their homes surrounded by a week's worth of food. The accompanying text offers a description of their lives, the politcal situation as it affects their foodstuffs, and a family recipe.

The photographs had the same effect on me as images from the Ninth Ward: I knew these things existed, but seeing them in full color is sobering indeed. Yes, all us foodies know that industrialized nations eat the worst foodstuffs, that the richer we are, the further we move from fresh produce, grains, and unprocessed meats. To look at the photoessays of the American and English famiies is to feel sick. Each smiles amidst boxes, bags, packages. In fact, the Revis family of North Carolina was so horrfied by their family photo that they are making efforts to improve their diet.

The reach of McDonald's, Kentuckey Fried Chicken, and Coca-cola is stunning. They appear in nearly every photo, save for African refugee camps and the hilly farms of Bhutan. The creep of fast food into previously inaccessible areas is documented: rural China, South America, Cuernevaca, where the Casalese family is pictured with twelve quarts of Coca-Cola (mind you, this is a week's worth of food). Mom and Dad, and seven-year-old Emmanuel are all overweight.

Beautiful forty-year-old D'Jimia Souleymane, a refugee of the Janjaweed, makes do in a Chad refugee camp, providing for five children with appallingly little. Weekly Oxfam rations include no dairy, nine ounces of dried goat meat on the bone, and seven ounces of dried fish. Something called a corn-soy ration. This for a family of one adult and five children, two of whom are teenaged boys.

The French, Italian, and German families are attractive and eat well; all cook family meals and seemed disinterested in fast food. The elderly Japanese, whose food looks wonderfu, disdain non-traditional food while noting their children and grandchildren are incoporating more fast food into their diets.

In sum, the book is an eye-opener, and if you have the opportunity to page through it, have a look.

Books, Culture, Food


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