Hungry Planet takes a look at what the world eats, country by country, family by family. Photos show 30 different families posing with a typical week’s worth of food, and details include how much they spend on food, the breakdown by types of food, a family recipe and an essay about the family and their relationship to food. Author Peter Menzel also includes field notes which are a bit like personal journal entries. The countries he visited for the book include places like Bhutan, Mali and Cuba and more than one family in places like China, the US and Japan.

Hungry Planet won a prestigious James Beard award in 2006 and is now out in paperback. If you haven’t seen a copy of the book, you can see the photographs over at But it’s well worth getting a copy. While the photos are most impressive, the book also includes essays by noted writers such as Marion Nestle, Michael Pollan and Corby Kummer. The essays and photos will shock, dismay, encourage and enlighten.

I recently reread the statistic that in America we spend only 10% of our income on food. I don’t know what percentage of income each of the families from the 24 countries featured spends on food, but it is interesting all the same to see just what they eat and how much it costs. Often it seems from the pictures that people in the more industrialized nations are not eating as well as those in the “developing” world. It will be interesting to see if the families featured will be revisited to see if and how their diets change over time.

Family Recipe–Great Britain

Mark Bainton’s Cheese and Potato Pie

12 oz mashed potatoes per person
9 leaves basil, finely torn (save half leaf for garnish)
3 sprigs parsley, finely chopped (save 1 leaf for garnish)
8-12 oz Cheddar cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Combine mashed potatoes, basil, and parsley (or other herb of your choice)
3. Cover the bottom of an ovenproof casserole about 1″ thick in mashed potatoes; cover with sliced cheese. Repeat, finishing with slices of cheese, so that all the mashed potatoes are covered.
4. Bake until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Serve with garnish.

Reprinted from Material World Books and Ten Speed Press, Hungry Planet, 2007

Hungry Planet 17 March,2008Amy Sherman

  • Anonymous

    I hate to say this as I plan to go this weekend but there’s an exhibition of the Hungry Planet photos at the African Diaspora Museum in downtown SF. The exhibition ends on Sunday, Jan 20th.

  • Leslie Pave

    This book, which sits on our coffee table, has been the #1 conversation starter at my house. It’s beautiful and fascinating.


Amy Sherman

Amy Sherman began blogging in 2003, because all her
friends and family were constantly asking her where
and what to eat. Three months after it launched,
Forbes chose her blog, Cooking with Amy, as one of the
top five best food blogs, praising her writing as
“smart, cozy and witty”. Since then her blog has been
featured and recipes reprinted in many newspapers and
magazines in the U.S. and the world.

In addition to regularly updating her blog, Amy is a
guest contributor to the blog, and
Contributing Editor of Glam Dish. She also writes
restaurant reviews for SF Station.

Her focus on Bay Area Bites is primarily cookbook
reviews along with some interviews and current events.

Amy is a recipe developer and freelance food writer.
She is author of WinePassport: Portugal and wrote the new introduction to the classic cookbook, Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book, published by the University of Nebraska Press. She recently completed 45 recipes for a Williams-Sonoma cookbook and wrote her first piece for VIA magazine.

She is currently serving on the board of the San Francisco Professional Food Society and is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Amy lives in San Francisco with her husband, tech journalist Lee Sherman.

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