Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I knew author, Barbara Kingsolver, as a fiction writer, having previously read her book The Poisonwood Bible. I had first started listening to the audiobook version of this book, narrated by Kingsolver and her family several years ago. I had not finished listening to it before it was due back at the library and hadn’t attempted to finish it until now. For those who have read Plenty (see our review here) this book will seem familiar. Kingsolver and her family move from Arizona to a farmhouse in the southern Appalachians, with the goal of eating locally for a year. Kingsolver and her family use the land to grow vegetables and raise chickens and turkeys. If they can’t grow or raise it themselves they choose to buy it from someone local who does. This book differs from Plenty, in that it is a family undertaking. Lily, is just eight, when the family underwent their year of living locally. The family also allowed for some luxury “cheat” items, including coffee, hot chocolate and dried fruit. Although Kingsolver’s teenaged-daughter, Camille, was away at college for the majority of the year, the book includes occasional excerpts in which she shares her thoughts on the experience. She also provides recipes and seasonally appropriate meal plans. Kingsolver’s husband, Steven, also provides additional commentary and information on current food issues. The book is not all serious and preachy. I found Kingsolver’s chapter on turkey mating to be humorous and interesting.
Some critics of this book feel that Kingsolver gets a bit preachy and they are not wrong. For many of us, it is unrealistic for us to grow our own food, make our own bread, can fruits and vegetables, raise chickens, etc. But I agree with Kingsolver that tomatoes in January, transported to the grocery store from across the country (or world) do not taste as good as the fresh tomatoes grown in our garden in the summer. Just because we can get any type of produce throughout the year, doesn’t mean we should. However, while making homemade cheese sounds fun it is realistically not something that I see myself doing. My husband is not home to make fresh bread daily (and that’s not something that I am undertaking!). Reading this book will make you think about the food you’re eating in a new way. It brings up the importance of eating locally and seasonally and the effects that industrial agriculture has on small farms. I am almost positive everyone who reads this book will learn something new.
*I borrowed this book from the library.