Animal, Vegetable, Miracle : A Year of Food Life

by Barbara Kingsolver

Hardcover, 2007

Status

Available

Publication

New York : HarperCollins Publishers, c2007.

Description

When Kingsolver and her family move from suburban Arizona to rural Appalachia, they take on a new challenge: to spend a year on a locally produced diet, paying close attention to the provenance of all they consume. "Our highest shopping goal was to get our food from so close to home, we'd know the person who grew it. Often that turned out to be ourselves as we learned to produce what we needed, starting with dirt, seeds, and enough knowledge to muddle through. Or starting with baby animals, and enough sense to refrain from naming them."--From publisher description.

User reviews

LibraryThing member atheist_goat
Oh my god, Barbara Kingsolver, STOP JUDGING ME.

This book: good idea, repellently smug execution. One of the most eye-rolling things about the smugness is the casual way all three contributors (Kingsolver, her daughter, and her husband) toss off references to the incredible amount of kitchen equipment they own that makes all of this possible: a food dryer to dry fruit for the winter, professional-grade canning equipment, a dishwasher (they assume that everyone has one, which simply isn't true), vast amounts of kitchen, pantry, and freezer space, and a bread maker (of which her husband says, in a sidebar, "I know you own one. Go get it out of the closet or the basement and use it," because EVERYONE has a $100+ machine just sitting in the basement, didn't you know?). It is pretty much the definition of unexamined privilege, and it's vile.

The daughter is also a trip. I can only thank my lucky stars no one was publishing my screeds on That Thing I Know More About Than You when I was nineteen, but please, Camille. Somehow I don't buy the claim that you are the only person at Duke University, in 2008, who has ever even heard of free range meat.

I think that the Kingsolvers would have done better to acknowledge how hard this year was, and how much work went into it, because the alternative to that form of bragging is a much more offensive form of it: "this is SO EASY that anyone who doesn't do it is criminally lazy and hates the planet". I eat food when it is in season (it just tastes awful otherwise). I eat as locally as I can. I also kill plants by glancing sideways at them, and have such a slapstick touch in the kitchen that I'm not sure my town's zoning board would allow me to attempt canning. This doesn't make me a heedless anti-environmentalist who only eats junk food, but I spent the entirety of this book pretty sure Kingsolver would say it does.
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LibraryThing member jforjules
The concept behind this book grabbed my interest immediately. As a gardener and foodie, I was eager to read Kingsolver's account of her family's attempt to live for a year by eating locally grown foods. About halfway through the book, however, I started to feel as though the author was patronizing, condescending and preachy. Because of this, I found it difficult to finish this book.… (more)
LibraryThing member Lenaphoenix
Barbara Kingsolver has long been one of my favorite writers, but this most recent book was a bit of a mixed bag for me. The book covers the year she and her family spent eating only food they had either grown themselves or purchased from local farmers personally known to them. Kingsolver’s skill as a storyteller is undiminished, and there are some wonderful sections as she relates their adventures plotting how to foist some of their bumper zucchini harvest off on unsuspecting neighbors and how they helped their new turkey crop re-learn the lost art of natural copulation.

The book also succeeded in teaching me quite a bit I didn’t know about food and gardening. As someone who was raised on heavily processed foods, I was fascinated to learn the biological secrets of root vegetables, how a mild-mannered novelist “harvests” chickens at home, and how much better food can taste when it hasn’t been subject to the rigors of corporate food production. Her chapter on asparagus helped me understand why the tough, road-hardened variety found in most conventional stores is only a pale shadow of an organically grown stalk picked just hours earlier; her description of the succulent magic of morels made me want to take up mushroom hunting.

In these celebrations of the pleasures of fresh, locally grown, in-season produce, Kingsolver was very effective in inspiring me to think more about how to plan my menus around what is seasonally available. I’ll be adding her sweet-potato quesadilla recipe to my menu this week, and I’m looking forward to trying out her dried-tomato pesto.

