What’s for Dinner?

Ukita Family: Yokyo, Japan Shopping involves a daily trip by bicycle to the local shopping area, where the mother pays a premium for fresh foodstuffs, including yellowtail tuna and rainbow trout, which she serves raw. Peter Menzel/www.menzelphoto.com
Celic Family: Istanbul, Turkey The entire family gathers for dinner, which can include yahni, a dish of lamb cooked with onions and potatoes, and yufka, a mixture of arugula and feta stuffed inside an egg-roll-shaped pastry and baked. Peter Menzel/www.menzelphoto.com
Two wives alternate the responsibility for preparing meals, which involves making the fire, grinding the grain and preparing ngome, breakfast cakes of pounded millet or rice, salt and oil. The cakes are also sold. Peter Menzel/www.menzelphoto.com
Costa Family: Havana, Cuba Both parents spend up to an hour and a half preparing the evening meal, which often consists of congre, a mix of rice and black beans, as well as fried bananas and french fried malanga, a potato-like starch. Peter Menzel/www.menzelphoto.com
On many weeknights the daughter sets the table for four (although her father rarely gets home in time for dinner), while her mother spends half an hour cooking their favorite meal of chicken, broccoli and toast. Peter Menzel/www.menzelphoto.com

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.

Get the latest Travel & Culture stories in your inbox.