I’m in a book club. Last month, one of our members picked Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It’s not our usual type of read, mainly because we’ve stuck to novels. I don’t think Marcus completely understood what he was choosing. But what the heck.
Animal Vegetable, Miracle is a work of non-fiction. Kingsolver has had some very successful books. The most popular and widely read is probably “The Poisonwood Bible.”
In this book Kingsolver and her family decide to move from their home in Arizona to the family farm in Virginia. It’s a radical change. Not the moving part, though from personal experience moving is not that fun either. It’s the part where the family decides that for one year, they are going to grow their own food or at least, buy it locally.
Kingsolver describes it in this way. “This book tells the story of what we learned, or didn’t, what we ate, or couldn’t; and how our family as changed by one year of deliberately eating food produced in the same place were we worked, loved our neighbors, drank he water, and breathed the air.”
In between telling her readers what foods were eaten during what months, the author provides a huge amount of information on what conventional farming has done to our country. For example, she points out that we are losing hundreds of varieties of plants like potatoes, tomatoes, and squash. It doesn’t sound too concerning at first, but think about it. Varietals have a specific purpose. Take potatoes for instance. Some potatoes are better for salads and some for frying. Other varietals can withstand the weather and soil of particular regions. Having a variety of different plants protects our food source from decimation all at once. Kind of like diversifying your portfolio. It’s also a significant bonus that heirloom varietals taste better than the standard ones sold in the supermarket.
The book tends to get preachy at times. Some of my book club buddies used the word “condescending.” The tone didn’t bother me too much. I think I was desensitized by my conservative religious upbringing (where everything sounded like a sermon).
I appreciated the overall theme and philosophy of the book— a mindful relationship with food. Knowing where your food comes from cultivates responsibility. It mitigates wastefulness and encourages thankfulness.
As a mother, I want my children to know that food grows from the ground and doesn’t just appear in uniform shapes at the supermarket. I want my children to experience that awe and delight that comes from planting seeds, seeing it grow, harvesting it and putting it on the dinner table. I’m realistic about what I can do though. I don’t have much experience with planting, but we can all learn together. We can start small. If we put a couple of zucchini’s on the dinner table this summer, I’ll be happy about it.