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“What the World Eats” Book by Menzel and D’Aluisio Essay (Book Review)

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Updated: Apr 23rd, 2022

Writing is the most important activity in the current world driven by the knowledge economy. As a result, books and authors should strictly adhere to a realistic global view. They say that a picture contains more than a thousand words. In this regard, a book combining the use of photographs and words is more informative and realistic in the knowledge economy. While including full-page photo spreads and mind-provoking essays, Menzel and D’Aluisio deliver a masterpiece in “Hungry Planet: What the world eats.” In their pursuit to investigate the effects of growing wealth, globalization, and migration on nutrition in communities in the world, author D’Aluisio and photographer Menzel set out to explore and convey the report in a book. The two hundred and eighty-eight pages book is a compilation of a journey in twenty-four countries around the world. The authors visited thirty families, living with them at their homes in order to come up with their book. In this regard, the authors became part of the family by going to the farm, cooking, eating, and shopping with these families. All along, they observed as every package unwrapped, every vegetable peeled and every beverage flowed in order to come up with this masterpiece of work.

The book is a photo-chronicle of 600 meals from these 30 families. The book features pictures from all these families each taken with their food purchases they consumed in a week. The authors asked each of the families they visited and lived with to purchase their groceries equivalent to one week’s consumption. The authors then asked the family to artfully display their purchases and pose with them in a family portrait. As a result, the assortment of foods varied from sacks of potatoes and grain to packed take-out pizzas, from sodas to alcohol, from overripe bananas to oranges and other diverse foods. The book further illustrates in detail the listing of the goods breaking them by food groups and cost. In addition, the book also illustrates the methods the households use in attaining the foods and the family recipe.

To inform fully the reader, the authors used photographs of the families’ recipes, enlightening essays, and the weekly food-intake lists with the prices noted. As a result, the book gives the reader an insight into the diets of both the world’s poor and the rich. In this regard, the reader will meet a German family, the Mellanders, with a weekly food expense amounting to $500 mainly enjoying beef roulades, cinnamon rolls and chocolate croissants. On the other hand, the reader will also meet the Natomos family from Mali. The family’s weekly food budget is $26.39 consisting of corn and millet. However, theirs does not form the cheapest of weekly food budget in the book. It is important to note the difference between the two weekly costs underlining different economic abilities between families from developed and those in developing nations. In addition, the Mellanders household has five family members while the Natomos are twelve in number.

Only a few books can match the level of research that took place to develop and create this book. In effect, the book gives a fresh and original perceptive on the effects of diet in human beings living conditions. These photos in the book do not only give a breathtaking family portrait, instead, but the photographs also give a spectacular interpretation of some critical issues affecting the current world using one common thing, food. In this regard, the photographs are a revelation to the reader on the differences in cultures. In addition, the photos also reveal how different families met their dietary needs at different levels of society. Thus, the photographs are a portrayal of how foods bought and consumed by each family demonstrate the cultural traditions of a certain country. Furthermore, the reader will gain the knowledge of the link between globalization, poverty and conflicts with the diets of individual families in the book. While each photo exists on its own page, the photographs are a representation of the larger issues affecting the current world. Not most books are able to give a reader such an outlook on the current world using both words and photos.

There is one other thing that the book brings out. The book notes that, despite the diversity in cultures and families throughout the world, the common denominator in all human beings is dinner or food. However, there exist differences and similarities in the recipes, methods of preparing the food and eating. Furthermore, there are differences in methods of getting food, or shopping in human beings. All these differences and similarities are vividly captured and documented using photos and words. The book illustrates that throughout history, human beings can use whatever food in order to satisfy their hunger. Throughout history, the most common thing has been dinner to all human beings as the book underlines. From the time of hunting and gathering to the development of technology and its advancement, the connection of people throughout the world is food. As illustrated by the Aboubakar family at Breidjing Refugee Camp in Chad, the survival of a human being goes shows that any diet is enough in the sustenance of growth and development in man.

