In the past two weeks, I’ve been able to finally check two books off of my summer reading list: Susanna Kearsley’s new novel, The Firebird, and Barbara Kingsolver’s non-fiction book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, two vastly different stories that I cherished equally, one for it’s romance and historical fiction qualities, the other for it’s unique ability to put everything I’ve been realizing about how I want to eat into words.
Kingsolver has long been a favorite of mind. I read Animal Dreams as a high school freshman and then really fell in love with The Poisonwood Bible in my senior year. I even used it to write one of my AP English exam essays! But somehow, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle remained beyond my radar. Sure, I’d heard of it, but non-fiction books about vegetables just weren’t my thing.
Finally, earlier this spring, Amazon had a $2 kindle book sale, and I decided to snatch it up and read it for the first time. It almost seems serendipitous that I chose now, nearly one year after moving to Virginia, to read this book, for Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, for those of you who don’t know, details Kingsolver’s move from Arizona to a rural Virginian farm, just about an hour from where we currently live, and I’m not sure it would have had the same impact before our move.
Kingsolver and her husband, Stephen Hopp, have owned the farm for many years, but this is the first time that they’ll be calling it home. Their goal? To live entirely off of local goods, that they either produce or grow themselves, or can get at the local farmer’s market or from neighboring farms. Now, like I’ve mentioned here before, I’ve always been drawn to the idea of eating seasonally, but in California, as Kingsolver points out many times in the book, you don’t really need to think about it when you can get strawberries year round at the farmer’s market!
Kingsolver weaves her message of local, seasonal eating through anecdotes of their year on the farm, more political/informational articles by her husband, and thoughts and recipes from her eldest daughter, Camille. I loved the mix of story-telling and more traditional non-fiction, though at times wished for a bit more of anecdotal farm life and less of the repetitive attempts to point out why Kingsolver’s family’s food philosophy was the one and only food philosophy one should adhere to.
Although, much of that philosophy resonated deeply: she cans/preserves as much as possible in the summer to be able to eat locally in the frozen winter, but doesn’t deprive herself of things like good chocolate or wine–she just consumes these non-local commodities sparingly. Also surprisingly, Kingsolver is not a vegetarian and spends much of the book adovcating for consuming only animals that were raised locally, and were allowed to be “free-range.” In fact, one of the most amusing chapters in the book was Kingsolver’s attempt to figure out how her heirloom turkeys were going to conceive the natural way.
Overall, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle really made me think deeply about my own food values and those of my generation. We’re such an instant gratification society, expecting to get what we want when we want it, without much thought about where that food or item was produced. Hopefully, Kingsolver’s book will at least make people a bit more mindful of these choices–for they are in fact a choice, and not the way things have to be.
Kingsolver also has a website with more book information, recipes, and pictures of her family’s farm here.