Book Review Of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year Of Food Life
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver revolves around the author Barbara, her husband Steven and two daughters Lily and Camille. They make a choice to move from Arizona to the Appalachian region. They had two homes, one being in Appalachia and the other in Tucson, Arizona. With their water use in Tucson, Barbara started to think that they were using too much water and putting a drain on the environment. They made the decision to officially relocate to their house in the Appalachian region, an old farm that they owned and lived in during the summers so as to live a maintainable lifestyle. They made a pact with one another to only eat locally grown foods that were produced in their county. For a year, the Kingsolver-Hopps would try to eat only local foods, and wrote about if they could do it and what they learned. The main reasons for the family trying to eat locally was that local foods might taste better since they are more fresh, but eating locally would also lessen the bad outcomes on food consumption. Since the family decided to only eat foods from their farm and foods produced by their neighbors, they brought food to their plates at its freshest state, so the they quickly realized how good the food tasted.
As the reader learning about their year, I learned about many things that they learned- such as organic farming, making cheese, turkey mating and vegetables. Barbara coined the term ‘vegetannual’ and describes it as “a season of foods unfolding as if from one single plant” (64). Basically, putting all the vegetables together in the year is one big vegetable in itself for her. It is meant to describe the growing season from start to finish. First, come things like spinach and lettuce, then asparagus, tomatoes, squash, and potatoes. The most important to Barbara is the tomato and asparagus. The asparagus, as the first of the garden fruits, exemplifies one of her solid points about patience. It’s a food that takes a few years to prepare for harvest and then marks the beginning of fresh produce instead of canned in April. Eating local is about patience and avoiding that in the U.S. culture you can have any food at any time. She makes this point about eating according to seasons solidly when she writes, “The main barrier standing between ourselves and a local-food culture is not price, but attitude. The most difficult requirements are patience and a pinch of restraint. . . We’re raising our children on the definition of promiscuity if we feed them a casual, indiscriminate mingling of foods from every season plucked from the supermarket, ignoring how our sustenance is cheapened by wholesale desires” (31).
Lastly, other topics covered in the book would be CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), kitchens, harvesting turkeys, and oil. A CAFO is a large site where many, many animals like chicken, turkeys, and cows are fed grain quickly and never allowed outside. (238-239). Completely opposite, the Kingsolver-Hopps make food not for ultimate dollar value but for ultimate nutritional value, something lost upon CAFOs.
In summary, Barbara, Steven, and Camille put together a story about how they live, not a book to try to convince readers to eat locally. Even though the book only captures one year in their lives, there are so many details that support how they’ve chosen to live their lives in the USA. They were “freed” in a sense from the tangled food web of U.S. culture, and their farming saved them. In every chapter, you learn many things about gardening, cooking, and what the Kingsolver-Hopps value in their lives. The title portion that reads “A Year of Food Life” is somewhat misleading as it is the many years previous in their lives that seemed to have put the Kingsolver-Hopp family into the position of being able to eat only local for twelve months. And it is those previous years are most discussed in the end.
Kingsolver does have such a unique way of making information accessible and digestible with some humor and irony mixed in. She also models a lifestyle I would love to see myself growing towards, more time in the kitchen baking bread and canning foods for later and loving family the whole while.