One important feature that the photos bring out is the development of methods of looking for food beyond the first known method of hunting and gathering. These photos are enough evidence that, there have been substantial strides in evolution. To illustrate this factor of evolution, there are illustrations on new methods of food preservation. Such methods of preservation ensure storage and consumption of food takes place years after the production and harvesting. On the other hand, new methods of transportation ensure consumption of food far away from the source of production. In this regard, a family from one planet can eat food produced from another. It is important to note that, consumption of this food can be as a fresh commodity due to the new methods of transportation available. For this reason, the Namgay’s are able to have fresh oranges forming part of their meals (Menzel and D’Aluisio 36). Furthermore, the photos show a stride in new ways of processing foods, such as pasta, and consequent transportation to far places like Greenland where consumption takes place (Menzel and D’Aluisio 144). Furthermore, global development and evolution in new methods of marketing enhances consumption of certain commodities on a worldwide scale. Such a product experiencing a worldwide consumption is Coca-Cola (Menzel and D’Aluisio 218)

Other than evolution, there is another important historical fact the photos depict. In this regard, the photos show a general lifestyle change amongst families from the developing nations. As their incomes progressively become better, their meals change considerably. In this case, the households increase their rations and change from the traditional foods consisting of grains to buying more meat. In addition, the families start taking more processed foods thus gaining more weight. Hence, the consumption of such processed, sugary and fatty foods puts the individual families at a risk of obesity, diabetes and heart diseases. Diseases such as diabetes and obesity are typical and most widespread in developed and first world nations. In this regard, the book shows a connection and closely relates lifestyle diseases to developed countries due to the high incomes amongst many households. However, with their rise in the developed nations, these diseases strain the governments trying to feed their hungry to cater for those sick from these lifestyle diseases. In effect, the book underlines the importance of healthy eating through pictures and words. On the other hand, the photos depicting how healthy eating should be are important to those conscious of the dietary allocations in the rations that they take in their foods.

On the other hand, the book enables those in the developed nations to experience the disparities on living standards. In this regard, there is creation of awareness to the fact that, there are households lacking enough on one hand and on the other hand, there are families at a risk of chronic diseases caused by overeating. There are significant variations in the weekly shopping lists of households. For example, the cost of shopping lists from France and the United States vary from the households in Mali and Mongolia. As a result, it explains to the reader the impact of high incomes in the developed nations concerning nutrition and subsequently on lifestyles diseases. In addition, the disparities in the shopping list and the food displayed in the photos give an explanation on the higher obesity rates in most developed nations. To inform the readers more on the growing threat posed by diabetes and obesity, the book includes an essay by Francine Kaufman titled “Diabesity” (Menzel and D’Aluisio 244). This essay enlightens the reader on the importance of a healthy nutritious diet. The use of a professional is important and informative to the reader.

The book also illustrates the power behind global marketing on traditional cuisines and the health of individual households. As a result, a family from rural China buys beer and cigarettes, although this is common in most other families, it is not part of a traditional cuisines. On the other hand, the urban family in China can afford takeaways from outlets such as KFC. These are not part of the Chinese traditional cuisines. Furthermore, a household in Greenland buys and uses ketchup manufactured in a different country mixing it with their traditional cuisines (Menzel and D’Aluisio 82). No other food product depicts the phenomenon change and development of global marketing than the use of Coca-Cola in most of these households. As a result, traditional cuisines change. In this regard, the traditional cuisine becomes more modern due to the development of global marketing.

In conclusion, the book is important to arouse the current human conditions to the reader. The book gives the reader a rich and thought provoking commentary on the different cultures. The facts and the work in photography along with the authors’ personal experiences bring more awareness to factors that control nourishment in families over the world. The book is thus a gorgeous masterpiece giving the readers across the world a feasting experience. The book feeds the eyes with the sumptuous display of the foods the households take. On the other hand, the book feeds the heart of the reader. Finally, the mind feasts by the thought provoking and insightful analysis from the authors and the essay contributors. Overall, the book is an excellent one to be read by every human being regardless of his or her background, ethnicity and creed.

Works Cited

Menzel, Peter. & D’Aluisio, Faith. Hungry Planet: What the World Eats. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2007. Print.

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