|Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
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Bestselling author Barbara Kingsolver returns with her first nonfiction narrative that will open your eyes in a hundred new ways to an old truth: You are what you eat.
"As the U.S. population made an unprecedented mad dash for the Sun Belt, one carload of us paddled against the tide, heading for the Promised Land where water falls from the sky and green stuff grows all around. We were about to begin the adventure of realigning our lives with our food chain.
"Naturally, our first stop was to buy junk food and fossil fuel. . . ."
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, Miracle makes a passionate case for putting the kitchen back at the center of family life and diversified farms at the center of the American diet.
"This is the story of a year in which we made every attempt to feed ourselves animals and vegetables whose provenance we really knew . . . and of how our family was changed by our first year of deliberately eating food produced from the same place where we worked, went to school, loved our neighbors, drank the water, and breathed the air."
- Interesting but a little too preachy
Barbara Kingsolver's book details the year her family made the decision to move to their farm in Appalachia and live there full time, growing as much of their own food as possible and eating only locally grown or reared food items.
Filled with lots of information on the many ways big corporations have changed the way we consume foods this book was eye opening in many instances and filled with a lot of interesting information on the positives of eating local and or organic foods. I do try to eat organic produce, mostly because of the herbicide issue, but this book made me aware of many other valid reasons for making this choice.
So the question is why only a 3 star rating?
Well Ms. Kingsolver can sound awful preachy sometimes. There is almost a smugness to her tone in describing her life choices. While I think growing your own food sounds pretty interesting, I doubt most of us have a farm waiting for us to move to, or that many of us can afford to just pull up roots, since we often have homes and jobs and don't write books for a living. Also as much as buying locally sounds good, especially in a farming community, there are not always that many choices available. I know of one farmer's market in my area and it is only open from late spring through fall. I also don't can my own goods, bake my own breads, dig, plant, hoe, weed or reap my crops. I don't have a greenhouse or root cellar, don't raise chickens and turkeys. So while the overall concept may be interesting for many people it is often impractical. Also there is never much mention of just how back breaking farm work can be.
I also found the waxing rhapsodic over the tobacco farmers of Virginia and the loss of their most profitable crops offputting. It seemed a bit incongruous within the theme of most of the book. So although I did learn quite a bit and I do plan to try and eat more locally produced food I think I could have come to this decision without being made to feel that most of my lifestyle is somehow invalid.
- Changed our families life!!!
I had to read a portion of it in college, but I ended up buying it, because it was so intriguing. The author draws you in and it is hard to put down. It is a very interesting testimony of a family who ate local for a year and how it changed their outlook on life. A must read for Americans!!!...more info
- Kingsolver's food adventure
About half way read; her personal style of wit makes a lot of detail more enjoyable. Looks like I'd recommend it....more info
- True Inspiration
This book was a complete inspiration to get better connections with our food. As years go on, it seems we've gotten further and further away from thinking about where our food comes from. This completely dials you in to the locavore movement, and just enjoying cooking/gardening again or in a new light. A great read for anyone who cares about what they put in their body!...more info
- Back Into The Kitchen
This was a better reading experience than you might anticipate. Kingsolver's skills as a novelist translate well to nonfiction as she takes us on just enough tangents, and offers enough tidbits, to keep it moving.
Here's the issue it brought up for me: en route to researching something else, I came across a feminist blog (sorry, can't find it to quote) who pointed out an unfortunate paradox of the "green" revolution. Her point was that environmentally-friendly alternatives to traditional women's work (food preparation, housecleaning, childcare) almost always require more TIME and LABOR. (Think of the hours-long meal prepartion described in A,V,M). Natural cleaning products - who doesn't love them - also tend to require more elbow grease. Reusable diapers, ditto. She noted that "male" green activity seemed to boil down to the purchase of exciting, expensive, new technology.
