Saturday, May 19, 2007

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: a growing concern

I've just finished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver's report on a year of eating locally. I received this one from HarperCollins as a review copy, and read it within a week of receiving it, though it has taken me a little time to process all the information in it.

Kingsolver's family made a pact to eat only what they could grow themselves or find grown locally, for a year. As she states early on, they were not purist about it, like the authors of The 100 Mile Diet, a book she discovered near the end of her own locavore year. Yet they made a concerted effort to become more conscious of the full costs of their eating habits; the environmental costs of extended transportation, and the horrible effects of factory farming.
Kingsolver's writing is just so well crafted. I read this obsessively, learning a lot about farming and gardening, and about local economies. Her relaxed and enthusiastic approach to this project was inspiring, in fact, I went out to the Farmer's Market the Saturday morning after I'd finished it, and just as she had in her first visit of the year near the beginning of her book, I found local asparagus and rhubarb. Mmmm. I also wandered down to our neighbourhood health food store and bought some seeds - yes, I'll try gardening on a small scale.

I enjoyed the theme of this book because it did not feel like a fad she was capitalizing on, rather, she gave the reasons behind their decision. It had to do with environmental issues, but also with the sense of connection with the earth and with growing cycles that she was trying to foster in her children. She discusses the hard work involved in maintaining a large garden along with chickens and turkeys, and how full time farming families live and struggle to survive in today's economy, and talks about Amish friends who are so self sufficient they buy only flour and sugar from outside their community. Even on their short trip away, to Italy, Kingsolver and her husband continue looking for regional specialties; they buy a pumpkin from a farm stand and then dry the seeds to bring home and try to grow.

This book covers a lot of ground, and the whole family pitches in. Her husband provides mini essays on various politicized issues, while her older daughter Camille provides recipes. It was a good read, and one that anybody who is at all interested in food, environmental issues, gardening, local economies, or just good writing will enjoy. There is also a related website under the same name, so if this book intrigues you, you can continue learning and participating in this growing concern.


  1. Have you read Michael Pollan's book? And if how, how does this one compare? I've had my eye on it.

  2. Stefanie - I haven't read Pollan's yet; I've had my eye on it as well. I also must read "The 100 Mile Diet", but there's currently a longish hold list at the library so it will be a while.

  3. I've seen the title going around lately but this was my first review. It sounds very interesting. I'll have to keep my eyes open for it.

  4. I've not heard of the 100 Mile Diet so I looked it up. Apparently here in the US they changed the title to "Plenty" It looks like a good book.

  5. I've been trying to review this book, but I am not making much progress. I just now linked my reader's to your review so they won't have to keep waiting.

  6. I found your review through the Hidden Side of the Leaf. I linked to your review on my post. Here is the link to my review if you are interested:


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