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Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

November 30, 2011

I recently just reread one of my favorite books, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Most of the books by her you might be familiar with are novels (The Bean Trees, The Poisonwood Bible, Prodigal Summer, and most recently, The Lacuna), but Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is part memoir, part environmental manifesto.  Kingsolver and her family moved from arid Arizona to rural Virginia and vowed to only eat food that they produced or is produced in their own county by farmers they know. They planted a massive garden, raised their own poultry for meat and eggs, and cut out any food from their diets that comes from lands far away.  To feed them throughout the winter, they froze and preserved much of the garden surplus from over the summer. While the bulk of the story is told by Kingsolver, her husband includes small essays, and her 18-year-old daughter includes pieces on nutrition, the experience from her point of view, and recipes.

The book is beautifully written and reads like a novel with touching stories about raising a family, farming, and life. The arguments for eating locally and seasonally, knowing where your food comes from, and doing things yourself are extensive, but not preachy. While making such drastic life changes obviously isn’t for everyone, the general concepts are universal.  Food grown near you is more nutritious, better for the environment, and tastes better.  While mass-produced food on faraway farms is cheaper by comparison, the price does not account for the lack of nutrition, damage to the environment from less efficient farming methods and chemicals, and fossil fuels consumed to get the product into your hands.  And it’s noted that eating 100% local isn’t necessary, especially in our globalized economy, but describes better way to buy global goods. Things like coffee and spices largely come from outside the US, but can be bought fair trade.  They also have a very low water content, and therefore are lighter and easier to ship (unlike that watermelon coming from Brazil in January).  There are also interesting sections on biodiversity (and the lack of it in generic supermarkets), the pros of being an omnivore, the US farming industry, and nutrition.

It’s a fantastic book, even if you are not a staunch environmentalist or foodie. I would also recommend The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollen, which has many of the same arguments but the story is told by tracing the origin of three different meals.

Photo courtesy of here

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Janette Racicot permalink
    November 30, 2011 7:10 pm

    I really enjoyed this book and it (along with my daughters’ influence) has significantly changed my shopping habits. One point the author makes is that even small changes can make a big difference. Buying more local is easier than I would have thought.

  2. December 2, 2011 11:06 am

    Thanks for sharing this. I read the Omnivore’s Dilemma and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ll definitely be reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle soon. I’m always looking for more information about being a responsible and healthy omnivore.

    • December 2, 2011 12:10 pm

      I’d love to hear any other book recommendations on the subject! Kingsolver’s novels are also great, I loved Prodigal Summer and have heard great things about The Lacuna if you are looking for some fiction.

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