On the down side, Ms. Kingsolver’s charming storytelling is laced with a rather heavy dose of preaching. I have no doubt that the food monoculture promoted by corporate America has had devastating effects on our health, taste buds, and environment, and the loss of crop diversity these practices have created has made us very vulnerable as a population. These are important issues that need to be talked about. But part of the reason I’ve admired Ms. Kingsolver’s past writing is because she has always woven her political views so seamlessly into her stories that, in reading her books, I always learned new things without feeling like I had been force-fed someone else’s opinions.

That was not the case with this book. The first quarter is particularly thick with commentary on the evils of our current food system. More than once, I found myself slogging through sections that left me feeling more guilty about the food currently in my kitchen than inspired to adopt her suggestions. This tone made the read much less effective for me than it would have been had she focused primarily on the very real value her family gained from choosing to forgo convenience in favor of such fantastically delicious food.
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LibraryThing member mangochris
Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Poisonwood Bible and The Bean Trees, expands her nonfiction repertoire with a memoir about her family’s adventures eating locally for a year in Appalachia. Ostensibly it’s about what they eat and how, but it’s also a thoughtful commentary on the sad state of our nation’s food culture. But don’t mistake it for a dry read about what she ate for a year and the sacrifices she had to make, or a preachy holier-than-thou sermon about the evils of the food industry. From anecdotes about turkey sex to informative commentary on the political, economic, and health problems rampant in our food industry, this is an entertaining, thought-provoking work that informs without being heavy-handed.

Good food, healthy food, and socially/ecologically-responsible food are very often the same thing, as Kingsolver shows in this memoir that is also a fair bit of journalistic investigation. She proves that not only is it possible to eat responsibly without feeling like you’re making sacrifices, it can also be a lot of fun and extremely rewarding. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is also interspersed with essays, helpful tips and websites, recipes, and food information from the other members of her family, underscoring the family effort behind this project. If you’re concerned about what you eat and how it got to your plate, or if you’re worried about the state of our nation’s food industry and what you’re putting in your body (and you probably should be), this is an excellent and highly accessible read, thanks to Kingsolver’s down to earth prose, engaging writing, amusing stories, and thoughtful essays.
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LibraryThing member fyrefly98
Summary: After realizing how divorced the average American is from the source of the food that they eat, how we've become used to purchasing any produce, from anywhere in the world, in any season, and how much gasoline goes into growing, processing, and shipping most of the things we eat, Barbara Kingsolver and her family decided to try an experiment. For one year, they decided that they would eat only local food: things they could grow or raise themselves, or that were produced within a hundred miles of their home. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is the story of that year, organized into chapters by month, and peppered with short factual pieces contributed by Kingsolver's husband and recipes and menu planning tips by her daughter. It's a story of farmers, of cooks, of waiting for the first shoots of asparagus that signal the beginning of spring, of being overwhelmed by zucchini, of convincing turkeys to breed without human assistance, of the best way to fail spectacularly at making pumpkin soup, and of celebrating the tiny miracles of life by paying attention to the food we use to sustain it.

Review: I didn't want to read this book. Barbara Kingsolver is one of my top three favorite authors, possibly my favorite author, and yet I did not want anything to do with this book. The reason is a simple one: I hate to be made to feel bad about what I'm eating. It's the reason I try to avoid dining with militant vegetarians, people who talk about their Weight Watchers points, and anyone who is horrified that I grew up eating (and still prefer) ketchup with my pork chops. I've been lectured at about food many times before, and I can't stand it, and no matter what anyone told me about Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I was convinced that it was going to be more of the same... and as a result, I wanted no part of it.

So imagine my surprise when I finally (and grumpily) started reading it, to find that not only was it not lecture-y at all, but that it was also completely fascinating, actively inspiring, and compellingly readable. Kingsolver's fiction will always be my first love, but she's an accomplished non-fiction writer as well. It didn't hurt that Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was written in my favorite style of non-fiction: mostly memoir-ish personal experiences blended seamlessly into the more journalistic factual sections.

An added bonus was that the setting for Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was in rural southern Appalachia, which is an area of the country that I know and love, as well as being the same setting as Prodigal Summer, my far-and-away favorite Kingsolver novel. In fact, it was almost immediately clear upon starting Animal, Vegetable, Miracle that the fictional Widener family farm, setting of the "Moth Love" chapters in Prodigal Summer, was drawn almost entirely from her real-life homestead. So even if the tone of the book got a little too lecture-y, at least I was on familiar ground.

