Never mind what I eat…what do you eat???

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.

What I Eat

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 content.

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 lucky lean.

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.


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