Hungry Planet: a beautiful way to think about food, abundance and responsibility

hungry planet 499x371.jpg

Perhaps you saw the pic of Joan’s little Bantam chook with her ducklings on Instagram?  We both have a few chooks and aside from the eggs, one of the things I love most about them is that they help to reduce my guilt over food waste. They're pretty efficient garbage disposals and at least something living is eating my leftovers rather than having them rot and turn into methane gas!

Food waste is becoming a global concern. Economists, environmentalists and human rights advocates are all on the same page: we have to stop wasting, start sharing, and get fresh food to people who need it. They’re the sort of goals everyone can get behind.

Sometimes, though, just getting the dinner plates emptied at home feels like a battle of global proportions. (It’s a maturity thing of course – most children will expand their appetites and their taste buds as they grow.)

One of my favourite picture books to pull out for finicky eaters (or for anyone who is feeling a little bit too comfortable in their first world life) is Hungry Planet: What the World Eats.  It’s beautiful and fascinating to look at and does a great job of putting an abundance of food  into perspective.

Thirty families from around the world are photographed with a week's worth of food – the contrast is the key. 

There are families from western nations who have tremendous abundance – so much in fact that it’s hard to imagine how they could possibly get through all the food. 

And there are families living in refugee camps with meagre portions of the simplest of foods.

There’s an essay about each family and the way families in their country and region live, as well as a breakdown of their food.  Best of all, there’s a recipe from each family and it can be both confronting and fun to try making a few.

Hungry Planet is packed with other stories and information about food and food security. 

There’s a collection of stats from each country including things like the percentage of population who are undernourished, the number of McDonalds restaurants, unemployment rates and so on. 

It’s a great book that adults and children find equally fascinating and it’s a great way to talk about food waste – much better than a dinnertime rant about finances or famine. (Since Hungry Planet was first published in 2007 the stats may be a little out of date almost ten years later, but they still provide a general framework for understanding the lives on display.)

If you’re looking for a bit of current information on food waste, this article from the NYT is interesting and National Geographic’s cover story this month is on the benefits of so-called ‘ugly’ fruit and veg – some really interesting graphs there

And, if you’re inspired to try cooking more simply and wasting less, Extending the Table by Joetta Handrich Schlabachis is a brilliant cookbook with recipes supplied by Mennonite families from around the world. Here’s one of our family’s favourites- sorry about the splatters, I’m a messy cook.

HUNGRY PLANET
by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio - Penguin Random House 2007.
ages 3 to grown-up / coffee table, food, s.o.s.e., s.t.e.m.

Hungry Planet is available from:  Amazon - Book Depository - Booktopia
and Extending the Table from Amazon - Book Depository - Booktopia

Tiny The Invisible World of Microbes: a s.t.e.m. story full of gasping moments

Tiny The Invisible World of Microbes: a s.t.e.m. story full of gasping moments

This is a book full of gasping moments, the sort that deliver a sense of wonder and an appreciation for the grandeur of the natural world. And perhaps best of all, it’s lyrical to read aloud and beautiful to look at.

Ages 3 - 12

Read More

Because Amelia Smiled: how a little girl's smiles went round the world and back

Because Amelia Smiled: how a little girl's smiles went round the world and back

This is a wonderfully circular book. Amelia smiles, her smile is contagious and spreads all around the world and finally finds its way back to her - and she smiles again!

I love a book that shows (but doesn’t preach about) the interconnectedness of people around the world – this book manages exactly that.

And I think the key is the joyfulness of the illustrations. There’s a fuzziness* to them that invites the reader into the edges of the world each character inhabits. 

Read More

a peaceful Nullabor Christmas - full of delight and excitement

a peaceful Nullabor Christmas - full of delight and excitement

ages 2 to 12 years
A perfect Australian Christmas picture book, it’s the story of Kathleen – a little girl who lives along Australia’s Nullarbor Plain – and of the Tea and Sugar Train which used to travel across the Plain each week. A charming balance to the OTT commercialism that sometimes surrounds Christmas.

Read More

The Huge Bag of Worries: a comforting tale for little or big worriers

The Huge Bag of Worries: a comforting tale for little or big worriers

ages 3 to 10 years
My Ivy is a worrier; she comes from a long line of worriers on my side so there was really no escaping it. She worries that she will miss out, that someone might speak unkindly and that she won’t get to hug me when I’m in hospital having the baby. Nearly every day there is a new worry or 10. I wasn’t really sure how to help her because it’s something I only learned to deal with in adulthood, and those methods don’t really work for a 5 year old.

Talking to a friend, she recommended The Huge Bag of Worries (she uses in her speech pathology practise) and it has been a game changer!

Read More

after our marathon break—books about running to inspire, educate and entertain

after our marathon break—books about running to inspire, educate and entertain

Well that turned into a marathon break - the best laid plans and all that! (If you're reading this post in isolation, we took what turned into a way-too-long break from WTBA to get a few other things in order.) 

Speaking of marathons :), I’ve been reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. It’s witty and conversational in tone, fascinating and eye opening. Quite inspiring.

Read More

'cause Christmas is different (and the same) everywhere

'cause Christmas is different (and the same) everywhere

ages 3 to grownup
I’ve been a John Williamson fan since childhood and a few months ago we were lucky enough to go to one of his concerts as a family. Amazing. There's really nothing quite like a live performance.

During intermission, I came across Christmas in Australia. I had no idea John Williamson had written a children’s book and just had to buy it—my only regret was that the kids were so exhausted by the end of the show we couldn't wait in the line to get it

Read More