But the thing was, I rarely felt like I was being lectured at. Kingsolver's obviously very passionate about the topic, but she lays out her arguments logically and persuasively, appealing to the scientist and pragmatist in me. What's better, although the rational argument underlies everything, the prose dwells more on the personal immediacies of the issue: the small "miracles" of the title, the joy of eating cherries right off the tree and the wonder of holding a newly-hatched chick, rather than the important but substantially less tangible benefit of saving the environment. Kingsolver's prose is as rich and wonderful as ever, equally adept at evoking a field of tiny green asparagas shoots, a hunt for mushrooms in the Appalachian forests, and a homey kitchen full of tomatoes to be canned.

Despite how warm I found Kingsolver's prose and how accessible I found her argument, I had a hard time turning off the part of me that hates feeling guilty about what I eat. Even when I was absorbed in the story, there was still a small part of my brain that kept up a constant litany of complaints that sounded obnoxiously whiny, even to me. "But I don't wanna give up tea and grapefruit and Oreos! I don't wanna spend every free minute of the summer slaving over a steaming canning bath! I don't wanna never eat an avocado again unless I move to the Southwest, and I don't wanna move to the Southwest!" I couldn't shut this voice up, despite the fact that Kingsolver never once suggested that I do any of those things. In fact, she's very sympathetic to the fact that becoming a dedicated locavore is not an easy undertaking, that her family is unusual, and that not everyone has the time, money, or acreage to produce all of their food themselves. (On the other hand, she does such a good job of describing the joys of growing and making your own food that I often found myself wishing for a house with space to garden, and I'm seriously considering attempting to make my own cheese.)

The thing was, despite my whining and my resistant heel-dragging, I kept running up against a factoid that was presented early on in Chapter 1: if every U.S. citizen ate one meal per week from local, organic food, we would save 1.1 million barrels of oil every week. Just one meal. 1.1 million barrels per week. One meal. I can do that. And Animal, Vegetable, Miracle has convinced me that it might even be enjoyable. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Anybody who's ever bought tomatoes in January, bagged lettuce in November, or bananas anywhere north of the Tropic of Cancer. Also, obviously, anyone who's interested in food and food culture, anyone who's concerned about our planet's dwindling supply of fossil fuel, and anyone who likes Kingsolver's writing style.
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LibraryThing member subbobmail
I am new to Barbara Kingsolver, but this book impressed me very much. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is the true story of how Kingsolver and her family moved from the western deserts to a farm in Virginia and set out to spend a year eating only locally produced food (much of it grown in the back yard). Why? Because our entire diet is designed not to make us healthy, but to enrich agribusiness while it drives small farmers out of existence.

As Kingsolver points out, Americans expect to be able to eat all foods at every time of year -- never thinking that it costs a fortune (financially and ecologically) to ship the average piece of produce 2000 miles before it hits the plate. And let's not forget that our produce has been bred over the years to be durable, not tasty...there are many strong arguments for eating local, and Kingsolver (a trained scientist as well as an accomplished novelist) makes them vividly here.

But mostly, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a tale of the seasons. The story begins with asparagus -- the green herald of the green seasons -- and progresses through squash, tomatoes, cherries, green beans...it's all delectabe to read about. Food is one of those rare areas of life in which the pleasurable path is the righteous path.

I learned a million things from this book. For instance: because they have been bred for docility and shot through with so many drugs, 99% of the turkeys in America are SO DUMB that 1) they can drown by looking up at the rain, and 2) they do not know how to reproduce. Pardon my vulgarity, but they are TOO DUMB TO FUCK. This means that on every turkey farm, there's at least one person whose job it is to extract semen from the male turkeys and deliver it to the she-turkeys.

Amazing. But who is more stupid -- the turkey who can't figure out how to make babies, or the people who have reduced them to such a state? If we are what we eat, then Americans are in biiiiiiig trouble.
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LibraryThing member sussabmax
As I have mentioned on my food blog, I am really interested in the environmental impacts of my diet. There are other reasons that I am cutting out meat, but a smaller environmental footprint is a big plus in my book. But the more I look into the environmental issues around food, it is easy to see that the biggest concern is the fuel that it takes to transport food here from all over the planet. So when I saw this book, I was intrigued.

