Documenting the World's Food Traditions

That's what a food photographer named Melina Hammer is trying to do. Name Your Dream Assignment is a contest that gets photographers to post their dream assignment and the public votes. The winner gets fifty grand to make their dream come true.

Melina's project, "Food as Ritual, Food as Sustenance, Food as Identity," jumped out at me as a perfect pair for The Kitchn mission. Let's vote her to the top...

Melina wants to travel the planet to photo document food as ritual, sustenance, and identity. Here's her pitch:

The way people eat, and make food to feed themselves, their families, and their communities speaks volumes. I would like to capture this age-old labor in places as diverse as Africa, Europe, Asia, and more.

This is a journey to capture people in their communities, creating the food that keeps them going: whether for day-to-day sustenance, or celebration-based, special foods.

From hand-milled grain in Africa to homemade grandmother's pasta in Italy, I will convey the mark of the maker, and the imprint of their efforts on the food. I will capture working hands preparing food, people with their cultural menus, and individuals and families celebrating eating and harvesting.

As bountiful as my itinerary can be, I would like to document as many cultures' traditions as possible. In this fashion, I can showcase modern foods and their counterparts, as well as ancient, low-technology foods and their communities.

Photographers need to be ranked amidst the top 20 in order to qualify to win. Melina is at 57 now, we can help her climb to the top.

You'll have to register first, so don't forget to return to the Food As Ritual page to place your vote once you've registered.

Do you have a favorite book, photographer or photo that documents world food? I love a book by Elisabeth Luard called Sacred Food: Cooking for Spiritual Nourishment which explores dishes that are traditionally served at significant moments in human life across many cultures. I also find Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio's Hungry Planet project inspiring and important.

Related:
Hungry Planet: What the World Eats
• The food photography of Melina Hammer
• Are you a photographer with an idea? Submit your own dream assignment.

(Images: Melina Hammer Photography)

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Sara Kate is the founding editor of The Kitchn. She co-founded the site in 2005 and has since written three cookbooks. She is most recently the co-author of The Kitchn Cookbook, to be published in October 2014 by Clarkson Potter.