Author Barbara Kingsolver moved her family from Arizona to a farm in the Appalachian Mountains, and decided to devote an entire year to eating only what they could raise or buy locally. If there were things that they wanted but couldn’t buy locally–like bananas, or avocados, or oatmeal–they did without. She wrote a book about the experiences of the year, entitled Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. I just finished reading this book. I felt sad when I got to the last page. I really didn’t want it to end.
It sounds as if they were accomplished gardeners already, and they raised a large garden. That’s a fascinating story for me, an avid gardener, myself, especially since I read the book through a long cold Nebraska winter. They spent the summer canning and pickling and putting their produce by. They also raised chickens and turkeys for meat and eggs.
This field of books–memoirs detailing the experiences of folks who decide to forego industrial food, or meat, or anything except what’s available locally, or whatever–is a crowded genre. I’ve read a couple others with interest. I think, from my reading, Barbara Kingsolver does it better than any others I’ve read. Her tale is both intelligent and disarming, substantive and entertaining, earnest and funny, and she includes lots of recipes, which I always find to be a selling point! I can’t wait until my own garden is bursting at the seams, so I can use some of the recipes for tomatoes and peppers and eggplants that she has in this book. Summer Salad. Veggie Frittata. Spinach Lasagna. Eggs in a Nest. I savored this book, every page, garden-hungry as I’ve been through this winter, as I would stop quite often to chew over something that was new to me (no pun intended!. And not just how to make cheese, either.
I did try the mozzarella cheese recipe, with tentative results. Instead of satiny balls of mozzarella, I ended up with a nice batch of ricotta. But that’s something, at least, isn’t it? I wrote about it here. Little Mack helped. Make the ricotta, that is, not write about the experience. Although he was probably right here by my side, talking, when I wrote, too (sigh).
But back to the book! Regarding Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I can’t say it better than this quote from Publisher’s Weekly on Amazon.com: “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.” Now don’t you just want to rush out to your local bookstore and buy this book?
I’m quite sure that Barbara Kingsolver and I wouldn’t agree on everything, if I were fortunate enough to sit down and enjoy a coffee-date with her, but I’m even more sure that there would be a lot more that we would agree on. For one, that it’s nearly time to plant potatoes, and that means it’s also onion-planting time, not to mention time to sow the sugar snap peas!
Actually, I just planted sugar snap peas–for those of you who might be interested, and also beets, radishes (two varieties so far!), mache and lettuce, and so I’m in raptures about all that. I really am.
A very satisfying read, I’d recommend it to anybody who is not only concerned with the way we feed our families, but also the way our country regards food and eating in general. You’ll especially enjoy it if you’re somebody who, like me, looks forward to gardening season with the greatest anticipation.
Here’s the website it you want to learn more about this book, download recipes from the book, or read more about the author right here.
I’d love to know if you pick up this book and read it, and what your thoughts about it might be! Now–a happy spring day to you!
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