Sunday, February 4, 2007

Material World and Hungry Planet

We gave our daughter, just me, two interesting books for Christmas:
Material World: A Global Family Portrait by Peter Menzel and Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel, Faith D'Aluisio. Both of these books come highly recommended. I read Material World in January, after my daughter finished it, and, after reading half of it earlier, I finally finished Hungry Planet last night.

Material World was published in 1995, but still has an impact. From the review:
"[A]ward-winning photojournalist Peter Menzel brought together 16 of the world's leading photographers to create a visual portrait of life in 30 nations. Material World tackles its wide subject by zooming in, allowing one household to represent an entire nation. Photographers spent one week living with a "statistically average" family in each country, learning about their work, their attitudes toward their possessions, and their hopes for the future. Then a "big picture" shot of the family was taken outside the dwelling, surrounded by all their (many or few) material goods.
The book provides sidebars offering statistics and a brief history for each country, as well as personal notes from the photographers about their experiences. But it is the "big pictures" that tell most of the story..... Material World is a lesson in economics and geography, reminding us of the world's inequities, but also of humanity's common threads. An engrossing, enlightening book. --Maria Dolan"

Hungry Planet was published in 2005 and was the James Beard Foundation Cookbook of the year. This really is not a cookbook, although it does have a recipe in it from each family portrayed. The review, in part, at
"...Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, [is] a comparative photo-chronicle of their visits to 30 families in 24 countries for 600 meals in all. Their personal-is-political portraits feature pictures of each family with a week's worth of food purchases; weekly food-intake lists with costs noted; typical family recipes; and illuminating essays.... Among the families, we meet the Mellanders, a German household of five who enjoy cinnamon rolls, chocolate croissants, and beef roulades, and whose weekly food expenses amount to $500. We also encounter the Natomos of Mali, a family of one husband, his two wives, and their nine children, whose corn and millet-based diet costs $26.39 weekly.
We soon learn that diet is determined by largely uncontrollable forces like poverty, conflict and globalization, which can bring change with startling speed....
Because the book makes many of its points through the eye, we see--and feel--more than we might otherwise. Issues that influence how the families are nourished (or not) are made more immediate. Quietly, the book reveals the intersection of nutrition and politics, of the particular and universal. It's a wonderful and worthy feat. --Arthur Boehm "

They are both excellent books. The big family portraits in both books are intriguing, fascinating, and sometimes humbling. As noted in the reviews about, in Material World we see a family surrounded by all their material possessions while In Hungry Planet, we see various families surrounded by a weeks worth of groceries. Just pondering what your family would be surrounded by in these portraits.

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