By Barbara Damrosch
Sitting on my desk is a book called “Hungry Planet: What the World Eats,” a splendid effort from writer Faith D’Aluisio and photographer Peter Menzel.
In 1994, Menzel produced the equally impressive “Material World: A Global Family Portrait.” That was an inventory of possessions in households around the planet.
Now, visiting 30 families in 24 countries, Menzel and D’Aluisio, who are married, have documented our world’s culinary life. There is a portrait of each family amid the food ingredients it consumes during the course of a week, followed by figures on what the food has cost, and a photo essay about the place the food has in family life.
Some portraits are alluring: The Mendozas of Guatemala are seated in colorful garb among heaps of fresh fruits and vegetables. But other families, including American, English, Japanese and even — mon Dieu — French, are surrounded by factory-made food, packaged in plastic wrap, bottles, cans, plastic foam trays and cardboard boxes. Even the developing nations are developing our bad habits. Though their citizens still take more time to cook traditional dishes, it is graphically clear that processed food and fast food have crept into their lives. A young Sicilian woman whose husband sells fresh fish is feeding her children frozen fish sticks instead. Coke, Pepsi and similar colas appear in nearly every home — sometimes a dozen large bottles in a row — and a family outing at McDonald’s is now a worldwide ritual.
Australia: The Browns of River View
Guatemala: The Mendozas of Todos Santos
Luxembourg: The Kuttan-Kasses of Erpeldange
India: The Patkars of Ujjain
United States: The Fernandezes of Texas
Mali: The Natomos of Kouakourou
Canada: The Melansons of Iqaluit, Nunavut Territory
France: The Le Moines of Montreuil
Greenland: The Madsens of Cap Hope
Turkey: The Celiks of Istanbul