Tuesdays are “Information/Ideas” day here on Taking It to the Streets – often showing up as book reviews.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver’s recent book is really a masterpiece and a perfect-for-me book:
– Gorgeous, accessible, beautifully writing
– Funny! I wasn’t expecting that. Kingsolver is a firebrand, passionate activist – and she’s writing on serious topics, but good gracious this is a funny book.
– Her passion about food, nutrition, health, the environment and what I consider to be TRUE family values is visceral. I can’t imagine reading this book and feeling ho-hum about it. Her arguments are compelling, her way of presenting them is at times inviting, at times challenging. It’s not a ‘sit back and just take it in” book – to me this book compels action.
The book chronicles one year in the life of her family as they “abandoned the industrial-food pipeline to live a rural life – vowing that, for one year, they’d only buy food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it.”
So they took the localvore thing to a whole new level – actually growing/raising a LOT of their food, putting food up (canning and freezing) – in many ways, living like my rural grandparents. Food politics as well as nutrition are passions of mine and I felt as though I had thought about this topic a lot so I was surprised to learn as many facts as I did in the book.
The book was co-authored by Barbara, her husband Steven Hopp, their elder daughter Camille. Their younger daughter Lily (9 at the time of writing) was prominently featured in the book – my favorite character along with a wild turkey named Lolita (the part about turkey sex was laugh out loud funny).
For those of us who have read The Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan, we are aware of the nightmares of industrial food – the sad, scary parts of our food supply that are so hidden from us. But I think a lot of folks picture the kind of farm my grandparents had or the one they sang about as toddlers (you know where your quarter pounder comes from – Old McDonald’s…) when you think of farming. If you even THINK of farms as where food comes from. Of course for a lot of people what they eat is very far removed from both farm and food. Even so, with all that I read on this topic, I didn’t know that turkeys don’t typically live past four months old and that turkey babies aren’t made my turkey mommies and daddies having sex any more – it’s all artificial insemination.
While I’m not sure I’m ready or willing to work as hard as they did to raise ALL of my own food or to eat only locally, the book’s evangelism definitely hit home with me. I’m either doing a CSA share this summer (Community Supported Agriculture) or doing Farmer’s Markets combined with my friend Bill’s generous garden bounty.
She talked a lot about the cost (in all ways) of shipping food all over the planet – the oil involved to get bananas or kiwis here. And while even St. Barbara didn’t give up coffee, her family DID give up tropical fruits. I’m not ready to eschew bananas as yet, but I AM being much more diligent about not buying strawberries in the winter, or any other things that would have shocked my farm-wife Grandma. Buying locally makes sense to me. Growing your own, makes sense to me.
I’ve been eating less and less processed food. Not so many boxes or bottles or cans in my life. More cooking. Simple meals that taste great, are cheaper than packaged stuff. And I’ve lost 22 lbs since I started focusing more on the health of Diane and of the Planet.
Even if you don’t intend to grow your own food, make your own cheese (I DO want to try that one!) or eschew anything – I still think you’d benefit from this book. My interest in this subject has been growing, but I started small. the changes I’m going to make now are small – did a lot of Farmer’s Markets last year, intend to do more this year. Maybe start a compost pile to give to Bill the Garden Guru. Get a rain barrel. Cut down on non-local foods. Go to restaurants (like Duke’s in Crystal Lake, IL) that use locally grown, hormone and antibiotic free animal products and local produce.
The Earth needs us to pay more attention. Our bodies need us to be better stewards. Plus, you know? Locally grown, fresh REAL food tastes SOOOOOO much better.
Really, this is one of the 2 best food books I’ve read (Omnivore’s Dilemma is the other one). All of Barbara Kingsolver’s books are great, but this is my favorite. Have you read it? What did YOU think?