Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

I browsed some of the reviews for this book on Goodreads while I was still in the process of reading it. Many found it inspiring, some daunting, and others seemed to be just plain put off by Kingsolver's "pushy" attitude. I did feel that Kingsolver occassionally seemed to be scolding me. As much as I'm sure she'd like this book to appeal to everyone, for the most part I think she's probably preaching to the choir (or at least, people who agree with her views even if they aren't quite living according to them yet). Nonetheless, Kingsolver and her family provide a wealth of information--anectodal, factual, and delicious (recipes!)

I would group myself among the people who found this book absolutely inspiring. Each semester I drudge through in college draws me ever closer to the idyllic vision of living in the mountains, growing my own food, and being surrounded by beauty and life. Perhaps not exactly where a college degree "should" take me, but I feel increasingly attracted to such a direct way of living. Kingsolver emphasizes how this directness--planting, nurturing, and harvesting foods right in your backyard, or purchasing them from your neighbors--creates an invaluable link between people and their food. Quite a few times she mentions that Americans are increasingly disconnected from their food sources, and this may be why we are hard-pressed to define an actual American food culture.

Additionally, and despite Kingsolver's tut-tutting, she repeatedly states that eating local and organic is something that everyone can do (perhaps in varying degrees, but she also proposes that every little bit helps). She backs these claims up with hard facts by analyzing the funds her family spent on growing their own food and buying food from farmer's markets, compared to the "hidden" fees that consumers pay when they purchase food that has traveled a great distance to get to the grocery store.

And I must say...the recipes at the end of each chapter sound divine--I'll definitely be trying many of them. Homemade mozerella? YES PLEASE!

Overall, I think Kingsolver presents an insightful, humble, and well-researched solution to many of America's food problems. The solution isn't to make farms bigger and ship foods cross-country. The solution, instead, involves stepping out into our own yards and cultivating even the smallest garden; seeking out local farmers and farmers markets in our communities; and learning (and appreciating) what the earth beneath our own two feet has to offer.

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