What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets, by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio.
At first glance, this book has a simple premise: to illustrate what people eat on a typical day. But it gets more complicated than that. You know those kids books about “how children live around the world?” It’s like that, but better.
The book is organized in order of calorie count — from a Maasai herder during a drought (800) to a binge-eating British woman (12,300). For each of the 80 people in the book (plus 20 more on the book’s website), there is a detailed list of what they ate on that day, the calorie count, and the height and weight of the person.
The best part, for me, is everything else. How a runaway child porter in Bangladesh survives day to day. The daily routine of a Chinese acrobat. How astronauts deal with meals on the International Space Station. The Chicago high-rise ironworker who eats mostly processed foods. The Tibetan yak herders who depend on their animals for housing, heating, food, and drink (butter tea, anyone?). The young student who works at Mall of America and only has time for fast food. The cooking and training routine at a Japanese sumo club. Interspersed throughout the books are half a dozen essays about food. My favorite is the one about food taboos, by Ellen Ruppel Shell.
Twenty profiles didn’t make it into the book but are available at http://aroundtheworldin80diets.com/