I’ve owned a copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for over a year. Barbara Kingsolver has been one of my favorite authors ever since I read the The Bean Trees in high school. I think that she’s a phenomenal writer, and I’ve been a fan of her focus on environmental preservation for a long time. So you’d think, especially as a whole-foods freak, that I’d have been totally stoked to read about her year of eating only local and homegrown foods book. I was stoked when I bought it, but then I had a few false starts. I just couldn’t get into it.
At first I thought that it was boredom. A lot of the facts and opinions that Kingsolver & family present are the same as those presented in other books I’ve read, such as Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and Plenty. But, considering that the book is still slightly different, and entertaining due to Kingsolver’s wit, boredom didn’t seem to be enough of an answer. After struggling to get into the book for several month; the answer dawned on me. I was jealous! Basically, Kingsolver is living MY ideal life! She’s a highly successful professional writer, she has what seems like a great family, and she is living my rural dream: growing her own food, having time to cook, and having peace and quiet and nature all around her.
Once I realized that I was just jealous, I was able to get over it and enjoy the book, wherein Kingsolver and her family move away from Arizona and on to their family farm in Virginia. They commit to a full year of eating foods that they have either grown themselves or sourced locally. The book is full of gardening, cooking, and animal-raising anecdotes from Kingsolver, as well as recipes and essays on their experience from her 18-year-old daughter, Camille, and more scientific essays on the global impacts of the standard American diet from her husband, Steven Hopp.
True to form, Kingsolver’s writing style is wonderful. She is descriptive, yet still conversational. Her passion for delicious food is contagious. Unlike Plenty, this book has nothing to do with deprivation. It is all about how much more flavor and abundance one’s life can have by eating food that is grown close to home. It’s not just about tastes, it’s also about living in the moment and taking full pleasure in what nature has to offer. It is an absolutely compelling argument (for pretty much anything) to explain all the ways in which a person’s experience of life will be better if they choose a particular lifestyle. Kingsolver is able to advocate local eating by example and without proselytizing.
Despite my desire to run away to my family’s farm and live precisely as Kingsolver does, I understand that I must remain reasonable. I don’t have the money or the writing career to support running away from the city just yet. I have some work to do. However, I am inspired anew to put the effort into planning for what I can do starting in the spring. I already make every effort to purchase local meat, eggs and dairy. Local produce is nearly impossible to buy during a Minnesota winter! But, now I have a year of gardening and lessons learned behind me, so I think I should be able to plant a successful garden next year. I can also plan better for possible canning when I shop at the farmer’s market. I feel ready to take the next steps, and am already getting excited to do it!