Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

It has been fun to listen to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (read by the authors) while gardening, canning and freezing produce this week.  In this book Kingsolver, her husband Steven Hopp and daughter Camille write about their family project of eating locally grown food for a year.  Only locally grown food.  Do you know what that means?  No bananas.  No lettuce from Mexico in the winter.  Their motivation seems primarily environmental (saving fossil fuels needed to ship food), but they make a good case for the superior quality of local food.

The book was a mixed bag.  Kingsolver writes warmly about their family life and the challenges involved with raising and growing enough food to can and freeze for winter months. This is their gospel and, despite their obvious attempts at a light touch, their message lumbered with sermonizing.  I caught myself groaning when Steven started talking.  Camille, a remarkably articulate college student, reminded me of a Preacher’s Kid who knows all the right answers and earnestly espouses them.  You had to love Lily, the eight year old with a thriving egg business, the only member of the family who didn’t actually write part of the book.

Sticking Points:

•  The section on fixing and eating meals as a family (at the table) was the best defense and best praise of family meals that I can remember.  The Hopp-Kingsolver family is obviously very hospitable and welcoming, with strong generational connectedness.  The descriptions of gatherings and parties made me want to slip in and join the robust fun.  

•  Their rational for discarding vegetarianism and resuming the eating of meat (which they raise and butcher themselves or bought from local farmers) was another excellent argument.  I married into a hunting family and 80% of our meat is wild game, birds, and fish.  I’ve always thought that if you are a meat eater – if you eat an animal that once lived, was killed and butchered – it is inconsistent to object to my husband killing and butchering an elk.  I thought that only vegetarians were consistent with an anti-hunting stance.  Barbara Kingsolver takes it another step.  She asserts that everything we eat was once alive.  Her respectful objections to veganism, in particular, are worth revisiting.

•  Because of this book, I plan to educate myself on heirloom seeds and plants, a term I never before fully understood.  I am persuaded to spend more money to get better quality with heirloom.

•  If you have young children and could only afford one organic food purchase, a pediatrician recommended it be milk.  Growth hormones in cow’s milk are nasty for young bodies.

On a practical note, I was listening late last night to Barbara’s rant against a January newspaper food column on making pesto, a helpful article in the wrong season,  when you’d need to live in the Southern Hemisphere to find fresh basil for making pesto.  I had scooped my own fragrant green pesto into my last half-pint jar and was wondering how to freeze small portions of the rest of my batch.  At that very moment, Kingsolver spoke of the convenience of small baggies of pesto in the freezer.  ~Aha~!  

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was good; but if I had only one book to read about food origins, I would enthusiastically recommend The Omnivore’s Dilemma (book review here).  My next book to read in this category is Michael Pollan’s follow up to Omnivore: In Defense of Food.     

I’m off to the Farmer’s Market!

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3 thoughts on “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

  1. Carol, you are reading the same books I have read recently. Like you, I loved the Kingsolver book although I do not think I could forgo lettuce in winter. Here in Florida I don’t have to, and I also have fresh basil all year round. I also have a bell pepper plant that I overwintered by bringing it under cover when frost threatened and it is bearing again.So one doesn’t have to go all the way to the southern hemisphere…

  2. the book one of my dear sister’s favorites;i will recommend the other two books to her; they’re an avid grow your own,make your own etc family; they’ve just installed their own outside bread oven… how far will i go? i do know that i would like to be self-sufficient…

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