Now I didn't agree with that blog 100% and thought that the male/female division of labor was highly overstated, but in the context of reading this book it was hard not to think of the impact on those less fortunate women - particularly single moms, working moms (i.e. in an office for a nasty boss, not at home writing a novel), etc. It's not entirely intellectually honest to compare the lot of Americans to sophisticated French women who enjoy discussing the merits of a good fish. It requires an economy, culture, and aethetic landscape to enable that conversation. A poor person in the US can't walk down a cobbled lane with her basket over her arm, down to the local market to find nutritious and economical dried heirloom beans. She will have to take the bus to the cheapo inner city grocery store and the grade B produce they provide, trying not to get mugged en route. The key is to avoid a guilt-fest over occasional frozen chicken nugget or imported banana.
So why does this slightly annoying book deserve a 5? Because it IS a little irritating. At least 90% of it is right. And while it would be easy to bring up the standard vegetarian/elitist arguments, a careful reader will discover that Kingsolver has anticipated those points, and answered them, if not always to our complete satisfaction, then thoughtfully. And any book that gets you a bit worked up, a bit annoyed, but at other times has you agreeing heartily and cheering 'yes! has done its job well. Good food for thought....more info
- A must read for all Americans
This book should be required reading in every high school in the USA. Local eating seems like common sense, and we have definitely gone crazy as a country. Numerous examples of this are in this book. Barbara presents info that is extremely thought provoking while using an easy to read and delightful, sometimes humorous writing style....more info
- A wonderful spring read
This book is everything I could want as winter is leaving and spring is beginning. I am learning so much about the foods I have been eating and about the evolution of food. This book will inspire you to garden and to make smart food choices for you and your family. Thank you Barbara Kingsolver for your inspiration!!...more info
- Pretentious and preachy
I really wanted to like this book. I agree with the author in that as a culture we've clearly gotten out of touch with living off the land and have become a fast food society. But I struggled to even get through the first chapter. The tone of the book is much too preachy and pretentious giving it a "holier than thou" feel. It's hard to get past that....more info
- Inspirational for localvores and home gardeners
I learned a lot reading this book, and have recommended it to other conscious consumers of our food supply, and people who just love to garden. Though a tad preachy at moments, Kingsolver and co-authors' agenda is right out front. If you liked Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma, this is the next good read....more info
- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.)
Kingsolver captured a gentler time in lives of my ancestors and my self. Long days,hard work and self reliance were the spices and glue of life. My baby boomer generation in the rural south is so lucky we can choose how to combine the best of our upbringing with modern convince. Thank you Barbara for reawakening my pioneer spirit. I see hope in the next generations that will make it popular again to grow your own food and take charge of your own well being. I liked this book so much I bought several and gave them away. ...more info
- Thank you for sharing your year with us!
Thank you, Barbara Kingsolver, for sharing all your sweat, hard work, enthusiasm, logic, but mostly, joy & knowledge of your family's trek to local, organic & sustainable farming. I greatly admire the book's contributions by your husband, Steven, and daughters Camille and Lily. Your bond of togetherness, with each contributing your heart & soul, should be a family standard to live by for all of us.
Makes you want to buy some land in the country & start this lifestyle too. In fact, I think many people have come to this same conclusion, and have done this very thing. Me...I'll have to start with my organic garden in the back yard of my subdivision! ...more info
- Terrific book!
Barbara Kingsolver has struck a wonderful balance among educating readers about gardening, slow food, food science and telling a great tale of a family's adventure of local eating. The recipes are great, too!
What a revelation to learn that we have all been anesthetized by the large corporations, whether they be the corporations that produce processed food, or the seed companies with their genetically modified terminator genes in the seeds.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and we have already made changes in our food shopping. Wish this great book were still available on audio CD. ...more info
- You Take the Good, You Take the Bad
I'm only halfway through Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, so it's possible I will have a skewed opinion.
