Tables of the World


From the Book, “What the World Eats” by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluision. This family represents Mexico.

In Casablanca, I tutored a Coca-Cola executive. He told me they’d run an experiment to see how people of different economic classes spend their lunch money. They gave 20 dhs, roughly $2.30, to a few people with the goal of buying lunch for their family. The wealthiest participant balked: what would 20dhs buy – hardly even a sandwich! The middling participant managed to do just that – to find a satisfying lunch for himself only at 20dhs. The poorest of the three went to the souk. From the vegetable stand, she asked the purveyor to give her 5 dirhams of mixed vegetables appropriate for couscous. She bought 10 dirhams of chicken and with the remaining 5 dihrams, she bought semolina, spices and a little leben (buttermilk). For 20 dhs, the poorest woman fed her whole family lunch.

The Coke executive told me that one of the people watching the experiment was from Atlanta. He said the woman started crying when she saw how much fresh, healthy food 20 dhs could buy, compared to what low-income folks in Atlanta had at their disposal.

I think of this story often, particularly when we come home from our weekend shopping trip the local farmer’s market. I’ve been obsessed with these photos for a few days now. The photos come from the book ‘Hungry Planet: What the World Eats’ by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluision. Time has two series from the book, which also includes how much the families spend: What the World Eats, Part 1 and Part 2

I’m lucky to live in a place where whole, fresh foods are cheap, local, and seasonal. Sometimes I groan about lack of variety (Mushrooms, please! Asparagus!), but after looking at these photos, I’m so grateful the  packaged items on my table are few.

My wish for the world is what I’m already lucky to have: cheap fresh vegetables, meats and bread that goes stale quickly.

Categories: media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “Tables of the World

  1. Nice to know that a corporation like coca cola is interested in educating people on the value of food.

  2. I’m not sure if they’re interested in educating people about the value of food or how they might more effectively capture the market. But, I’ll never forget his story — and that made me grateful he cared enough to share it.

  3. James Miller

    tables of the world has been making the rounds lately and I, too, Erin, am fascinated with these images. Thank you for your sense of what they mean to you. I recall a book 20years ago or so that had the entire household’s belongings laid out in the front yard or whatever cultural equivalent to that there is. That’s worth looking up for the boat in the front yard of los americanos, if nothing else. By the way, I think I want to be in Mexico’s picture too — best of this bakeoff.

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