World's Fair

Faith D’Aluisio and Peter Menzel have a newish book out which is just wonderful from a food perspective. Essentially, they’ve traveled the world to meet “average” families and report on their dietary habits. Apart from being thematically intriguing from a journalistic point of view, it’s also quite awesome from a visual perspective. Basically, Peter has taken photos of the families with their weekly food totals.

This one is a representative from the US, and here are some others (below the fold). A whole ton of other pictures can be found here.


United States of America







Anyway, hope to pick this book up soon (or maybe a good holiday gift?) – it’s called “Hungry Planet. What the World Eats.


  1. #1 jeff
    November 29, 2006

    this is stupid. it represents one family out of millions. does every family in each country eat the same exact thing?

  2. #2 Jessica Cangiano
    November 29, 2006

    This book is superb. Though I do not yet own a copy (like yourself I hope to get one in the near future), every time I’m in a Chapters bookstore I carve out a niche of time and read further and further through the stunning photo-journalistic job that the book’s creators have done in regards to highlighting the eating and food shopping habits of citizens from around the globe.

    If one flips to the page showing those families in Africa and then meanders over to the pages which are about Americans or Brits, the comparison is a stark and somber example of why a book like not only needs to exist, but why it deserves a well earned place amongst the bookshelves of anyone who cares deeply about the plight of human nourishment and gastronomic integrity.

  3. #3 Phia
    November 29, 2006

    It’s a good sample.

  4. #4 tom
    November 29, 2006

    Jeff, and others, please, please, please try to think before you speak, or write.

    Obviously, these studies calculate average consumption by dividing total consumption by the total number of consumers, then multiply that per-unit average until you get the size of the average family.

    I know the pictures can be confusing, but since you actually can’t represent an average in one picture that is composed of millions of families and meals.

    It’s like if you, Jeff, have a pretty tall family of 4, and we get an “average height” that is 6′, vs another family of four that is shorter, for an average of 5′ 8″. Even though no one in your family might be exactly 6′, or in the other family 5’8″, the averages can be compared.

    Got it?

  5. #5 sharpsight
    November 29, 2006

    Would be interesting to compare the per capita rates of cancer, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease of say, England and the USA against the figures from Mali and China.

    And as well as all hte processed food and chemicals making you sick (while making rich food corporations richer), look at all the packaging used by the UK/USA families! As well as the unhealthy aspect of plastic compounds leaching into fatty products like meat & cheese, think of all the unnecessary pollution, not only from the discarded wrappers themselves, but also pollution from the factories that make it.

    We in the west are killing ourselves and killing the planet. And evil greedy corporate whores are trying to brainwash millions in China and Mali and elsewhere to give up their healthier, low-consumption lifestyles and turn into high-consumption profit generators. And then hopefully they will get sick like western plebs and then that opens up wonderful market opportunities for the drug companies to profit as well! Hooray!

  6. #6 yuk
    November 29, 2006

    Maybe it’s just me but all that pre-packed food looks nasty. No bread, vegetables, water or fruit in the US picture? There is some in the UK picture but thats nothing compared to all the candy and snacks you see in that one.

  7. #7 Anastasia Bodnar
    November 29, 2006

    The first thing I thought of when I saw all that packaging was – where does all that garbage go!? We are so wasteful.

    I try to eat more like the Chinese family, with fresh fruits and vegetables – but I have to admit some dependence on pre-prepared items. I’m buying the book, and am inspired to cut back. Thanks for posting about the book!

  8. #8 me
    November 29, 2006

    2 billion people in China and the “average family” has a house?

  9. #9 niku
    November 30, 2006

    this is not stupid at all. if you put the english people in the chinese picture , would that look wrong? then ,these pictures give some idea!

  10. #10 JW Tan
    November 30, 2006

    me said:

    “2 billion people in China and the “average family” has a house?”

    It’s 1.5 billion, about 700m in the cities and the rest in the countryside. City-dwellers have less space, obviously. And a country-dweller’s “house” tends to be a living room, and a couple of other rooms (for 6-10 people), plus an open-air kitchen. Toilet facilities are communal (as are some kitchens).

  11. #11 Thundrcleese
    November 30, 2006

    are you kidding me? people, calm down. theres all sorts of peoples. some healthier, some not. some parts of the world have to grow their own food… others not. its just a perspective. not a political statement. Great Pics. and really quite informative, if you want to get anal about em. I like em and what your real point is. Rock on and keep on keepin on.

  12. #12 Sean Straus
    November 30, 2006

    I think it’s cool, insightful and pretty accurate (as an american who lives in europe and has travelled to more than 50 countries).

    I ordered the book.

  13. #13 revgrant
    November 30, 2006

    Ouch. Of course we all really know that the contrast is so stark and real; being confronted with it so graphically is strong. 70% of the world’s population lives in uncertainty during any given week of having sufficient housing and food. On a lighter note, I like that the British family has their dog, with dog food, in the picture.