Anyway, Kingsolver opened my eyes to the plight of America's food problem. I'd heard of things like HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), but I'd never given it much thought. I sure will now. I appreciated her discourses about the garden, the cheesemaking, etc. The information about transportation costs, etc. given in the sidebars by Steven Hopp was excellent. I will, without a doubt, make many considerations in regards to our family's eating habits.
Kingsolver's critics here accuse her of being preachy, uppity, and condescending. Usually, that's the allegation people make when they know someone is right. Welcome to America, 21st century...someone points out our faults, we get defensive and point right back. Fortunately for Kingsolver, she's got the facts and proof to back up her righteousness.
That said, let's not gloss over the fact that Kingsolver is a best-selling writer and her husband (Hopp) is a professor at a nearby university. They have the luxury of money and time. The bottom levels on their hierarchy of needs have been met...exceedingly. It stands to reason that they can now consider their spiritual, moral, mental needs and venture into this realm of life change.
Most of us, however, don't have that kind of access. Most of us work full-time jobs outside of the home and try to tackle parenting, housecleaning, social, and fiscal duties in those small hours between five and ten o' clock in the evening. I already feel guilty because my kids are in too many activities or too few, piles of laundry are a constant, and my husband and I don't always get the Date Night we need. Now I'm supposed to feel guilty because I'm not eating free-range chickens?
It's not high on my list of priorities right now. It might be someday when my kids are out of the house or I can sustainably work at home, working only five or six hours a day. In addition to this, I also think I'm doomed to failure because I don't have the resources Kingsolver has. She's got farmer friends all over the country, she's throwing a birthday party for dozens of people, and a caterer friend is helping with an all-local, all-natural menu, and she's been doing some of this organic stuff for years. Not me.
Honestly, the message is good. It's a catalyst for change. However, Kingsolver loses some of her message on people who simply are not in the position she is in....more info
- mostly incredible
I usually read nonfiction written by journalists or academics, so maybe I'd just gotten accustomed to the oft-dry prose of the books I normally read, but Kingsolver's words leap off the page and come to life in ways I'd forgotten they can do. There were times when I couldn't put this book down.
As a person who was raised completely divorced from any kind of sense of place, I've recently been trying to cultivate a close connection to the land I'm on. Last year I started figuring out how to grow my own food, and there were sections of this book that were a million times more inspirational than any information I could have gleaned from the inside of a seed packet. The description of asparagus, for example, made me want to dig up a plot in the yard at that very moment -- despite the fact that it was the middle of the night and probably the wrong time of year.
Ironically, my newfound sense of place did not arise in me until I moved to Tucson, the city from which the Kingsolver-Hopp family fled at the outset of this tale. The Tucson she speaks of (hydrophobic and ignorant) is nothing like the Tucson with which I am acquainted. I was surprised by her less-than-generous depiction of the city when further into the book she mentioned the Tucson-based Native Seeds, an organization that provides drought-adapted, climate-appropriate seeds in the Southwestern region of the United States.
Her straw-man argument against vegetarianism/veganism was a bit annoying to me as well. "Argument" might be too strong a word -- but, being as she lays her facts out right before launching into a moderately graphic description of chicken and turkey slaughter, it comes off as rather defensive. And needlessly so. I climbed on board this narrative so that I could read about how a family was able to provide itself with the bulk of its own food, all while making as small a carbon footprint as possible. No one can deny that free-range, grass-fed beef has far less of an environmental impact than the mass-produced feedlot operations from which most Americans get their beef. And even the staunchest vegan, myself included, has to have at least a grudging respect for a person who refuses to insert any middlemen between himself and his meat. At least the person whose meat does not come shrink-wrapped and bloodless can't be in any kind of denial about its origin.
