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
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!