Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Animal Vegetable Miracle: A Year of Food Life

by Barbara Kingsolver

Shortly after their move from Virginia, Kingsolver, her husband and two children decide to live for a year eating things grown in her local area. There are a few exceptions: grains and olive oil as well as a "freebie" each family member gets. Other than that, they will try to grow or buy locally anything they need to survive.

I really enjoyed this book when it was focusing on the memoir portion, the stories of her family trying to adjust to a new lifestyle. I loved the story about Lilly mourning the death of her chicken and comparing her love of the chicken to the love she had for her mother. And, the story about how the only month of the year that anyone in their tiny community locks their doors is August because they are afraid people will dump zucchini on them. Funny, realistic, enjoyable to read stuff.

Unfortunately, a lot of my enjoyment was hampered by what I would consider some fairly heavy handed preaching. Kingsolver states that she's not trying to convert anyone, but I'm not sure what else she could be doing.

I also didn't really like how she acted like anyone, in any walk of life, living anywhere can do what they did. I'm not sure she even really believes it's true since she waited until they lived on a farm in Virginia (as opposed to while they were still in Tucsan, AZ) to begin the project. I believe there are simply areas of the nation that don't grow enough food locally to really survive on (at least as we eat today). Also, even just switching over to free-range/organic animal meat is quite expensive. I looked at our local grocery store and it was twice as much per pound to buy the organic/free range meat. We lived for along time on a student budget and there is no way we could have ever afforded to eat if we had tried to live exclusively organic.

I do think a lot of interesting and rather important topics are addressed in this book, and like I said, I really enjoyed the story aspect quite a bit. I enjoyed the recipes and look forward to trying some of them out (you can find them here). Also after reading this book, I have the strongest desire to make my own cheese. I doubt I would ever do it in an effort to provide all the cheese we eat, but it just sounds like a fun experience.

I enjoyed aspects but really was turned off by others, so I will probably go with 3 out of 5 stars


Chain Reader said...

I have wanted to read this for a while. I've read a few other books that have "inspired" me to eat organic/free range, etc., but it is very expensive and hard to get and I just get frustrated because it's like swimming against the current. But I still think I would like this one!

Fyrefly said...

Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite fiction authors, but fear of heavy-handed preachiness is what has kept this book languishing on my TBR pile for years.

KT said...

Chain - it does feel like swimming against the current. I hope you'll enjoy it.

Fyrefly - I've only read one of her other books (Bean Trees). I did enjoy this one - I just had to kind of relax about some of the stuff she was saying. I actually struggled the most with the little articles her husband wrote. They were really preachy (and didn't have footnotes! - there were endnotes at the back of the book but it's not the same!).

Kim said...

I've wanted to read this too but I anticipated the preachiness. Kingsolver did such an amazing job with Poisonwood Bible that I've been intrigued to read this book. I'm sure it will turn me off a little too but the memoir type stuff sounds like it could be worth the effort.