Thursday, February 10, 2011

Jessi Reviews "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle"

Title/Author: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Publisher/Year: HarperCollins, 2007
How I Got This: From my local public library
Why I Read It: It was required reading for a class I'm taking (Sustainable Agriculture in Pennsylvania), but it's also one that I've been wanting to read for a while
Rating: 4 Stars

Quick Synopsis: 
Hang on for the ride: with characteristic poetry and pluck, Barbara Kingsolver and her family sweep readers along on their journey away from the industrial-food pipeline to a rural life in which they vow to buy only food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it. Their good-humored search yields surprising discoveries about turkey sex life and overly zealous zucchini plants, en route to a food culture that's better for the neighborhood and also better on the table.

Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miraclemakes a passionate case for putting the kitchen back at the center of family life, and diversified farms at the center of the American diet.

While Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma fell flat for me, this book turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. It was fascinating, informative, and yet poetic. 

There were so many things that I loved about this book. I think most of all, I just really liked Kingsolver's idea of chronicling a year of eating intentionally with her family. For an entire year, they tried to only consume food products that were local to their area in the Appalachian foothills in Virginia and food that was currently in season. If you stop and think about it, it wasn't all that long ago that this particular way of life was the norm and, in fact, the only option. 

The writing is excellent, as well. I typically read fiction a majority of the time, and I had no trouble picking this up and getting lost in its pages. I've never read any of Kingsolver's other books, and now I can't wait to! She writes beautifully, yet simply. It wasn't fluffy, and it wasn't clunky. It was just right. The way Kingsolver writes--I was there. My mouth was watering for half of the book. I mean, she just had a way of wording things (like when she talks about gardening or the joy of cooking a meal) that left me wondering why I had never thought of it like that myself. And she was so funny and down-to-earth, too! I couldn't wait to see what antics her and her family would get up to next. At the same time that this book was a lot of fun to read, it was also really informative, too. I learned just as much about food and our food industry as I did while reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, except I enjoyed it so much more. I really shouldn't compare the two, but as I mentioned in my review of Pollan's book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is the perfect example of presenting the general public with a book about food that they'll WANT to read. 

Hands down, though, my favorite thing about this book was that I could actually relate to a good bit of it. I've grown up in a family that values gardening, canning, local food, etc. For as long as I can remember, my dad has grown a garden, and in recent years, I've learned a thing or two about gardening myself. Some of my favorite childhood memories revolved around the tomato and beet canning days in the fall. So, when Kingsolver wrote about harvesting tomatoes or the feeling of watching something you've planted grow into something that will feed you, I wanted to jump up and pump my fist in the air. I wanted summer, and I wanted to try out all of the DELICIOUS recipes sprinkled throughout the book. 

Overall, I highly recommend this book if you love food or if you love learning about food. I learned so much reading this, and I'm looking forward to this summer so that I can revisit these recipes! Yum! 


  1. Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors and I loved this book... my 10-year-old daughter loved it, too. Of course, she wanted me to start making some of the recipes in it, but I just don't have that kind of ambition when it comes to cooking. She also wants to raise farm animals now, and I definitely out my foot down at that. Hahaha! I learned so much from the book, though, and we have started eating healthier since I read it.

  2. Thanks for this review! This sounds really interesting. I've been thinking about reading some books about food, now that I've been trying to do more cooking. And I've also been thinking about reading something by Kingsolver, so I'll probably be taking this out the next time I go to the library.

  3. I loved this book when I read it last year (my review is here). She was preaching to the converted in my case, as I try to eat locally and in season as much as possible, but the picture is a little bit different here in northern Canada as compared with balmy Virginia!

  4. I love Barbara Kingsolver's writing style, too. I've only read The Poisonwood Bible (which was absolutely amazing) & now I'm willing to read anything she writes. In my little nook of Ontario, there is a big local produce market, which has the most awesome fruit & vegetables. The grocery store accounts for the rest but not everything is made in Canada. That's globalization for you.

  5. I loved this book. I made the cantaloupe salsa and it was really, really, superbly good.

  6. I also loved this book. It's very nicely written and full of ideas. I found it very inspiring and it really made me more aware of what I'm buying is in season.

  7. The Ominvor's Dilemma fell flat for me too. I think Michael Pollan's message is extremely important and I'm a huge proponent of his, but yeah, his writing didn't do much for me.

    Definitely going to give this book a try! Thanks for the thought-provoking review!

  8. just checked and we have it here, off to check it out!

  9. Really loved this book. Great review.

  10. My niece is a vegan and I think I will give her this book. Very nice review. Makes me want to garden.

  11. I read Omnivore's Dilemma for my book club a few years back. Kind of dry.
    I'm glad this is better than that. i love Kingsolver.

  12. Yes, Kingsolver's writing is fabulous and this sounds like an interesting and timely subject. Great review, I'm adding this to my TBR shelf.


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