Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver

A family moves from its home in Arizona to a farm in southern Appalachia and, by trial and error, build a new life reflecting on the age old saying: “We are what we eat.” Throughout this work are detailed accounts of the art of growing vegetables, fruit trees, and raising animals for human consumption. Barbara Kingsolver asks:

Will North Americans ever have a food culture to call our own? Can we find or make up a set of rituals, recipes, ethics, and buying habits that will let us love our food and eat it too? Some signs point to “yes.” Better food – more local, more healthy, more sensible – is a powerful new topic of the American conversation.” … 

This book tells the story of what we learned or didn’t, what we ate, or couldn’t, and how our family was changed by one year of deliberately eating food produced in the same place where we worked, loved our neighbors, drink the water, and breathe the air.

Daughter Camille and husband Steven L.  Hopp contribute throughout the text with collaborating essays and mouthwatering recipes. Some of Kingsolver’s discourses surround controversy all topics such as global climate change;  CAFO’s, or concentrated animal feeding operations, commonly known as factory farms; genetic modification, currently known as GMO, or genetically modified organisms: fair trade: and pesticides , to name a few. Kingsolver’s emphasis is on growing our own produce in our backyard and becoming regular customers a farmers’ markets, whose vendors sell local and organic produce.

One section of the book is devoted almost exclusively to the authors’ curiosity and eventual observing and caring for the family’s Bourbon Red turkeys and their offspring, which is quite comical and interesting. Several chapters give accounts of the family’s endeavors of seed saving, harvesting, and freezing are canning items when the season has passed.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is filled with helpful anecdotes, such as what to eat when the food is out of season. It is not preachy, but commonsensical and witty. There is an extensive references and resource section at the back of the book for additional research. And the authors have added a handy online site with recipes specific to the four seasons. Check it out here.

—Laurie Jones

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