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Hungry Planet: What the World Eats photographed by Peter Menzel, written by Faith D’Alusio (Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2005). $40 hardcover. 288 pages.

In Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, Peter Menzel and Faith D’Alusio take you on a culinary world tour visiting 30 families in 24 countries capturing what they eat during the course of one week. Each family’s portrait is taken alongside their weekly groceries, which is accompanied with a detailed list of their food expenditures. Menzel photographs the families at home and in the market, while D’Alusio collects their stories, concerns and food preferences. The two make a powerful team revealing much about what the world eats and reflecting changes in food consumption that are happening on a global scale. The photographs illustrate industrialization and globalization: the ubiquity of carbonated sugar water, a shift toward prepared and packaged items, and diets independent of regional and seasonal foods. Hungry Planet also shows diets controlled by conflict: D’jimia, a mother of five cooks international food aid in a refugee camp in Chad while reminiscing about her mango trees and farm in Darfur, Sudan. Diets of poverty are presented in these pages, but even more present are diets of plenty and the epidemic of obesity they represent. In contrast is the cheery photograph of the Ayme family of Ecuador. While they are struggling subsistence farmers, they note they are “pobre pero sano”—poor but healthy.

Essays from Marion Nestle, Michael Pollan, and others compliment Menzel’s photos and D’Alusio’s narrative. Hungry Planet concludes with an informative table presenting statistics of each of the countries featured in the book, like the number of McDonald’s; annual per capita meat, cigarette, and alcohol consumption; daily caloric intake; life expectancy and much more.

If we are what we eat, Hungry Planet is an important book that shows us more about who we are. Here is a sampling of some of the families featured in the book.—S.I.

hungry planet

The Ayme family in their kitchen house in Tingo, Ecuador, a village in the central Andes, with one week’s worth of food. Ermelinda Ayme Sichigalo, 37, and Orlando Ayme, 35, sit flanked by their children (left to right): Livia, 15, Natalie, 8, Moises, 11, Alvarito, 4, Jessica, 10, Orlando hijo (Junior, held by Ermelinda), 9 months, and Mauricio, 30 months. Not in photograph: Lucia, 5, who lives with her grandparents to help them out. Cooking method: wood fire. Food preservation: natural drying. Food expenditure for one week: $31.55 USD. Photo: ©2005 Peter Menzel. From the book Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, Ten Speed Press

hungry planet

The Aboubakar family of Darfur province, Sudan, in front of their tent in the Breidjing Refugee Camp, in eastern Chad, with a week’s worth of food. D’jimia Ishakh Souleymane, 40, holds her daughter Hawa, 2; the other children are (left to right) Acha, 12, Mariam, 5, Youssouf, 8, and Abdel Kerim, 16. Cooking method: wood fire. Food preservation: natural drying. Food expenditure for one week: $1.23 USD. Photo: ©2005 Peter Menzel. From the book Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, Ten Speed Press

hungry planet

The Revis family in the kitchen of their home in suburban Raleigh, North Carolina, with a week’s worth of food. Ronald Revis, 39, and Rosemary Revis, 40, stand behind Rosemary’s sons from her first marriage, Brandon Demery, 16 (left), and Tyrone Demery, 14. Cooking methods: electric stove, toaster oven, microwave, outdoor BBQ. Food preservation: refrigerator-freezer. Food expenditure for one week: $341.98 USD. Photo: ©2005 Peter Menzel. From the book Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, Ten Speed Press