I got the book Hungry Planet from the library, and have spent the past two days stealing every free moment to read it.
It is amazing.
I have always been fascinated by other cultures, so this (naturally) was something that I would be attracted to immediately.
And it hit me on several levels.
First: Anytime I feel myself slipping into the "Jesus is a white middle-class Republican American" sort of mentality, I need a good healthy reminder like this that He has created an amazingly big world, of which I (and my culture) are but a small part.
The first time I REALLY realized this was when I met my friend Raisa. She and her family lived on my street, and we met for the first time when she was taking her evening walk and came across me underneath my car, changing my oil... and cultures collided. She was a proper Pakastani women dressed immpeccably in her salwar kameez, and I was grunged out in shorts, an old t-shirt, and oil stains on my face and hands. She asked if I was thirsty and would like some tea. Thinking I was being offered the Southern variety, I said sure... and waited... and waited... until she returned some 20 min or so later, with a delicate china cup in her hand, and a steaming cup of chai inside.
That was the beginning of a friendship that changed my life.
She was my age... born a few months earlier than me... and came from a culture that was so different from mine I couldn't wrap my mind around it. She was in a miserable marriage that had been arranged for her by her family. She lived according to Muslim cultural expectations that floored me. She performed wudu and prayed facing Mecca several times a day. She gave me (and made me) several salwar kameezes, and was thrilled when I would wear one. She eagerly cooked her childhood "comfort food" for me, and was amazed that an American would like her cooking. She was desperate to have a baby boy so that her husband might finally love her.
And yet, in spite of our cultural and religious differences, I saw that she had the exact same hopes and dreams for her life that I did. I could no longer look at "crowd pictures" of people from Pakastan on the news without thinking, "that could be Raisa."
This book brought home again that lesson. As I poured over the pages, the faceless "people over there" became REAL people, with real homes, real kitchens, real families.
SECOND: It wasn't all that long ago that we (as Americans) entered a new phase and were able to take advantage of such modern conveniences as fast transportation, food refrigeration, grocery stores, etc. It is easy to forget that the rest of the world, in many cases, didn't enter that phase with us. Whether affected by poverty, or inhospitable terrain, corrupt governmental control, or whatever, there are MILLIONS around the world who do not live like "us" -- and it is shocking.
I am not going to decry the wonderful food system that we have here, that allows me to buy bananas, or oranges, or sushi, or whatever else I may choose to have for dinner. There are others who do not have such luxury. I was especially struck by the comment by one of the wives of a man from Mali, who was asked, "What is your favorite food?" She was unable to answer, because for her, food consists of corn porridge or rice porridge and a few assorted vegetables. That is the life she is used to, and she was quite amused to hear that Americans buy rice in bags, without being able to inspect the rice carefully before purchasing it.
THIRD: I was struck by the incredible choices we have. Many in the homeschooling community are trying to slow things down and discover (again) the joys of making things from scratch. What this book reminded me was that here, at least, we have the luxury of making that choice. For others around the world, that is the ONLY option. Thse modern women spend several HOURS for each dinner, pounding grain, or making bread, or visiting the local shops to purchase what their families will eat that evening.
FOURTH: (and finally) There is just the sheer joy of REAL food, created by Our Lord, and meant to be enjoyed. There is such an amazing array of meat, fruits, and vegetables that I've never even heard of, that He created for His children to enjoy! With each family comes a recipe of their "favorite meal," which in many instances involves ingredients that I will never find (musk ox, anyone?)
I hope that you can check your library to find this book. Pour over the pages, and enjoy!