Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

by Barbara Kingsolver

"We rarely look at our plates and ask: 'Where has this stuff been?'
Like many families, we were uncomfortable with the environmental costs of agribusiness and the health costs of junk food.  Many problems can be solved by one solution, getting
food from closer to home."
- Barbara Kingsolver, from Barbara Kingsolver:  The Authorized Site

Probably most widely known for her fictional best seller The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver has also made a name for herself in the world of environmentalism.  Her deep respect and her desire to understand our world are apparent in her first work of non-fiction, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle:  A Year of Food Life.  With her characteristic spirit and tenacity, Kingsolver demonstrates her appreciation for all that is fresh and local.  I for one am extremely grateful that Ms. Kingsolver has such talent for putting this passion and knowledge into such a readable language.

"Picture a single imaginary plant, bearing throughout one season all the different vegetables we harvest...we'll call it a vegetannual."
The book takes us through a year of Kingsolver's life with her family.  She and her family describe how they grow, harvest and prepare only food they have grown themselves.  If they couldn’t grow it , then they purchased from locals, or did without it.  With characteristic humor and insightful narrative, Kingsolver shares how it all began in an Arizona convenience store.  We envision her third grade daughter’s whole-hearted venture into starting her own chicken business.  We are inspired through the hungry winter months where creativity saved them all from dietary boredom.

Without feeling as if we are being preached at, we read about the impact that our habits have on the environment, the economy and on the quality of our food.  We are asked to consider not just the financial costs of buying fruit and vegetables out of season, but the costs of nutrition and flavor, natural resources and the costs to our small farmers.

Ms. Kingsolver admits that she is the first one to miss having a convenient bag of chips nearby.   Her goal is to help us to appreciate the freshest, tastiest, and healthiest of foods that are readily available.  We need only look beyond the big box stores.
If you liked Barbara Kingsolver's insightful foray into non-fiction, you may also want to try her essay collections, High Tide in Tucson and Small Wonder.

Her fictional works include Prodigal Summer, Animal Dreams, The Bean Trees and The Poisonwood Bible, and as well as her latest, The Lacuna, which was the winner of the fiction prize at the 13th Annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle:  A Year of Food Life is available in standard and digital formats in VBPL's online catalog and on Overdrive, along with many of her other titles.

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