Sunday, June 5, 2011

What the World Eats

If you're looking for a book to engage your whole family, What the World Eats is just the ticket.  I took out this book from the library last week and, without exaggeration, every member of the family has read it at least once.  We've even read it together!

This unique book, which is really more of a coffee-table book than a book to read in bed, features portraits of twenty-five families from twenty-one countries -- surrounded by a week's worth of food.  Each portrait is accompanied by a breakdown of their food expenditure (i.e. beverages, condiments, restaurants) and a short description of how the family lives.  It's very difficult not to feel embarrassed by the riches our kitchen cabinets offer when reading about a family in Chad, who spend $2.20 a week on several bags of assorted grains, and also have to lug their water in large plastic jugs.  Also interesting are the separate sections on street food (grubs on a stick, anyone?), kitchens, and other food-related customs from all around the world.  This book is the sort-of juvenile version of Hungry Planet, which was written for adults.

While I'm on the topic, another fascinating book about food is Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser.  He also published a juvenile version, called Chew On This, and both books focus on the influence of the fast food industry on American culture, as well as its impact on health and culture.  Read in tandem with The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, as well as The End of Food, by Paul Roberts, this practically constitutes a seminar!

These books all have one thing in common -- they all exist to inform Americans in some way about food.  Where it comes from, how much we're eating, how much we're getting out of it, who's going without it -- all this information is not usually sought out by the average American supermarket shopper.  Maybe it should be?  What do your think?


  1. We took out "what the world eats" from the library and LOVED it. Thanks for the recommendation. GREAT read for the entire family.

  2. I'm glad you liked it. It's a really engrossing read, but I would have liked to see a weekly or monthly wage for each of the featured families -- that would show what percentage of their incomes go toward food, which I think would be even more telling.

  3. The book was well-done, yet slightly inaccurate regarding our weekly food budget. We actually spend $24.30 weekly on beer - Budweiser, Amstel Light, Corona; $55.00 weekly on fast food - McDonald's happy meals, Arby's, and Taco Bell; $11.99 on frozen foods - Maccabee's Frozen Bagel Pizzas; and $10.99 on watermelon, and related carving utensils.