But she says some truly baffling things about veganism in Chapter 14. Such as, "To envision a vegan version of civilization, start by erasing from all time the Three Little Pigs, the boy who cried wolf, [...]. Next, erase civilization, brought to you by the people who learned to domesticate animals. Finally, rewrite our evolutionary history, since Homo sapiens became the species we are by means of regular binges of carnivory" (pg. 222). Huh? I've come across a lot of vegans in my life, and not a single one of them ever expressed a desire to travel back in time and stop all humans from eating meat. She acts as if vegans don't know that the ability to eat a wide variety of food was integral to our survival as a species; or that even vegetable farming directly causes the deaths of ground-dwelling mammals and other animals; or that the production of soybeans and their transportation is resource intensive. Duh. These in and of themselves, however, are not arguments against veganism. I'm vegan because I'm not a caveman (or even a modern-day human) on the edge of survival and I have complete freedom to eat lower on the food chain. The positive effect this has on the environment is nothing to sneeze at. I don't deny that her method of ethical eating, while different from mine, is also having a positive environmental effect. I'm glad she's doing it, I just wish she wouldn't build a straw man of naive vegans in order to justify a practice that she shouldn't feel the need to justify in the first place.
But that was only one chapter that irritated me. The rest was pure gold. I didn't find it to be especially preachy or elitist, even though this is apparently a common complaint from negative reviewers. Instead I found it to be a very loving retelling of a life-changing project that brought a family closer to their food sources -- and each other....more info
- A guide to change your eating
Barbara Kingsolver uses her very readable style to encourage us all on a journey to understand the effects of the standard American diet on our own health as well as the health of the earth. This book is a fun and heart-touching read that also contains great recipes and short insightful inserts regarding the negative impacts of the US agricultural and food production system. The authors provide hope that personal choice in selecting locally grown and natural whole foods can positively impact our future. It helped me make the move to a more healthy lifestyle. This book will also make a great gift for family and friends....more info
- Engaging and Interesting
I loved this book. A friend of mine told me it was the best thing she had read in the last year so I could not resist. I opened the book as I took off on a flight from the USA to Australia and closed it as we were headed in to land.
It's an easy well written book that chronicles a families experience as they choose to eat locally grown food for a year. It's a nice story about family life, scattered with some delicious recipes but it's also a really interesting look at or modern world and our screwed up relationship with food.
I suspect that the environmental challenges and the economic ones will have many people forced into a situation where they have to reconsider how they eat. This book will definitely be useful. However if you're reconsidering your own lifestyle, relationship with food and your family life this book is a really good pointer to another way. Thoroughly enjoyable...more info
- Great Book!
"Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" is a must read for anyone concerned about where their food comes from. A wonderful story of a family trying to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Barbara Kingsolver and family's journey will make you laugh a lot and maybe even cry a little. One thing is for sure, you will look at things in a different light when you're done. I highly recommend this book! Mary...more info
- Too often change in direction
This book is too constrained and confined. I have loved Kingsolver's other books- and I was so excited to get this. Very disappointed in the text....more info
- Don't Believe the Hype
While the author makes many valid points about the benefits of consuming locally grown food, she is guilty of one (literally) fatal error: eating animals for food is neither necessary nor healthy for humans, the environment, or, of course, the animals themselves.
Moving from a vegetarian diet to a flesh-based diet is not progress, either physically or spiritually, and teaching children that slaughterhouses are bad, yet killing and eating animals whom they "know" is perfectly acceptable, is unconscionable.
Not only is our flesh-based diet destroying the planet, making excuses for and/or shielding ourselves from the true reality of unnecessary bloodshed desensitizes us and makes us less compassionate towards all types of suffering, human and otherwise. Anyone who can't admit that just doesn't want to face it....more info
- Good beginning for changing the way we eat in this country
I couldn't put this book down once I started it. It is an enjoyable read, has recipes and useful information. Be prepared for it to change the way you think about where your food comes from and what happens to it during the trip.
I have not read any other Kingsolver books but if this is an example of her writing skills, count me a fan....more info
- This Book Just Might Change Your Life!
Barbara Kingsolver is a beautiful writer, whether she is penning one of her memorable novels or writing about the finer points of biology. In this nonfiction memoir of her family's year of eating locally, she blends both genres together for a don't miss manifesto on eating sustainably.
