Authors: Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio
|via Peter Menzel Photography|
Hungry Planet inspires a number of emotional reactions for me. I envy the authors' adventure. I have harbored world travel fantasies from a young age. In what wanderings I have managed, I have learned that the most meaningful discoveries are to be found not at major sights but in family homes. I realize such a book requires far more money, time and energy than I am either able or willing to commit at this point in my life so I am grateful for the armchair perspective.
I am also grateful for the lifestyle which accidents of birth have afforded me. Obviously, the differences between life in the Ecuadoran Andes and the Tokyo suburbs go far beyond what's on the dinner table but I would argue there is no more meaningful starting point. As much is to be learned from the procurement and storage of food as from its preparation and consumption. A sharp line is seen between the cultures of abundance and those of scarcity. Anyone who has spent their life in more of the former than the latter as I have should consider themselves lucky indeed. Occasional similarities are noteworthy. Coca-Cola bottles are seen the world over, of course, but we are also treated to preparations for All Saints Day festivities in both Guatemala and Poland.
Each family profile includes photos, a recipe and demographic statistics for the country in question. Interspersed with these chapters are essays by various food writers on global gastronomic issues: fast food, responsibilities towards the animals we eat, ocean stewardship, the health consequences of over-abundance, etc. If any place is presented as the ideal, it is Okinawa, Japan. As a result of healthy lifestyle choices and a reverence for the aged, the small island boasts the world's highest longevity rates. But even there, the global reach of fast food culture has had a major impact on the health statistics of younger generations. Fewer Okinawans are likely to reach age 100 in decades to come.
The photography is excellent. The text is good, too, though the editing is a bit funky. Most of the writing is D'Aluisio's but Menzel adds his own notes and, of course, there are photo captions. As such, the same story often gets told three times. The captions themselves sometimes suffer form awkward placement on the page. Overall, though, the book is very good and a wonderful exploration of daily life around the world.
In other exciting news, my wife recently blogged about our summer book swap. See her post here.