'Hungry Planet: What The World Eats' The authors of a new book, Hungry Planet, set out to see how families in 24 regions feed themselves each week. They wanted to see how globalization, migration and other factors affected the diets of communities around the world.

'Hungry Planet: What The World Eats'

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Michele Norris.

Imagine inviting yourself to dinner with 30 different families in 24 countries. Imagine shopping, farming, cooking and eating with those families, taking note of every vegetable peeled, every beverage poured, every package opened. Well, that's what photographer Peter Menzel and writer Faith D'Aluisio did for their new book, "Hungry Planet: What the World Eats." The husband and wife team wanted to see how globalization, migration and rising affluence are affecting the diets of communities around the globe.

Each chapter of their book features a portrait of a family photographed alongside one week's worth of groceries. There's also a detailed list of all the food and the total cost. For example, the Mendozas of Todos Santos, Guatemala, spent about $75 over the course of a week. They're photographed wearing vibrant, traditional dress and, as Faith D'Aluisio explains, they're standing behind a table laden with sacks of corn and a bounty of brightly colored fruits and vegetables.

Ms. FAITH D'ALUISIO (Co-author, "Hungry Planet"): The carrots were enormous and I'm--we have a garden at home, a pretty substantial garden, and I never like our carrots. They always are a little bit strange. They don't taste that great. And so I saw these big carrots in the market when Suzannah(ph) was purchasing them and I thought, `They can't taste good. They're just way too big.' They were so sweet and so tasty. I just couldn't believe it.

There is a lot of other packaged food and food from other countries that's available, but they eat--this family especially eats very traditionally, and really everyone in the town eats fairly traditionally and they leave the processed food to the people visiting from the developed world.

NORRIS: So there's not a lot of it but if you look carefully at the picture beyond all the produce, past the beans, beyond what looks like a--Is it a watermelon there?

Mr. PETER MENZEL (Co-author, "Hungry Planet"): Mm-hmm.

NORRIS: ...all the way in the back next to the jug of oil, you see the Quaker Oats man.

Ms. D'ALUISIO: And I wanted to make sure that everyone could see the Quaker Oats man, because it just seems so strange to me. And it's actually a kind of--a breakfast cereal, as you might expect.

Mr. MENZEL: It's their favorite breakfast cereal.

Ms. D'ALUISIO: Their favorite breakfast cereal and...

NORRIS: Oatmeal?

Ms. D'ALUISIO: It's called--it's Avena Mosh(ph). It's sort of a cross between sort of regular dried cereal and the oatmeal.

NORRIS: And so you now see these brands, these products, all over the world. How has the global marketplace changed the way the world eats?

Mr. MENZEL: It's pretty amazing. And what we did to illustrate that is we photographed several families in a couple of countries. For instance, in China, we photographed an urban family and then a rural family because you can tell the difference between the two at a glance. It's really easy to see. One is eating a lot more fresh produce and grains, and the other has a lot of processed foods that's crept into their diet, and--including KFC chicken, which they eat once a week. They've got Coke. They've got Asahi beer. They've even eat a little sushi once in a while. They have Great Wall wine.

The family in rural China, on the other hand, the only Western-type products that we saw them consuming was a little bit of beer, a little bit of Coke. I asked the Qui(ph) family if they'd ever had a hamburger, and they--we had to explain what a hamburger was.

Ms. D'ALUISIO: We had to explain what that meant, yes.

Mr. MENZEL: And then we really, really tried hard and they still could not fathom the concept of what a hamburger was.

NORRIS: Peter, which of these chapters or families had the biggest impact on you?

Mr. MENZEL: Well, I think the most interesting thing that I learned that I think other people could benefit from was the family in Okinawa. And the reason we went to Okinawa was because it has the highest percentage of centenarians anywhere in the world. And the surprising thing is not so much what they're eating--which is fairly healthy things like fish and soy--but it's their attitude and it's what their parents taught them as children. And they were told `Hara hachi bu,' and that means only eat until you're 80 percent full. And that's not really what Western people are telling their kids to clean their plates and `Mange, mange,' you know, make sure that you eat enough. It makes a lot of sense because your brain lags behind your stomach. And if you stop when you're 80 percent full, that's the point when you really have had enough and your body really is at a point where it's got the right amount of food.

NORRIS: I have to ask you about the American families. And there is one in particular, a family from North Carolina, and their spread included pizzas and Burger King and what looks to be, I think, Taco Bell in there. And I was wondering how honest--I was surprised how honest people were.

Mr. MENZEL: Well, Rosemary and Ron Revis in North Carolina were very, very honest with us, and they were also honest with us about battling the bulge. And what they did as a family was really admirable, I thought. They noticed the fact that they were gaining weight and as a family, they went and enrolled in a health club. And every week--or twice a week, they would spend two hours totally going all out.

Ms. D'ALUISIO: What was interesting to me, though, was that while they had been exercising, they had less time to make prepared meals at home. So subsequently, they ended up eating more fast food and that's what they ended up sort of maintaining. They were maintaining the original weight. They might have been adding a little bit of muscle from the exercise, but they were eating more fast food. So they basically changed their plan now. They bought some more exercise equipment; they're doing it at home. They're trying to eat well-rounded, prepared meals at home.

Mr. MENZEL: Healthier, more prepared meals at home.

NORRIS: Where these kinds of epiphanies all over the globe when people saw that food spread out before them?

Ms. D'ALUISIO: I think that's the perfect word to use. The Revises especially were sort of horrified when they did see all of the food for one week's time all at one time. The kids were very funny. They didn't want to tell me directly, but Rosemary told me later, they were coming up to her and saying, `Do we really eat all of this?' And then when they started looking, they agreed, `Yes, we do eat all this bacon. We do eat all this pizza.' Tyrone(ph), one of her sons, would sit on the couch, watch TV and, lo and behold, a lot of junk food was disappearing, a lot of chips and a lot of things that he wishes now he hadn't eaten but is now trying to cut down on.

NORRIS: So, Peter and Faith, after traveling through 24 countries and visiting with 30 families, you sampled quite a bit of food. What was your favorite meal?

Mr. MENZEL: One of my favorite meals was musk ox stew that we had while we were fishing on a glacial lake in Greenland with Emil(ph) and Erica(ph). Sitting, you know, on a dogsled for the entire day for day after day and then arriving at a glacial lake, pulling arctic char out of the water that is so pure and fresh and being in this place that is so pristine, it was just mind boggling to have all of this fresh food around us and then have them cook it for us immediately in this tent that Faith found a refuge from the cold. This was not her favorite trip. She just complained the entire time.

Ms. D'ALUISIO: Oh, I did not.

NORRIS: I actually understand, Faith. I got cold looking at those pictures. So...

Ms. D'ALUISIO: Eight hours a day on a dogsled. You're not doing any exercising; the dogs are doing the exercising. And it was frigid. But that's actually where my favorite meal was, as well, which is kind of surprising to me. Mine was the arctic char. It was so amazing, just absolutely succulent and very tasty after a long day of dogsledding.

NORRIS: That's Faith D'Aluisio, along with Peter Menzel. Their book is called "Hungry Planet: What the World Eats."

To see a photo of another family's weekly diet, visit our Web site, npr.org. There you'll find the Aboubakar family, originally from Darfur, Sudan. The Aboubakars get most of what they eat from aid groups at a refugee camp in Chad.

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