  14. #14 H
    November 30, 2006

    People’s food choice and food consumption have always interested me, and I always try to get a sneak preview of what food people buy…

    Try it yourself next time you’re at a big supermarket: when you’re queuing up for the till, have a look at what people have in their shopping trolleys. People buy so much pre-packed food; you’ll be surprised at how little product and how much paper, plastic and metal you’ll see! Even fruit and veg are sold in pre-packed bags and boxes, it’s such a waste!

  15. #15 oldguy
    November 30, 2006

    as a coach for the last 40 years l can see that .north americans and the english have some of the worst eating habits. l am over seventy never had a stroke ,heart attack or any other of the collections most have had at my age. why because you are what you eat. eat junk and you pay with your health.l am not suggesting l am the only one l have a freind nearly eighty whos still coaching fighters .

  16. #16 oldguy
    November 30, 2006

    as a coach for the last 40 years l can see that .north americans and the english have some of the worst eating habits. l am over seventy never had a stroke ,heart attack or any other of the collections most have had at my age. why because you are what you eat. eat junk and you pay with your health.l am not suggesting l am the only one l have a freind nearly eighty whos still coaching fighters .

  17. #17 Jeff
    November 30, 2006

    I didn’t know the British ate dogs 😉

  18. #18 Renbeer
    November 30, 2006

    what the hell when was this research done, 1974? the average English family goes through six cases of beer a week. you can be damn sure this book aint on my christmas list. SAA

  19. #19 Julie Stahlhut
    November 30, 2006

    The China photo is by far the most appetizing — beautiful fruits and vegetables! (Now to try to eat more along those lines, and less like the American or British families in their respective photos ….)

  20. #20 Pat
    November 30, 2006

    In response to Tom’s post, there as no study. It sates “Basically, Peter has taken photos of THE families with THEIR weekly food totals.”

    There is nothing scientific about this. It shoes nothing more than stereotypes.

  21. #21 David Ng
    November 30, 2006

    Let me also emphasize that the definition of “average” was based on the weekly amount of money spent on food. As well, some locales in the book have more than one representative family so that the reader can look at potential differences from geo-cultural-political stances. For instance, in the book, China does have a picture for both urban and rural instances. Canada has a family from Quebec, and a family from Nunavut.

    Also, don’t forget that the book is not just about the pictures (although arguably, they are compelling in of themselves). Faith D’Aluisio is a respected journalist and award winning television news producer.

  22. #22 matelot
    November 30, 2006

    Why the heck is USA represented by a AA family ?????

  23. #23 Jim Jones
    November 30, 2006

    While it’s obvious that the African family appears to have a better selection of food, famine, political stress and all other factors certainly contribute to a lower living age. Nutrition is only part of the battle.

    RunFatBoy – Exercise for the rest of us.

  24. #24 Julie Stahlhut
    November 30, 2006

    First of all, this obviously was meant to be a work of photojournalism, not a self-contained scientific survey. As such, it’s quite visually striking, and very effective.

    Second: What’s wrong with having an African American family representing the U.S.? By the demographics, roughly one in seven U.S. families should fit this description.

  25. #25 C. Dissonance
    November 30, 2006

    This experience makes me uncomfortable. May I please be excused?

  26. #26 Jammer
    November 30, 2006

    Did you have to pay for permission to use these photos?

  27. #27 GB
    November 30, 2006

    God it’s depressing being English. And they’re not even eating that badly compared to some! The Chinese food looks the best to me.

  28. #28 Steve
    November 30, 2006

    Very interesting


  29. #29 Geronimo
    November 30, 2006

    They eat dog in England?

  30. #30 Geronimo
    November 30, 2006

    COME ON!

  31. #31 burns
    December 1, 2006

    Is that Ziggy Stardust?

  32. #32 chris y
    December 1, 2006

    They eat dog in England?

    No, but they spend an obscene amount of money on dog food.

  33. #33 nim
    December 1, 2006

    Averages are a horrible way to collect information.

    There’s a reason why they teach Median and Mode in school.

  34. #34 bah
    December 1, 2006

    I think I see some purple drink in the USA one. Accurate to me.

  35. #35 Bill Johnson
    December 2, 2006


  36. #36 aus
    December 2, 2006

    Theres not enough fried chicken or watermelon in the American pic.

  37. #37 Preston
    December 2, 2006

    “Jeff” you are stupid, these pictures represent what people in these countries eat the most often. Not what every family eats exactly. Grow up.

  38. #38 L337
    December 2, 2006

    sucks to live in mali… so would a picture of eithiopians have empty plates?

  39. #39 Steve Savage
    December 3, 2006

    Those folks in Mali really know how to crank out those kids.

  40. #40 coldwar23
    December 3, 2006

    lmao @ the rest of the world. I will send a box of packing peanuts to Mali. Food for weeks. Poop will look odd though.