One of the best parts of this book is the fact that it is about a family. I have read a lot online about single adults, or couples with no children who make the local pledge. I think that what they are doing is wonderful, and more power to them, but it is hard to translate their experiences into my hectic family lifestyle. It’s hard to translate Kingsolver’s experiences, too, since she has a huge garden to grow much of their own food, and I live in a third floor apartment in the city. She regularly points out the alternative for city dwellers, though—go to the farmer’s market. She also points out that making a few compromises to keep peace in the family (like continuing to drink coffee, and declaring grains local) does not invalidate the good in other local eating adventures.

She also makes some interesting points about meat-eating, and how meat that is pasture fed is healthier than meat that comes from a commercial feedlot. I am not planning on starting to eat meat any time soon, but I can see that if I do, I will definitely be searching out a local farm that treats its animals well.

This book gave me a lot to think about, even though I had already done some research into local eating. There were recipes, practical advice and some good ideas for how we can help spread a local food culture. This one is definitely a keeper.
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LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
I listened to this on audiobook - it was an interesting narrative. I found the personal experiences of the family to be quite enlightening - and I was inspired to do a little more than I have done to prepare more "homemade" foods and even (gasp) plant a garden like I have been counseled to do since forever (the church I belong to is big on self-sufficiency, which I agree wholeheartedly with in theory, but am kind of lazy about in practice). I'm more on the conservative than liberal side of the political spectrum, and I don't believe that humans are creating global warming. I even have the nerve to believe that the world isn't going to collapse over our mistreatment of it! So that part of the book I took with a large grain of salt. But, I did think there were some interesting points made about the costs of shipping food from all over as opposed to relying more on local food. And I do have a healthy fear of being too reliant on the food industry - one series of successive winter storms here in Denver cleaned out all the grocery stores in quick order. All in all, worth reading, even if I didn't become a convert.… (more)
LibraryThing member sunshine608
Just Couldn't get into it. Enjoyed THe Omnivore's Dilemna more.
LibraryThing member Alirambles
I probably didn't do this book justice because I wasn't really in the mood for nonfiction when my copy came available at the library, but I only had it for 3 weeks so I started it anyway. I found Kingsolver's premise of eating only local foods intriguing, and the story of how they did it, inspiring. I read the memoir sections avidly (who knew turkey sex could be so fascinating?) but after the first few chapters Kingsolver started to lose me when she'd start piling fact upon fact about the agriculture industry. I started skimming. "Characters" were introduced and then dropped just as I wanted to know more. As the book went on I found myself doing more and more skimming, and less avid reading. Kudos to Kingsolver for accomplishing her goal, and for coaxing those turkeys into raising baby turkeys. I'll never do either one, but her book did inspire me to take some steps to increase the local food in our diet.… (more)
LibraryThing member fnrlr1
Barbara Kingsolver's account of her family's year-long effort to eat locally is hysterically funny as well as thought-provoking. She makes two good points that are often left out of other books: 1) the desire for edible things that aren't made in our region such as spices, coffee, chocolate, etc. is very much a part of us historically and locally. 2) our ability to survive and thrive in less than hospitable regions is made possible by introducing non-native food plants and by shipping necessities over long distances.… (more)
LibraryThing member cestovatela
Frustrated by rising food prices and concerned about the environment, writer Barbara Kingsolver moves the family to Applachia and sets them on a mission to eat food grown within 100 miles of their home. I expected this to be a narrative piece about her experiences with local eating, but that's not quite what I got. Kingsolver begins the book as an experienced farm wife, equally capable of raising chickens, slaughtering turkeys and writing bestselling novels in her free time. As a result, she approaches the farmer's market and the barnyard -- in my opinion, the most fascinating locations in the book -- with a rather ho-hum attitude. I didn't get as many evocative descriptions of food as I was hoping for and I didn't get the sense that she approached this as an adventure. That, coupled with her sometimes holier-than-thou environmentalist attitude, occasionally frustrated me. As a millionaire author, she can afford to shrug off the higher cost of organic and locally grown food. Many struggling Americans, trapped between the costs of education, health care and keeping the family fed, cannot. That doesn't make them unenlightened people who don't care about the world, and Kingsolver doesn't really seem to acknolwedge that.

