Publishers: Harper Collins
- Nature/Environment; Food/Diet/Recipes;
- Memoir/Non fiction narrative
Barbara Kingsolver is probably best known for her novel The Poisonwood Bible, a hardhitting tale about a Baptist missionary who takes his family to the Belgian Congo. The family carry with them seeds from home but they fail on the Congo's poor and dry soil. Fortunately the Kingsolver family does not share the same fate when they move as a family from Tuscon, Arizona to a farm in Appalachia, determined to live off their own grown produce for a year. The family become committed farmers and locavores and the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle chronicles that first step the Kingsolver family took to play their part in environmentally sustainable food production.
Initially I wasn't very keen to read the book(try selling a city girl the merits of a book that speaks of tales of life on the land - it's an almost impossible sell) but after reading reviews by Tara (Books and Cooks) ,Gentle Reader (Shelf Life) and The Literary Word I decided to give it a go and I am glad I did.
I thought it was going to be a dry read, but being an accomplished fiction writer, Ms. Kingsolver managed to turn her escapades in the kitchen (making cheese from mail-order cultures, harvesting asparagus and playing matchmaker between turkey hens and toms) into wonderful stories that would appeal to anybody's heart and at the same time, she keeps astounding you with harsh statistics,"Americans put almost as much fossil fuel into our refrigerators as our cars"pg 5 or each food item in a typical US meal has traveled 1500 miles (2400 kilometres) also pg 5 .
Apart from her engaging writing skills she also has the advantage of having written on something topical...seems to me that everyone wants to cut back on processed food and to eat more locally grown food and Kingsolver's book educates you on why it is imperative to make the switch.
The book has a homespun feel about it with essays about global food distribution, genetic modification, and fair trade, among other things written by her husband Steven Hopp, a biology professor, and 19-year-old daughter Camille writes personable, accomplished pieces on cooking and nutrition.
Finally, Kingsolver does not advocate that we should all give up our jobs in the cities and head for the fields, nor does she ask us to turn our front yards into food instead of lawn. She asks instead that we educate ourselves about what we are eating, support local organic growers, and think about the world we want to leave the next generation. She wants us to start our day not with the question 'What do I feel like eating today?", but "What do I have that is fresh, abundant and in season?". Just this little switch can make us think so differently about food and aid us in picking the right foods to eat.
I came away with the impression that Ms. Kingsolver was just a tad fanatical about eating locally but she can be forgiven because she turned out a truly remarkable book, however, I don't suspect locavores get invited out to dinner all that often! My other concern would be ethnic food eaters like myself. My diet primarily consists of East Indian food, I am not sure how I will ever switch over to being a locavore.
One final thought...today's newspapers cited a New Zealand study which finds that many vegans can't stomach the idea of having relations with anyone who eats meat....are locavores going to shun people who eat strawberries in January? :)