Although new food books arrive at my house every day, very
rarely does one stop me in my tracks. But that's what
happened when I opened the familiar cardboard envelope and found What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets.
One moment I was sorting through the mail; the next I was
transported on a whirlwind, National Geographic-style tour of meals
all over the globe.
Each spread offers up a portrait in
photos and a portrait in words--an American astronaut, an Indian
call center operator, a Brazilian grandmother. Spread before
each--in bowls, on plates, on the ground, on a counter or table--
is a day's worth of food. The stories are arranged by calorie
count--800 for a gaunt but smiling Maasai herder; a shocking 12,300
for a dangerously overweight British stay-at-home mom. Body
mass index stats are included, so you can judge to your heart's
The correlations aren't always what you expect, though. A
130-pound Tibetan yak herder eats 5600 calories of dried mutton and
butter tea, while a weight-loss camper struggles to come in under
300 pounds on just 1700 calories a day. It's obvious that
physical activity matters. It's obvious that the quality of
the food matters, too, with processed foods surrounding the
heavyset and whole meats, vegetables and grain surrounding the
And when I say "lucky," I don't just mean metabolically
blessed or fortunate enough to have a physically demanding job.
In this book are refugees, homeless people, a 12-year-old
Bangladeshi train porter whose life on the streets will break your
heart. For these people, proper nutrition isn't something you
resolve upon on January 2nd. It's a matter of life and, all
too often, death.
It's the human stories that make this book so un-put-down-able.
Even my son, 9, couldn't tear himself away from it.
It's being released next week. Have a look.
You'll see what I mean.