What's for Dinner? | People & Places | Smithsonian
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What's for Dinner?

What's for Dinner?

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Members of the Natomo family in the North African nation of Mali arise well before sunrise, lighting a fire and beginning an hour-and-a-half-long breakfast ritual, a process that often involves winnowing and rinsing the grain for oatmeal. In California, breakfast for the Cavens begins when they open a box of Raisin Bran. Photographer Peter Menzel posed the Natomos, the Cavens and five other "statistically average" families with the food they eat in a week. This project was a follow-up to his book, Material World: A Global Family Portrait, a revealing collection of photographs of families with all their possessions outside their homes. "These images are a fascinating mirror on ourselves," he says, "enabling us to compare our families with others." Some families, such as the Namgays in Bhutan, rely almost entirely on food they grow themselves. The predominance of grains, raw vegetables and meats in the foreign households indicates substantial meal-prep time. In the Cavens’ kitchen you can almost hear the microwave’s familiar ding. Less time in the kitchen may mean more time with the family, but not necessarily. After all, cooking often brings together Soumana Natomo’s 15-member family, including his two wives.

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