This past holiday season I got a copy of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle from my brother and his wife. I looked at it for a moment and they told me it was my copy which I had lent to them some time back. I remembered enjoying it so much that I gave them my copy (the book in question) and bought an audio version for my sister. Although I read this a few years back, it is an excellent memoir.
The book’s premise is a simple one. Kingsolver and her family tended a plot of land in southern Appalachia for a year and she wrote about their experience. They moved from the arid southwest to the humid southeast. Kingsolver starts the book with an insightful anecdote about leaving the desert amidst the threat of rain. The clerk at the gas station doesn’t want it to rain for fear of running her plans to wash her car. Kingsolver uses this as a metaphor for how disconnected we are from natural processes. In a place like Arizona, where rain is scarce, people openly disparage precipitation if it interferes with their lives, despite the desperately dry conditions.
As part of there experiment in living off the land, Kingsolver and her family give up food luxuries such as coffee and bananas in an attempt to eat what they and their neighbors grow and raise.
Hearkening back to local economies where bartering for goods was the norm, the family traded with other farmers for the foods they cannot produce themselves.
The youngest member of the family, Kingsolver’s elementary school aged daughter played an important role in the family’s food experiment. She raised chickens and collected the eggs, vital sources of protein and a highly sought after commodity.
At the end of each chapter, there is a recipe featured throughout the section. For instance, every Friday night they ate pizza with toppings that were freshly culled from their land. This notion of seasonal eating escapes most people as the supermarket stocks produce from around the globe all year. It was not until reading this that I realized asparagus was an early spring delicacy.
The fact that we have become so disconnected with our food, a major theme of Food Inc., is made abundantly clear after reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Kingsolver’s year of living off the land puts in perspective the dedication and beauty of working the land to provide sustenance for one’s family and one’s self.