These are some pretty powerful negatives, but don't let them deter you from reading the book. Every chapter is crammed with hard-to-find information about the environemental impact of industrial agriculture, the nutritional value of organic, local food and the benefits of eating free range, pasture-fed beef. I left each chapter feeling inspired that I could simultaneously eat healthier, save the environment and live without produce trucked in from around the world. If I hadn't read this book, I would never have known how easy it is to make my own cheese and can my own tomato sauce, and I would never have understood how small, local farms protect literally thousands of varieties of vegetables from extinction. Those things were absolutely worth my occasional frustration with Kingsolver's attitude.

Bottom line: Read this book for information, not for the narrative. Especially recommended for people trying to get greener -- either in the environmental sense or the healthy eating sense.
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
This was one of the most inspiring books I've read in a long time. In this memoir, Barbara Kingsolver describes the year that she and her family spent living on locally-grown livestock and produce, much of which they raised and grew on their own farm. Acknowledging the fast-paced and urban nature of modern American society, Kingsolver noted, "Most people of my grandparents' generation had an intuitive sense of agricultural basics: when various fruits and vegetables come into season, which ones keep through the winter, how to preserve the others." (p. 9) Yet today, most of our food is shipped over long distances and often from other countries, in order to be available to American consumers year-round. All this transportation requires fuel -- a waste and yes, a danger, given the threat of climate change.

This book is organized chronologically through the family's "year of eating locally," beginning in April with the first asparagus and the arrival of laying hens. In addition to their own food production, Kingsolver describes experiences with local food on a family vacation, as well as on a trip to Italy with her husband. Her husband and older daughter contribute essays, recipes, and sidebar topics that enrich the book and provide resources for the reader to conduct their own research on the subject.

I came to this book already interested in gardening, and in supporting our local farming community. I've now identified some initial steps I can take to increase the amount of local food on my own table. I'm not quite ready to raise (and yes, slaughter) my own livestock, nor am I going to swear off the supermarket altogether. But I'd like to think my actions will result in a healthier, tastier diet and make a small dent in fossil fuel consumption.
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LibraryThing member meboo
As an aspiring locavore, I found this book and its tips for growing and preserving food both interesting and useful. I also appreciate Kingsolver's perspective on eating local as a practice that can yield abundance, not deprivation.

While I think that the discussions of the problems in the industrial food system and US food and farm policy would provide a good introduction to someone unfamiliar with the topics, I'm guessing that many people reading the book are already clued into these issues and, like me, would find their treatment in the book to be an unnecessary digression from the more interesting and affirming story of the family's year on the farm. Likewise, I found the sidebars written by Steven Hopp to be distracting ; they often repeated things brought up in the main narrative and could and should have been integrated into it. The same could be said of Camille Kingsolver's end-of-chapter notes, although I did appreciate the recipes and the nutritional perspective.

