Michael Pollan is the crack investigator and graceful narrator of the ecology of local food and the toxic logic of industrial agriculture. Now he has a peer. Novelist Kingsolver recounts a year spent eating home-grown food and, if not that, local. Accomplished gardeners, the Kingsolver clan grow a large garden in southern Appalachia and spend summers "putting food by," as the classic kitchen title goes. They make pickles, chutney and mozzarella; they jar tomatoes, braid garlic and stuff turkey sausage. Nine-year-old Lily runs a heritage poultry business, selling eggs and meat. What they don't raise (lamb, beef, apples) comes from local farms. Come winter, they feast on root crops and canned goods, menus slouching toward asparagus. Along the way, the Kingsolver family, having given up industrial meat years before, abandons its vegetarian ways and discovers the pleasures of conscientious carnivory.This field—local food and sustainable agriculture—is crowded with books in increasingly predictable flavors: the earnest manual, diary of an epicure, the environmental battle cry, the accidental gardener.Animal, Vegetable, Miracleis all of these, and much smarter. Kingsolver takes the genre to a new literary level; a well-paced narrative and the apparent ease of the beautiful prose makes the pages fly. Her tale is both classy and disarming, substantive and entertaining, earnest and funny. Kingsolver is a moralist ("the conspicuous consumption of limited resources has yet to be accepted widely as a spiritual error, or even bad manners"), but more often wry than pious. Another hazard of the genre is snobbery. You won't find it here. Seldom do paeans to heirloom tomatoes (which I grew up selling at farmers' markets) include equal respect for outstanding modern hybrids like Early Girl.Kingsolver has the ear of a journalist and the accuracy of a naturalist. She makes short, neat work of complex topics: what's risky about the vegan diet, why animals belong on ecologically sound farms, why bitterness in lettuce is good. Kingsolver's clue to help greenhorns remember what's in season is the best I've seen. You trace the harvest by botanical development, from buds to fruits to roots. Kingsolver is not the first to note our national "eating disorder" and the injuries industrial agriculture wreaks, yet this practical vision of how we might eat instead is as fresh as just-picked sweet corn. The narrative is peppered with useful sidebars on industrial agriculture and ecology (by husband Steven Hopp) and recipes (by daughter Camille), as if to show that local food—in the growing, buying, cooking, eating and the telling—demands teamwork. - by Nina Planck
While out of town, I had the chance to do some Actual Reading. It was delightful–staying at my folks’ place, we were all four of us staying in one big room, so there wasn’t much we could do after the kids went to sleep besides read. I guess we could do it at home too, but we for some reason just…don’t. Which is too bad… I finally read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It’s a nonfiction chronicle of her family’s … more
Who knew gardening could be so exciting? Barbara Kingsolver and her family make the trek back east to live more simply and connected to the earth. Beginning with crisis-of-conscience moments at the gas station on their way out of their former desert hometown, Kingsolver takes you through the highs and lows of eating local and seasonal. I found the excerpts from her 19 year-old daughter and husband a great way to balance the monthly t … more
I am reading this right now, and am so inspired by the endeavors of her family! This book includes scholarly essays and stories about manufactured and local food, making you think about how your values are reflected in your diet.
It might just be a matter of thinking about red cars and so suddenly seeing red cars everywhere one looks, but it seems to me that once I started researching organic foods for an article I am writing, I began to see books on sustainable farming, organic food markets, news stories about an organic food movement, and farmer's markets everywhere I looked. Something is going on, and I'm pretty sure by this point in my research that it is a very good thing. Suddenly, I am seeing garden fresh red tomatoes … more
The less you know about the food you eat, the more urgent your need to read this book. Organized around Kingsolver's family decision to eat-local for a year, the tale she tells is much larger--encompassing as it does the entire relationship between food, energy, nutrition, corporate agriculture, marketing, global climate change and the sexual habits of turkeys. The novelist brings all of her writerly experience to the task and she is at her best in barbed asides about the forces that force feed … more
Kingsolver puts together in words what we know to be true in our minds, but we don't address it as a society: our absurd misuse of our resources. I suppose I'm not much of an economist, but it seems like stuff grown close to where you live should be fresher and cheaper that stuff grown far off; yet access to cheap fossil fuel enables us to scratch our "instant gratification itch." Buying locally is great, however super stores have squeezed out local farmers at an unbelieveble … more