What the World Eats
Text by Faith D'Aluisio, photography by Peter Menzel
Tricycle Press, $22.99
160 pp.; ISBN-13: 978-1582462462
Review by Amy Brozio-Andrews
Almost all of us sit down to eat three times a day but how many times does anyone really think about what they're eating? In What the World Eats, Faith D'Aluisio and Peter Menzel present a snapshot of more than two dozen families in 21 countries that showcase what each family eats in a week. The book, geared toward older kids, is an amazing look at what the world eats, literally, within the context of culture and society.
Each family is photographed with a normal week's grocery shopping, which is included as an annotated list on the facing page, including brands and cost (in local currency and US dollars), plus a map of where's the family lives or an informative box with health statistics about the country. Following that is a two-page spread that chronicles the family's eating habits framed by the society they live in, making for an engaging and informative look at how families around the world eat.
For example, one of the American families, concerned about weight loss and other health issues began regular gym workouts only to drop them when the time crunch of going to the gym after work and school meant more takeout meals.
In the Polish family, a generational gap is clear; the child in the family is accustomed to having fresh fruit and sweets while her mother still marvels at things like oranges, which were luxuries when she was a child under strict Communism -- the mother in this family wonders aloud if her daughter realizes how fortunate she is.
The creators of the book do a good job of demonstrating both similarities and differences among these families. There are several photo galleries of commonalities, like street food, kitchens, family meals, and fast food around the world (it's stunning to see how ubiquitous McDonald's really is). Easy-to-read charts and graphs compare the nations, increasing readers' understanding of additional factors that may influence, or be influenced, by the changing nature of food production and consumption around the world. These include fertility rates, literacy rates, daily caloric intake, annual meat consumption, life expectancy, the number of McDonald's restaurants, and the percentage of each country's population that is overweight and obese.
What the World Eats is a thought-provoking snapshot of global food availability and consumption, from shared open-fire cooking to microwaving, from hunting seal to buying prepackaged meats. Just looking at the photographs of the spread of food on a family's table from country to country demonstrates extreme contrasts, with many third-world countries flush with fresh seasonal vegetables and Western nations' families' reliance on packaged convenience foods. The photographs and the interviews with family members often reflect the influence of busy modern life and the temptation for high-fat, high-sugar convenience foods in changing societies, and how eating more doesn't necessarily mean you're eating better.
D'Aluisio and Menzel don't pass judgment and they don't tell the reader what to think, however they do give readers the tools to think about these things and draw their own conclusions. There are definitely issues about food and nutrition and health that get raised, however it's with a gentle touch of introduction to the idea.
The scope of the book is a broad cross-section, including families from all walks of life, from Australia, Bhutan, Chad, China, France, Greenland, India, Japan, Kuwait, Mali, Mexico, Turkey, and the United States, among others. The book's creators include an extensive list of sources and references for further information, from books to films and websites.
This would be a great book for a school project and for kids and their families who are interested in the world around them.
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