Hungry Planet

Hungry Planet takes a look at what the world eats, country by country, family by family. Photos show 30 different families posing with a typical week's worth of food, and details include how much they spend on food, the breakdown by types of food, a family recipe and an essay about the family and their relationship to food. Author Peter Menzel also includes field notes which are a bit like personal journal entries. The countries he visited for the book include places like Bhutan, Mali and Cuba and more than one family in places like China, the US and Japan.

Hungry Planet won a prestigious James Beard award in 2006 and is now out in paperback. If you haven't seen a copy of the book, you can see the photographs over at But it's well worth getting a copy. While the photos are most impressive, the book also includes essays by noted writers such as Marion Nestle, Michael Pollan and Corby Kummer. The essays and photos will shock, dismay, encourage and enlighten.

I recently reread the statistic that in America we spend only 10% of our income on food. I don't know what percentage of income each of the families from the 24 countries featured spends on food, but it is interesting all the same to see just what they eat and how much it costs. Often it seems from the pictures that people in the more industrialized nations are not eating as well as those in the "developing" world. It will be interesting to see if the families featured will be revisited to see if and how their diets change over time.

Family Recipe--Great Britain


Mark Bainton's Cheese and Potato Pie

12 oz mashed potatoes per person
9 leaves basil, finely torn (save half leaf for garnish)
3 sprigs parsley, finely chopped (save 1 leaf for garnish)
8-12 oz Cheddar cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Combine mashed potatoes, basil, and parsley (or other herb of your choice)
3. Cover the bottom of an ovenproof casserole about 1" thick in mashed potatoes; cover with sliced cheese. Repeat, finishing with slices of cheese, so that all the mashed potatoes are covered.
4. Bake until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Serve with garnish.

Reprinted from Material World Books and Ten Speed Press, Hungry Planet, 2007