I stumbled on a chapter excerpt of Hungry Planet  in Delta Airline's Sky Magazine, and knew I had to get it. It's probably my favorite food-related book purchase of the year. The premise of the book is simple: have a family buy a week's worth of food, photograph them with the food, listing exactly what was purchased and the prices for them (or, in some cases, procured for free or home-grown, with equivalent local prices for these items), and add an essay about how the family cooks and eats. It profiles 30 familes from around the world, from Africa to Europe to Asia to the United States.
The photographer and co-author of this book, Peter Menzel, produced a similar book called Material World: A Global Family Portrait  in the early '90s. That book photographed families around the world with all of their worldly possessions piled around them. I got that book along with Hungry Planet, and it too is quite interesting. I much prefer Hungry Planet though, simply because food is universal. The food-and-family photos are simply fascinating - I almost pulled out a magnifying glass so I could see all of the details. The essays accompanying each family profile are equally interesting, and there are also some guest-written essays on various topics related to food such as fast food, fish, the meat processing industry, and so on. There are also some absorbing national statistics such as average calorie intake per person (Italy: 3,671; Japan: 2,761; Mali: 2,174; India: 2,459; United States: 3,774), annual meat consumption per person (United Kingdom: 175 pounds; Cuba: 71 pounds; Bhutan: 6.6 pounds; Kuwait: 132 pounds), McDonald's restaurants (Mexico: 261; Poland: 200; Turkey: 81; Ecuador: 10; Greenland: 0; United States: 13,491) and so on. Some more tidbits from the book that I found particularly interesting:
I don't want to give the impression that this book is just a bunch of dry statistics. It also has a recipe per family (the one I'm least likely to try: seal stew from Greenland), pictures of various local foods (intriguing in a scary sort of way: roasted guinea pig from Ecuador), and much more. Most of all, the photographs are terrific. What is striking is both how pervasive the spread of international, mostly American origin, fast-food and snack/sugary beverage items are, and how there are still a lot of uniquely local foods and eating habits.
I'd recommend this book either as a gift for someone or just for yourself if you are a foodie, a cook, fascinated by statistics, or just love beautiful photography books. I am "all of the above", so I give Hungry Planet 5 stars out of 5.