  41. #41 JAR
    December 3, 2006

    I didn’t know the British ate dogs 😉

    Good one! A sharp eye and rapier-like wit, I see. You, sir, are my nemesis! 😉

  42. #42 Just nere
    December 4, 2006

    That is absolutely shocking. Just look at the disgusting “food” eaten in the “First World” countries.

    Capitalism and consumerism really are repulsive. How ugly can people get?
    I just hope that China and Mali dont follow suit and ruin their diets too.

  43. #43 TheBrummell
    December 4, 2006

    Thank you for posting this. It looks like a fascinating and desirable book – now I just have to find a way to remind myself to look for it next time I’m in a book-buying frame of mind.

    Thanks again.

  44. #44 Judy
    December 6, 2006

    As the editor and publisher of, an online magazine celebrating raw foods cuisine, I’d like to see a family that eats 100% raw vegan food in the next edition of this book.

  45. #45 splat
    December 6, 2006

    If you want to see the photos in all their glory, they are being exhibited at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago until January 2.

    They are really quite stunning in large format.

  46. #46 rebecca
    December 6, 2006

    I’ve seen a similar book that took pictures of families with all of their posessions; I think the food angle really hits home, though. I got to thinking about my personal food consumption in comparison, and ended up taking a picture of myself with two weeks worth of food.

  47. #47 shively
    December 7, 2006

    Hey, that black family…. Wheres da chikin? I guess Ethopia would have empty plates?

  48. #48 rebecca
    December 8, 2006

    Why do people think it’s ok to be racist here? It is making me extremely uncomfortable.

  49. #49 BRC
    December 8, 2006

    rebecca, thank you for noting that. we don’t like to delete people’s posts, but clearly shiveley’s comment is unacceptable. we might need to change our policy. ben

  50. #50 Kevin
    December 10, 2006

    A lot of folks are saying how wonderful the Chinese food looks. Have you been to China? If so, no doubt you have seen the Sea Horses, Unskinned Lizards, Scorpions, Beetles, and Grubs for sale by street vendors. As for “Greedy western Corporations” adding preservatives and other processing…if it is so bad, why has the Life expectancy INCREASED over the last 100 years? Killing the Environment? Test the water in any river in China, and test a similar river in Europe or the U.S. Asia has the most lax enforcment of any environmental standard, I know, I live there. Interesting Photos to be sure, but they mean nothing when they are not in context.

  51. #51 etbnc
    December 10, 2006

    I get the impression this triggered some unpleasant associations for you, Kevin. I’m sorry if your personal experience in China isn’t as idyllic as the photo above. I appreciate your perspective. Perhaps the book authors intended to show a somewhat different perspective to a somewhat different audience.

    Thanks for bringing up the importance of context. I find context important, too. It seems to me China’s environmental degradation is occurring within the context of its current cultural values, particularly that culture’s current economic values. And that’s just barely implied by the photo above.

    Along those lines, it seems to me it might be interesting to examine human life expectancy in the context of many cultures and subcultures during many time periods. If I remember correctly, some folks have turned up findings from pre-agricultural and pre-Western-assimilated societies that are kind of intriguing.

    Thanks for adding your perspective to the context of the World’s Fair audience, Kevin.


  52. #52 Kevin
    December 10, 2006

    The photos triggered nothing much at all other than as I said, “They look interesting”. Really, they are well made pictures. The only thing that triggered such a foul response is the comment from Sharpsight above, who in my opinion is a fool for demonizing the West while ignoring the Many many problems in the East. I cant comment on Sharpsight’s diet, but I will wager that they are using a Computer bought by…egad! EVIL MONEY! At the end of the Day people should be free to eat what they wish, if they are too lazy or foolish to eat poorly (I.E. Junk food all the time) then they get what they deserve.

  53. #53 Dave
    December 31, 2006

    no big stack of tortillas and a bag of beans and a bag of rice for the people of latin america?

  54. #54 Fronika
    February 28, 2007

    Two legs bad – four legs good. Poor old two-legged whitey.

  55. #55 Alex
    February 16, 2008

    If i see all these kinds of foods, i regret that i’m not born in China.

  56. #56 Jeff
    April 1, 2009

    This is great! Of course it doesnt mean that all people eat the same even if they live 5 blocks away from each other! I live in the US and I must say that I eat as healthy as possible. I make sure that I have plenty of mineral water, fruits, veggies, natural honey, milk, yogurt, nuts, eggs, red wine, fish, etc..and no red meat-my believe is that red meat is bad for you in today’s world!!..because of the wonderful nutritious life and of course a great workout 5x per week i look about 9-10 younger than my real age and of course i feel like in my 20s !!
    Again, this is great info, especialy for the ones that want to compare what the others eat on an average based on weekely basis and of course how much they also spend!!

  57. #57 VegeFruitLoverz
    December 8, 2009

    This book would be really very interesting. At least for me , it is a very good effort, I always love to read about different cultures of other countries and also the eating habits and delicious recipes over there. And if I find some thing different I always try it in my kitchen.

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