We Are What We Eat

Posted on July 30, 2016 by Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

Food is a great equalizer. Around the planet, we all share the common bond of having to sustain and feed our bodies.

On this edition of Saturday’s Around the World, we take a look at cultures around the world through the food that binds us.

Image: Photos of different dishes from Matthieu Paley and National Geographic We Are What We Eat

National Geographic Photographer Matthieu Paley has traveled around the world photographing and documenting cultures that still eat in traditional fashions, uninfluenced by the advent of the supermarket.

His work looks at the evolution of diet, culture, and environment with fascinating and compelling photography that reminds us all of our common threads of connection.

In a series of talks at Nat Geo Live, Paley spoke about his global adventure. Today, we have curated for you a few excerpts from his talk exploring the food cultures of societies around the planet.

To begin, we head to a remote region in northern Afghanistan where the Kyrgyz community makes a life on a high, barren, plateau living off of a high-altitude nomadic diet.

Food of the Bolivian jungle…

From Afghanistan, we head to Bolivia. Here, in the deep jungle, we get a glimpse of the Tsimane way of life, that of a hunter, forager, and farmer.

Far from the barren plateau the Kyrgyz call home, the relationship between the Tsimane and their environment provides yet another unique glimpse into our universal connection over food…

Subsistence farming in Pakistan…

Next up, we travel to Northern Pakistan where the Burusho people survive on subsistence agriculture even at high altitude.

A taste of the sea in Borneo…

Finally, we take a look at the oceanic diet through the culture of the Bajau people of Borneo.

Connecting over a meal…

Take a moment to reflect on the universality of the proverbial dinner table across the globe.

We are no different from anybody else when it comes to sharing the commonality of something as basic as food.

We all what the same for ourselves, to live healthy, happy lives, so why are we so adamantly fighting about the best way to do that?

Perhaps if we took the time to more deeply appreciate the essence of a life well lived, we could recognize that same intention in the people we consider to be in diametric opposition to us.

How much is our narrative of the “other” constructed by forces outside of our own firsthand experience? Connection and conversation are our greatest tools in learning to combat bigotry, fear, and hatred. And I can think of no better way to begin those conversations and make those connections than over food.


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“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”-Victor Borge