The View From Here

musings by John The Irishman

Material World

with 9 comments

There is a very interesting book I’ve delved into lately, written in the mid 90s.  It’s called “Material World”, and it’s by a man named Peter Menzel.  The premise of the book is an examination of roughly 30 or so different families from all parts of the world – basically those that have, “kind of” have and have not.

 Menzel – a photographer – chronicled the daily lives of his subjects regarding how they lived, what they did for a living, meals, habits, etc…  It was quite fascinating to see the scope of the differences in what was important to people, how much they had to live on, dwelling types, and the like.  Everything from tents and mud huts to regular houses such as we all probably have.  From a Mali family that had to survive on $1.44 per week’s worth of food, to a German family that spent over $400 weekly for their groceries.  Some spent over 75% of their income for food, others as low as 12%.  To some the most important thing to them was their family, to others a religious book or other favorite possession – one couple stated simply “nothing”.

 I thoroughly enjoy this type of reading because the diversity that our world contains is truly amazing.  Some cultures work for survival, and some are blessed with abundance.  For some of these, circumstances as simple as a longer rainy season, extended cold snap or the death of livestock can mark the difference between life and death for them and their families.  In one case, a subject in Russia was beaten to death & robbed less than a month after he was chronicled due to his crime-ridden surroundings, and the poverty within.

The newest book by this photographer and his wife is called “Hungry Planet”- similar concept as “Material World” – what the world eats for a week.  Since I love to cook, I often try to make other nation’s cuisine such as Spanish Paella, Vietnamese Pho (pronounced “fuh”) and Pad Thai to name a few.  I’m sure I will sample many more “peasant” dishes after a read through – that kind of culture study is always eye (and mouth) opening for me. 

I often wonder how I would fare if I could only spend $10, $20 or even only $50 weekly on food and beverages for my wife and I – three squares a day.  As I examine what we have, and the fact that if we want something we can just go get it, it’s hard to imagine not being able to just walk into the kitchen or closet and “there it is” – whatever “it” may be.  Food /Clothing /Shelter/ Faith / Hope / Love – we are truly blessed…


Written by johntheirishman

Sunday, 11 February, 2007 @ 19:47 at 19:47

Posted in World at Large

9 Responses

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  1. Astro and I used to eat Pad Thai at this hole-in-the-wall place right off base in NM. Probably the best Pad Thai I’ve had. The portions were amazing too.


    Sunday, 11 February, 2007 @ 20:07 at 20:07

  2. I never had it until I made it. Did you have it when you were here for the holidays ? When I last made it I know Laura was here, and I thought Kel & Jim also. They were here last night, along with my cousin Matt & his wife Suzanne. I made Jambalaya, Mussels, and my World Famous Basil Pesto Potatoes !


    Sunday, 11 February, 2007 @ 20:17 at 20:17

  3. Pam makes those potatoes now… I’m hooked on em.


    Sunday, 11 February, 2007 @ 21:07 at 21:07

  4. I invented those – seriously – I tried to find a recipe after I “invented” the combination and couldn’t find squat. There’s recipes now (I think), but I created mine over 5 years ago.

    I remember having your Jambalaya at Gramma’s one night – tasty ! (Oy Kay !)


    Monday, 12 February, 2007 @ 20:51 at 20:51

  5. Sounds like a good read, I personally enjoy things (books) like that…There should be a “college years” chapter in there; top ramen, catching fish because you WERE hungry etc…Ah, for some reason I miss those days sometimes…

    I spent some time in Chile a few years ago and expected some horrible food (how american stereotype of me) but I was wrong…I learned some of the best tasting recipes from simple things (most involved fish though).

    Sounds like you’re a good cook…I keep trying to become one (however, my woman loves my cooking)…

    You should post some of the “good” recipes sometime…

    And for christ sake, pick a baseball team.


    Wednesday, 14 February, 2007 @ 0:32 at 0:32

  6. JJ : I think most college kids are worried about the next kegger, and you were wading in a trout stream – too funny !

    I am not well traveled, but I do read alot and do my own “research”. I am fascinated by how other cultures live. Chile must have been awesome – I’ve often wondered how they were able to scam practically the whole SW coast of South America from the other countries !

    I want to write some (lots of) food posts but haven’t gotten around to it. I may do one next. Most of my day-to-day cooking for the wife and I – and occasional guests – is just my own creations. I do enjoy using recipes too though, but prefer to “create”.


    Wednesday, 14 February, 2007 @ 20:34 at 20:34

  7. Funny stuff: I was usually the guy throwing the keg so I could make a few bucks…I always came up short though, I wouldn’t charge my friends…STUPID ME, they always pissed the girls off, ran off the crowd and initiated retarded…Drank all the beer too. Fun times.

    Chile is a place to see, Good mix of the spanish-european…BEAUTIFUL women…Wow…
    Santiago is a very rich city, they’re doing just fine (damn expensive)…It is the “happening” city.

    I love ALL foods JTI, how do you make pasta from “scratch” again?


    Friday, 16 February, 2007 @ 7:35 at 7:35

  8. I’ll have to do some research on the Chileans – thanks for the idea…

    I have made pasta from scratch – it’s fairly easy – flour, eggs, salt & oil. I even have a hand cranked pasta press around here somewhere. You don’t need a press, but it makes it a lot easier.

    Some of my sauces include a red sauce (from whole tomatoes), Sun-dried Tomato, Basil Pesto, Alfredo and White Clam sauces. The red sauce, Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Pesto are all my original creations – all in my head (makes them easier to find). The other two are recipes, but are extremely simple and really deliver on flavor.


    Friday, 16 February, 2007 @ 8:54 at 8:54

  9. Jenn has one of those POS pasta presses too, I had a “pasta disaster” with it one day so to hell with that thing (it was clearly cook error on my behalf).. I’ve seen pasta done without that “thing” before.

    I appreciate your advice.

    The clam sauce I will try…If somebody asks me where I got the idea I will reply: Some Notre Dame Irishman told me about it…


    Friday, 16 February, 2007 @ 17:08 at 17:08

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