Book Club Discussion: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I really enjoyed Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. For those of you who haven’t read the book, it’s a memoir-ish book about Kingsolver and her family’s year of living strictly on food they’d grown in their own garden or, when it was something they couldn’t produce themselve, bought locally.

For several years now I’ve wondered what it would be like if I had enough money to buy up some land and live off the earth. I have a grandmother and an aunt very much like Kingsolver. They had their own gardens and chickens and were very strict about what they would and would not eat. When I was younger I thought they were completely crazy, but now that I’m older I find myself wanting that way of life more and more. My parents also took up major gardening and animal raising after I’d moved out of the house and now I finally understand what they were trying to get to.

I really liked that Kingsolver’s book was not just a memoir, but also had pertinent information that might sway someone to decide to try eating locally or growing their own food. The informational boxes by her husband and the short essays and recipes from her daughter were some of my favorite parts of the book.

I also enjoyed her defense of farmers. I’ve been a newspaper reporter in two small towns, both filled with farmland, which gave me a lot of opportunities to meet and interview farmers. I grew to really admire their way of life and their ability to keep at it despite the numerous factors standing in their way. To someone who has never been on a farm, nor talked to farmers, Kingsolver’s descriptions may seem a little too poetic, but if you’ve ever been there you’d know that she’s pretty dead on. She mentions this in the book too, after going on vacation to meet with some of her Amish friends, one of her city friends teases her about how she described the farm as if there were no worries just because the farmers had time to commune with nature.

In the book there were also some parts that really stressed me out (the chapters about squash and tomatoes covering every surface of the house while they desperately tried to store and consume them). I currently have five tomato plants to take care of and have already been giving dozens of them away (luckily I don’t live in a rural place where everyone else is trying to do the same). I don’t know how I would cope with 50 tomato plants’ worth of tomatoes to deal with. This and learning to butcher animals would probably be the most difficult things for me if I decided to try living for a year off of food I produced myself. I think it would finally be the thing to push me into vegetarianism for real.

I think what I loved most about Kingsolver’s book is that it made me feel normal. Sometimes I think my friends think I’m crazy, like the year I decided to learn how to make jam and proceeded to give it to everyone as Christmas gifts. Reading about making your own cheese or canning tomatoes makes me want to rush out and buy all of the tools necessary so I can do it too.

Also, I loved Kingsolver constantly bringing up her issues with California produce. Kingsolver lives in Virginia and refuses to buy California produce because of how far it would have had to have been trucked in order to reach her supermarket. To her it’s upsetting that people think they can have produce all year round by trucking it in from far and wide. And I agree wholeheartedly. However, it’s easy for me to agree because I happen to be one of the lucky thousands to live IN California. That means I get fresh local produce, and a wide variety of it too, almost year round. Reading this book made me realize just how lucky I am to have that.

So what did you think? Did you like the book? Did you hate it? Do you think it would be possible to live this way in a city? What parts of the book did you like/hate? What would be the hardest thing for you to give up if you decided to eat only local foods? (For me, it would be bananas or pineapple.)

P.S. You can read other reviews of this book at:
The Hidden Side of a Leaf
Beastmomma
Living to Read

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Published in: on June 30, 2008 at 5:28 pm  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I am still working my way through the book. Here is my first post about it: http://beastmomma.squarespace.com/from-shelf-to-hand/2008/6/30/the-sunday-salon-15-animal-vegetable-miracle.html

    So far, I like the book. Although, I do find it to be preachy at times. I do not think that I could grow my own food. However, I am considering getting a CSA. Also, I DID NOT buy cherry tomatoes at the store yesterday because they were from CA.

  2. I forgot to answer one of your questions. For folks in a city, I think they could do a modified version of this by supporting businesses that have local produce. In a few weeks, I am going to hosting an in-person discussion about this book and I hope there is some good produce available from which to create the meal.

  3. Beastmomma: I’ve read a lot of reviews that said they found this book to be preachy. I didn’t get that feeling though, but maybe it’s because I agree with her. It’s easy to overlook preachiness when you’re in on it.

    I want to get a CSA too! It’s a bit expensive for me, but I’m going to try to find a way to make it work.

  4. I finally finished reading the book. Here is my review:
    http://beastmomma.squarespace.com/from-shelf-to-hand/2008/7/8/animal-vegetable-miracle.html

  5. I finally finished reading the book. Here is my review:
    http://beastmomma.squarespace.com/from-shelf-to-hand/2008/7/8/animal-vegetable-miracle.html


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