Saturday, May 29, 2010

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

I don't even know how to start talking about this book. It's quite possibly the most influential book I've ever read and I've made so many changes to my own life since reading it. Simple changes, really that haven't required much effort and honestly they've all been fun. I've embraced gardening and have started growing my own food. I've visited my local farmers market and purchased delicious produce, plants and seafood from my hard working local farmers. I've started cooking with local food. Today I made my own bread for the first time. I've started to be mindful of where my food comes from, what chemicals went into that food and how much fuel went into getting that food onto my plate and how that food was treated before it got onto my plate. And I plan on trying my hand at making my own cheese soon! Animal, Vegetable, Miracle looks at Barbara Kingsolver's successful attempt to move to a life of eating locally. What this meant for her was growing what she could in the form of vegetables, fruits, herbs, grains and nuts; raising chickens and turkeys for eggs and meat; canning, preserving and freezing food and buying the rest from local farmers. She also made her own bread and cheese among so many other delicious sounding things. And it's all free range and pesticide free so what's going into her body is all natural. The other thing is, you only eat what's in season. Truthfully, it's not natural to have asparagus in November. If you live in the north, it's not natural to have bananas ever, so they said goodbye to the banana. But they said hello to so many other delicious home grown fruits and vegetables with such delicious flavors while saying goodbye to produce that was shipped thousands of miles with little flavor. Think of that tomato that you buy in December. It most likely comes from California where it was grown on a giant farm where it's sprayed with tons of pesticides. On top of that, the tractors used to spray all of those pesticides are using lots of fuel. Then they go through processing and are packaged (more fuel). Then they are loaded onto an eighteen wheeler and shipped to wherever you live (a LOT more fuel). All for that one tomato. Now think of the fuel crisis we're going through now and how DEPENDENT we all are on gasoline and how destructive it has become. For each meal we eat at our dinner table, an underestimate is that we might as well each drink a quart of motor oil when you consider the transport, packaging, and harvest. Now think about can get MUCH better tasting milk, cheese, oats, meat, vegetables, fruit, seafood, etc at your farmers market or even at the supermarket if your just mindful of where the food comes from. BUY LOCAL. And you stop this chain. The closer to home, the better the taste. Naturally, it's fresher and it's gone through less wear and tear. Even better yet, grow what you can. Even in an apartment you can do some patio peppers and tomatoes and herbs! I'm having so much fun with mine :) Bake your own bread! It's so easy in a bread maker. As for the book itself, I didn't ever want it to end. It was delightful. It was enchanting. Kingsolver never made her year of eating locally seem like a cakewalk, but she always made it seem wonderful and rewarding and she made me want to just move to a farm and live that life. We can't all do that obviously, but we can make some better choices. Her writing is exquisite and I can't wait to read some of her fiction now. I'm hoping to love it just as much. You'll find the book to be enticing, I promise. You'll WANT to start doing some of these things. You'll start eyeing the mason jars at the hardware store and thinking of what you can can. You'll start noticing seed packets in places you never noticed them before. You'll start wondering where the best place is to start a compost pile in your backyard...and how your neighbors would feel about a couple of hens in the neighborhood..... The best thing of all about this book is that Kingsolver is never preachy. She's certainly less preachy than I've been in this post :p She just shares her story and I'm sure she hopes that other readers might follow her lead, but never says you should. She writes with love, with wonderful humor, with frustration, and with a great warmth. Her husband adds fantastic facts and numbers and resources throughout the book and her daughter shares some wonderful recipes and anecdotes. I sincerely hope that Kingsolver one day returns with a follow up to this one.

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