Friday, December 14, 2007

Food for thought

Top left: Mexico: The Casales family of Cuernavaca Food expenditure for one week: 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos or $189.09 Favorite foods: pizza, crab, pasta, chicken. Right: Germany: The Melander family of Bargteheide Food expenditure for one week: 375.39 Euros or $500.07. Bottom Left: Chad: The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23 Favorite foods: soup with fresh sheep meat. Right: Bhutan: The Namgay family of Shingkhey Village Food expenditure for one week: 224.93 ngultrum or $5.03 Family recipe: Mushroom, cheese and pork

Peter Menzel
creates incredible books. In Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands we featured photographs from Material World: A Global Family Portrait. Peter had travelled the world and taken photographs of people with all their worldly goods arranged outside their homes. If a picture is worth a thousand words, some of these were knocking at the 100,000 words level. Now Peter and his wife, Faith D'Aluisio, take another slice of global life with Hungry Planet: What the World Eats. Published last year, its relevance just keeps increasing. This time, Menzel photographed families with what they ate in one week. Just as in Material World, the results show how compellingly different and intimately local we are even when we are doing the same thing: nurturing our families.

Menzel’s startling images illustrate the huge gaps between people who have resources and those who have very few. He is not simply pointing up inequalities, and certainly not suggesting that the more you have, the better life you lead. I suggest he is asking us to respect all these different families on their own terms and to learn from them. In other words, to observe with empathy and to be touched by others’ reality. From the German family’s line-up of packaged goods (weekly expenditure of US$500.07), to the harvest festival of fruit and vegetables of the Mexican family (weekly expenditure of US$189.09) to the sobering reality of the Aboubadar family in Chad (weekly expenditure of US$1.23), the food on which we sustain ourselves speaks the truth about who we are and what we desire.