While a bit disjointed at times, this was an enjoyable and useful read for those interested in how their food choices impact their environment and community.
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LibraryThing member laytonwoman3rd
After years of spending summers at her husband's farm in southwestern Virginia, growing as much food as possible, Kingsolver and her family moved there permanently from Tucson, with a plan to spend one full year living off what they could raise themselves, or obtain from local sources, and documenting the results. No Twinkies, bananas, or pre-packaged anything. A very few exceptions were allowed---coffee (as long as it was fair trade), flour (for which a local source turned out to be a disappointment), olive oil (from Italy where they KNOW about organics and sustainability in a way that Americans just don't). This is the story of how that year went, and it's fascinating, instructive and entertaining. Ain't no way I'm going to be a self-sustaining gardener, and my deed restrictions won't let me have so much as a couple laying hens on the property even though we're pretty rural here, but I do favor the idea of knowing where our food comes from, being mindful of the seasonality of things, and understanding the true cost of those bananas and almonds and New Zealand lamb chops in the overall scheme of things. A criticism I sometimes hear of Kingsolver, is that she "gets preachy"...well, there's no doubt she has opinions and is proposing that things should change, but I never detected a self-righteous tone or got any sense that she felt she had the Solution for Mankind. When she points a finger, it is at Monsanto, not at individual consumers. She does not try to make us feel guilty for where we are, but offers a map for where we might go from here. She pokes fun at herself (there is a LOT of humor in this book), acknowledges that most people cannot do what she and her family did, admits to her failures, lets us in on HER guilty secrets (inability to function without Ziplock bags or live without coffee; constant presence of boxed mac & cheese in her pantry for one of her younger daughter's friends who simply would not eat anything else--"No child is going to starve on my watch"), and offers practical advice on how to make the changes you CAN make. She and her husband are both scientists, and the research offered in the book is impressive without being oppressive. Some of the data suggests that even small adaptations in the way we shop for food could make enormous differences in our dependence on agribusiness and fossil fuels over time, which in turn could improve our health, and the health of our planet. There are recipes, and sidebar essays written by her daughter, Camille, who at the time was studying biology at Duke. I checked to see whether Camille had written anything more, and found this update from HarperCollins Publishers: "Camille Kingsolver graduated from Duke University in 2009 and currently works in the mental health field. She is an active advocate for the local-food movement, doing public speaking for young adults of her own generation navigating food choices in a difficult economy. She lives in Asheville, N.C., and grows a vegetable garden in her front yard." The book includes a list of organizations that offer support for the local food/sustainability movement. Of the first 12 websites listed, only one link was defunct when I checked it, so the book remains a viable resource for current information on an important subject. Highly recommended.
review written in August 2015 Book published in 2007
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LibraryThing member lauriemk
I had mixed feelings about this book. I love its message and agree with it, but I felt the tone at times became preachy, which turned me off. I would have liked to see more about how to make small changes in my life to eat more locally and support local agriculture. But it is also an inspiring book, and since I've read it I've been going to the farmer market more and made eating local foods more of a priority.… (more)
LibraryThing member bobbieharv
Being a gardener who lives off my garden for at least half the year I expected to like this much more than I did. It was too expository (i.e. lecturing)and subtly self-congratulatory. And her husband and daughter write even more badly than she does.
LibraryThing member adcampanella
I must admit I didn't "read" it, I listened to it on CD. It was like sitting at your kitchen table listening to Barbara Kingsolver relate her experiences. I then had to purchase the book because there was so much I wanted to reference.
LibraryThing member MichelleCH
So much of this book I loved, especially the day to day experiences around growing your own food and raising livestock. My favorite descriptions were about raising turkeys and what it takes to successfully breed them. Kingsolver as the narrator of this audiobook made me laugh out loud several times. I loved how she described all of thei work on their farm, but it would have been refreshing if her kids and husband had rebelled even a little bit! They were incredibly accommodating and helpful all the time.

I wasn't a fan of the lecture feeling parts of the book. I wish I could buy all my food from local sources and in season- and I do for the most part, but this isnt realistic for a lot of individuals. Rather than hunkering down with her own family (who seem to have unlimited means) I would have loved to hear about her using her influence to help address the urban food deserts we have across the country.

It is funny that she is described as one of the 100 most dangerous people in the US. Heck I think we need more dangerous people like her.

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LibraryThing member DoraG
This book offers an interesting perspective into the effort involved in returning to the land in an effort to live a more renewable lifestyle. It provides insight into the non-relationship most North Americans have with their food sources. Some may dispair reading this title, thinking that there is no way for the average person to relaim this lifestyle, but I think the important thing to take away from reading this is that the first step to making any small change is to be aware. Think about where your food comes from. Before you know it, you will be more informed, and therefore in a better position to make more sustainable choices. I highly recommend this book.… (more)
LibraryThing member elvi
Barbara Kingsolver’s new book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: a Year of Food Life is enough to make me think seriously about starting a garden and a compost pile. But is it enough to make me actually do it?