She traces a year on her family's farm in Appalachia, from the first tender spears of asparagus in April through the growing season and the bleak months of winter to the hatching of a new flock of turkey chicks the following spring. Along the way, she peppers her descriptions with journalistic information and narrative on organic farming, the food economy, eating locally, and more. Also included are essays by her husband, Steven Hopp, and recipes and nutritional information from her daughter Camille.
Whether you're interested in gardening, farming, organic foods, or eating locally, you'll find something to love in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle....more info
- Common Sense still exist...
This is a terrific book and so far has been a joy to read. It points out the shortcomings that as humans we have created, yet at the same time offers solutions that are so simple. Maybe if we packaged seeds and growing our own food with a remote control or some new techno gadget, people might get interested?...more info
- Interesting but Flawed
Interesting book. It inspired me to spend more time working on my own (small) garden. I learned new things about lactose intolerance and cheese making, and I'll probably try my hand at making cheese sometime soon. I also learned a bit about slaughtering fowl, which I haven't had the opportunity to do.
However, I found the main premises of the book annoying. The author wants all our food to be generated locally, by independent small farms. She opposes the long distance transportation of food, primarily due to the general wastefulness and energy/pollution expense of the process. She opposes corporate farms because they are involved in questionable GMO practices, pollute, and are leading toward reduction of species diversification.
All of these points are valid, and there are certainly reasons to be concerned. However, her insistence on a return to an agrarian society is retrograde at best. This is not the direction humanity is taking, nor should it. The way forward certainly involves GMO, and we need to be thinking about how to use it to our advantage, not fighting a pointless battle against it.
The ubiquitous and cheap availability of exotic foods from other climates is a wonder of modern society, not something to be dismissed out of hand as the author does. The ability to get fresh bananas and berries at any time of the year, anywhere in the developed world is an example of positive progress, not a social disease.
The author correctly identifies several negative side effects of our current situation, but addresses them in the wrong way. Rather than preserving the positive advances and isolating the specific causes of side effects, she seems to prefer that we roll the whole system back to a previous, simpler, agrarian time. This proposal is absurd, of course, but she constantly hammers it down on you throughout the entire book.
Rather than thinking about our systems in reactionary, retrograde terms, we need to be looking to the future and thinking about how we can optimize our advancement....more info
- Inspiring and uplifting
Wow! I'll say it again...WOW! I've always loved Kingsolver...especially after her epic "The Poisonwood Bible". I had no idea what I was getting into when I bought this book. I thought it would be another fiction, and it was the best option at the airport bookstore. While slow at times, the buildup of excitement that came with the most humble and simple of occurences; for example, the chicken story and her youngest daughter...(I won't give anything away)...and many other stories, made this chronicle of their family's journey through a year of eating local; heartwarming and endearing. I admit it, I even cried sometimes...over the most basic stories of cooking tomatoes together, and such other things. The way the book is put together is interesting as well. Woven into Barbara's storytelling are side boxes written by her husband, giving relevant facts and statistics not only about the harm that is being done by our food industry, but more importantly, the positive changes that are occurring via the work of a few in the natural foods movement. One reviewer said the book can be preachy--I disagree wholeheartedly, and if fact, that's what I loved about it! Through modeling rather than preaching, Kingsolver manages to inspire and teach by example. In addition, along with her husband's factual essays, her then 18 year old daughter includes lyrical and sweet essays that chronicle her learnings and experiences as a young adult growing up amidst this journey. Her wisdom is captivating!
All in all, the inspiration that lingered in me after reading this book was infectious. Thank you Barbara! For having the courage to not only take on this task, but to share your journey with the world and break from your traditional writings.
A must read....more info
- I sent it to my neice
the writer is WAY nicer than me- so I hope my niece listens to the cd's in the car!
Americans learn most of their living from advertising these days- time to let family do that job again! This book was written by a whole family, and they care about our health....more info