Friday, February 11, 2011

{Books on the Shelf} What the World Eats

Oh, the library. Piquing curiosities, inspiring fresh thoughts, teaching perspectives, and introducing new understandings of the world...

I'd love to share with you one of my favorite finds from this past fall:
What the World Eats: 25 Families. 21 Countries. 525 Meals.

Two important things to know before delving in:

1) Getting my own library card as a little kid was a big deal. A big deal. The week I could write my own name, my mom took me to the front desk, and after one elegant signature, I became the bearer of a Woodburn Library Card, proud of the shiny new piece of ID to keep in my little girl purse. (I think I still have that original card in my little cedar jewelry box.)

2) Fast forward a decade to Jr. High: One favorite year of home school co-op classes focused on world geography. Each Friday, in addition to practicing our skills at Mapping the World by Heart and presenting written/oral reports on various countries, three of us girls would bring ethnic dishes corresponding to our study areas. Thankfully, my mom was game for weekly missions to track down foreign, odd ingredients.

Fast forward another decade...and a half:

Love of libraries, love of the world, and love of true food still ignite my inspiration and creativity.

A "quick trip" to the Belmont Library hold shelf usually morphs into wandering tempting aisles...and soon enough, I depart with more words than I can possibly sift through before due dates call my bluff.

"But hey," I tell myself, "Library books are free learning. Why not take advantage?"

Happy indeed I've been with this particular find:

What the World Eats
a 2008 publication by husband and wife duo, photographer Peter Menzel and author Faith D'Aluisio.

This picture-rich book highlights families from all around the world, in their homes, surrounded by a one-week supply of food and provides a detailed breakdown of groceries by type, quantity, and cost, giving a window into daily life and diet in places as disparate as Canada and Chad, Mexico and Mongolia, India and Australia.

Homes: varied from French suburbia to dirt floors in Ecuador.

Food: ranging from arrays of produce, animals products, and staple grains to diverse collections of packaged/processed foods and brightly colored bags, bottles and boxes.

Financial Breakdown: weekly $$ amounts (converted to USD for comparison's sake) including market value of homegrown foods (such a homegrown chicken or milk from a family cow) and subtotaled by category (i.e., grains & starchy foods, dairy, meat/fish/egg, fruits & veggies, prepared foods, etc.).

Notes: occasional details about cooking and preservation methods, short biographies of the families and their occupations and past times, country fact summaries, and charts and tables detailing literacy, fertility, obesity, population density, and annual meat consumption rates.

In recent Food Group discussions, we've spoken of meal planning efforts and sustainable, budget savvy living. It's eye opening to see for one's self the actual types and quantities of food being prepared and served by families around the world and to ponder the comparisons between kitchens and the cultural dietary shifts of developed countries during the past century.

Visit this article for a quick peek at additional pictures, or simply give the book title a Google image search and feast your eyes!

This book makes a great educational tool, and I'm eager to share it with my own future little ones, someday, as they amble up to receive their first library card and explore the wonders awaiting them on the bookshelves...

Available at Powell's Books
and of course,
the Multnomah County Library.

After coming across this initial book, I was pleased to learn that Peter and Faith published another terrific title in 2010: What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets. Keep an eye out for highlights in a future edition of Sustainable Food For Thought's {Books on the Shelf}.


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