The premise of the book is that for one year, Kingsolver's family pledged to eat only what it could procure from within an hour’s drive from their home, with a few exceptions for things like flour and coffee. Although the book is certainly more preachy than Kingsolver’s early novels, the tone reminds me a lot of “Prodigal Summer”. It doesn’t cross the line into straight evangelism, always retaining the ability to entertain as well as inform. Even the message is not a monolithic one, being composed of forays into other philosophies as well as the main “eat local” one.

In one section, there’s even what seems to be a tribute to an early advocate of the (mostly reviled) corporate attitude: Sanford Webb, the first owner of the Hoppsolver (conflation of Kingsolver’s surname and that of her husband, Steven Hopp) homestead. This turn-of-the-century entrepreneur brought in refrigeration (now the tool of the long-distance transporters of produce), and bought trees rather than getting them from his neighbours like everyone else. Not only that, but these were grafted trees that wouldn’t breed true If planted again from seed – and he got the whole neighbourhood doing it.
I’m not sure whether Webb is absolved of being anti-local-food because of the period he lived in, or whether he’s just there as a picturesque portrait, and not meant to be representative of anything modern.

In each chapter, the variety of voices kept me interested. There’s Camille, with recipes and snippets from the new generation’s perspective; Steven, with informational sidebars and references to look up for still more information; and Kingsolver’s own several voices, lecturing us in some parts but always rewarding us with anecdotes from her year of local food.

Camille’s voice is refreshing and authentic; clearly she is one of those young people it is a surprise and a delight to meet, who have opinions and beliefs unexpected in such youth, and admirable in anyone. Many of her recipes are now on my list of things to try – much like the recipes in Jeanne Ray’s “Eat Cake”, they sound almost too good to be true when described in such lovely prose earlier in the chapter.

When the turkeys and their reproductive challenges entered the story, it was clear that they were going to become symbolic somehow of the outcome of the project as a whole; would they succeed? would they only come close? would they fail outright? This suspense story, while it seemed a little bit tacked on at the end, kept me reading avidly right to the end. And Kingsolver certainly doesn’t condescend to her audience, but points out the symbolism and allegory herself, not pretending it’s an accident. Though she follows up with one of my favourite lines in the book: “Maybe the zucchini are just zucchini.”

Finally, the book succeeds by adopting a tone that is wry, not sanctimonious, friendly rather than angry, and by invisibly winning us over with Kingsolver’s beautiful, flawless writing. I may not plant a quarter-acre of garden and can enough to last me through the winter, but I’ll certainly think harder about where my food comes from, and what I can do to shorten that distance.
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LibraryThing member kvesey
A great companion to Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma. Certainly we need to source food closer to home, and Barbara Kingsolver and her brood prove that it can be done. I now look at labels at the supermarket and try to pass by asparagus from Peru, am planning some home-grown food, and may even try making my own cheese!
LibraryThing member julierh
a compelling account of the author's attempt to subsist exclusively on locally produced food for one year. (each family member was allowed one luxury item and they chose: coffee, olive oil, fruit, and hot chocolate.) this was an enjoyable read and so much information is contained in this book. it'll inspire you to visit a farmer's market and educate you on a tremendous varitey of topics- from insect evolution to factory farming, to the growing cycle of crops. it's difficult to imagine a reader who wouldn't find this worthwhile.… (more)
LibraryThing member ToastFeast
Charming, sweet, and eye opening. I have tomatoes growing on my balcony right now.
LibraryThing member bfertig
Great over audiobook - between chapters there are soundclips of different animals that were discussed or general farm sounds or whatever. Normally I often think the introductory music to a book can be overdramatic somewhat, but this sorta feels like listening to a very extended NPR article. Plus, she's got a great voice and I enjoy the southern twang that comes out every so often. I found her enthusiasm contagious, whereas I normally listen to books that are somewhat drier - often with accompanying voice (though I do have some fav narrators). Also, another reason I really enjoyed that the author reading her own narrative was that I felt I really heard her intended inflections and sidebar thoughts. Sometimes those can get lost with other narrators. Her husband and daughter read their own contributions of essays, respectively, which I felt also adds personality and personal-ness for what they add. The recipes and seasonal weekly menus are also read aloud.… (more)

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