Sunday, July 22, 2007

Hungry Planet - What The World Eats

Frustratingly, I have lost the link to the blog where I first read about this book. I do remember the second place I saw it was here at the blog. (Here's the link to the photo essay)Hungry Planet by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio shows us what 30 families in 24 countries eat over the course of one week. I borrowed this book from the library and I don't want to give it back! It's a wonderful book - funny, sad, touching, and especially thought provoking.

The differences between the amount of food a family of 9 in Ecuador eats in a week versus a family of 4 in Great Britain is shocking, not only in amount but in natural versus processed. Also eye raising are the facts provided on each country - Ecuador has 10 McDonald's Restaurants, Great Britain has 1,110. The obese population in Ecuador, male/female: 6/15%. Great Britain 19/21%. And don't get me started on the amount of Coke the family from Mexico drinks on average per week! (12 bottles!!!!)

This is a completely fascinating book, very well written and with gorgeous photos. If you have a chance to read this book, take a look at the photo of the fish stand on page 190. Possibly one of the most stunningly beautiful pictures I've ever seen.

What I liked most about this book was the stories on the families and learning more about countries and cultures different than my own. It made me realize, not for the first time, how fortunate I am to live where I live, and how relatively easy we've got it. Can you imagine having to rely on the refugee camp you live in to provide your family with food? If you could not afford to buy fruit? Or if you could not catch a fish there would be no dinner that night? And for me personally, how much would I still want to eat a pork chop or a piece of chicken if instead of purchasing it all sterile and wrapped in plastic from my big-box super grocery store I had to walk into a hot building full of unrefrigerated dead animals hanging from hooks in the middle of the room? Um, I wouldn't.

I was amazed at some of the animals that are eaten in different countries around the world. Things I never would have thought someone would eat are common dinners elsewhere. My parents happened to be in town while I was reading this book. My Dad will eat almost anything, and my parents have been to some interesting places around the world. Scott is a pretty adventurous eater too, whereas compared to the three of them I am a total wuss. So for fun I made a list of some of the animals consumed elsewhere in the world, then polled the 3 members of my family and myself (a) if they had ever tried any of these animals before and (b) would they eat it.

Here's our results.

Remember, the first answer is if we've had it before. The second answer is would we eat it.
As you can see, I really am the least adventurous eater ever. (Even though my Mom said no to all everything too, she did say yes to some stuff that didn't make the list.) I am still coming to terms with the fact Scott would eat Guinea Pig given the chance, but at least he wouldn't eat a seahorse like my father would.

I have to take the book back to the library tomorrow unfortunately, but I'll be adding it to my book wish list so I might have my very own copy one day. If you see this at the store or at the library, or at a friends house, grab it! You'll love it.

Pop quiz - are there any foods on that list that you've eaten, or would eat?


In other news, my next piece is up at Food for Thought, the blog. Would you like to read it? You would? Well then, click here.


Deborah said...

I checked this book out of the library awhile back - I also really enjoyed it. It was a real eye opener and makes me greatful for I that I have and all that I have access to.

tigerfish said...

Sounds like a real interesting book. I wonder if available in major bookstores.

Sara said...

Deborah - It's an amazing book.

TF - doh! I didn't add any links, did I? It's on amazon.

KJ said...

This book sounds fascinating. I've seen the Time Life essay, I found it intriguing.

I think I would be tempted to try a morsel of most of the things on your list just to see what they are like. But a whole meal, I don't think so.

I can't help but wonder under what circumstances your Dad ate porcupine?

rswb said...

Eating kangaroo is actually a really good thing. There are a lot of them in Australia and they wreak all sorts of havoc on farms and consequently are often culled (shot) to minimise their negative impact. Their meat is really low in fat, very healthy, and has an intersting, gamey flavour. I would thoroughly recommend it (although that being said, it's a bit of an ethical issue if you want to eat something that has been transported all the way across the world).

Incidentally, my rule of thumb is that if it is legally caught/killed and it's not endangered, then I'll (potentially) eat it. Although now that I think about it further, that doesn't extend to insects, because I don't really like the idea of eating all those legs.

Nerissa said...

I can say I've eaten a morsel of 1000 year egg. It was a strange experience. It was okay in the yolk but an odd jelly feel for the whites. The colour is a bit off-putting but I'd try it again

peasantwench said...

I haven't had anything on that list, though I would totally try guinea pig - prepared correctly, of course! Can you imagine going to Superstore and trying to buy one? Hee.

I did have alligator in a small Idaho town, from locally raised alligator. Who knew you could raise them in the middle of sagebrush?

Lis said...

I checked out the Time/Life essay and really enjoyed it and I'd love to read the book too (I just put it on my wishlist as well :D)

Okay headed off to see what's up on! Yay! You're a celebrity!!!!


PS - Uhhh NO!/NO! xoxo

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a very interesting book. We have tried Kangaroo at an Australian restaurant in Manhattan.


Sara said...

kj - you are braver than me. my dad grew up in england.

rswb - i have heard good things about kangaroos before. unfortunately i am one of those people that can't eat certain animals because they are cute. kangaroo falls into that category. so does lamb. cow should too, but i do eat that.

nerissa - did it smell? i've always imagined it would.

pw - i hate guinea pigs, but i just can't imagine eating one. you should have seen the pictures in the book of the cooked ones. eww! i did try alligator in a cajun stew once. tasted like chicken.

lis - you are as adventurous as i am, i see!

ani - did you like it?

breadchick said...

Let's see here I've had the porcupine (wouldn't eat it again, gamey) and pigs feet (would eat again, surprisingly). I would probably eat musk ox, kangaroo, and camel (and don't hate me Sara...) cuy as well. I don't think I could eat 1000 Year Old Egg though (smelled one once and lost my appetite for 3 days) But then this comment is coming from someone who doesn't shy away from street food in Mumbai...

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I'd like to think I'd try any of those that were properly prepared but I'd have to really be presented with the opportunity to answer. The egg - I'm thinking I'd not enjoy the smell and wouldn't try it.

Claire said...

I've eaten horse and cow tongue and would eat buffalo.

Sara said...

BC - wow, you are an adventurous eater! Street food in Mumbai huh? Tell me more!

Tanna - you have a point there, it would depend on how the meats were prepared. Not to me though.

Claire - I have had buffalo! Buffalo chili. It tasted like chili.

peasantwench said...

I think the ultimate in local weirdness has got to be prairie oysters. I mean, sure, they're beef, but still.
I liked them - they tasted kind of like kidneys. Bottlescew Bills has a Testical Festival every year if you feel brave...

Stephanie said...

I got that book for Christmas the year before last, but I've yet to make any head-way, I'm afraid.

Those cookbook shelves of ours make focusing on any one book (for too long) nearly impossible!

Oh, and for me? The answer is a resounding NO to each and every one.

Sara said...

PW - I admire your bravery! I've heard of the festival, but I just don't think I could eat...that.

Stephanie - you are right, sometimes it's hard to read a "regular" book when there's so many cookbooks waiting to be flipped through.

Brilynn said...

I've only had kangaroo... I think that list looks like a challenge...