What the World Eats

I am in Seattle for the BlogHer Food ’12 Conference, and arrived a few days early to visit my sister and brother-in-law. This afternoon we headed over to the Burke Museum on the University of Washington campus to view their temporary exhibit Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, based on the book of the same name.

The exhibit featured 10 families from various parts of the world, and included photographs of the families surrounded by a week’s worth of groceries, local markets and meal times. Additional text listed how much the family spent on food in a given week (both in local currency and in US dollars) and broke down food consumption by major food group.

For example, in Germany, a family of four spent around US $500 on food for one week, but on closer inspection of the below picture from the exhibit and book I counted 4 bottles of wine and 30 bottles of beer (and I’ll admit I was a bit envious).

From the exhibit, I was surprised to learn that fresh produce and seafood products in Japan come with so much packaging (and I thought we were package-obsessed here in the United States), that the Mexican family consumed so much Coca-Cola and candy, and that my own diet is nothing like the diet of the American family that was featured in the exhibit (they were pictured with pizza delivery boxes, Burger King, packaged meats, canned vegetables, sugary juice drinks and other processed foods). From the 10 cultures featured, my diet was actually the most like the Egyptian family’s — heavy on the produce, with small amounts of meat, flatbread and assorted beverages.

The exhibit finishes its Seattle run this Sunday, June 10th, but fortunately almost everything that was featured in the exhibit is also included in the Hungry Planet book. The book actually features 30 families — including a Chadian family that survives on $1.22 per week — and ethnic recipes such as seal stew from Greenland. It’s a pretty cool coffee table book.

One part of the exhibit that’s not part of the book, and which was really interesting, was a small exhibit on traditional coastal foods of the Salish peoples from the Puget Sound in and around Seattle. The list below includes nearly 300 types of foods the Salish peoples traditionally ate, with an emphasis on consuming foods in season. According to the exhibit, now most people only eat an average of 12 different types of food and have a dwindling regard for whether or not the food is in season or is sustainable.

Lucky for us the museum is free the first Thursday of every month (it’s usually $10 for general admission), although we had to pay $6 to park on the UW campus for 2 hours. In addition to the temporary exhibit, there’s also an ongoing exhibit on cultures and festivals of the Pacific Rim and a natural history exhibit with fossil and skeletal remains of ancient creatures that once inhabited the region.

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2 Responses to What the World Eats

  1. Brianna Soloski says:

    That must have been fascinating. I wish we got cool stuff like that in Vegas. It would make living here more tolerable.

  2. candice says:

    I’ve seen the pictures from that book – It is appalling how the “average” American eats, and I was shocked by the Mexican family’s diet. I found it fascinating, now I want to get that book. I also wish people would be more aware of how important for the environment it is to eat seasonally and locally.

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