After I finished reading The Hidden Art of Homemaking, I moved on to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, a book I began reading last year and then never finished. I started again from the beginning and, wow, what a great book.
The book follows the author’s family for a year as they commit to eating only locally. It documents her [substantial!] gardening and farming efforts, her cheese-making and local market shopping, her canning and freezing and drying. Through this book, we’re given the chance to learn from their journey and to understand more of the economic and health problems that are part of our modern-day food system.
One theme that came up frequently (and one I mulled on quite a bit) was that of everything having its own season. As Americans, we have little understanding of this principle– in many areas of our lives– and we think nothing of buying a bunch of grapes in November or half a dozen fresh bell peppers in January. We under-estimate the waste that goes into getting those foods to our locale when they are not in season, nor do we appreciate how much better they would taste if we would simply wait to eat them freshly harvested. I’m as guilty as the next of living with an on-demand paradigm, but I have found myself thinking about and purchasing food differently after reading this book.
Another great concept in the book is that of using food and mealtimes to strengthen family relationships. I loved reading about the author’s family as they gardened together, cooked together, ate together. Kingsolver notes a few things that were lost with the feminist revolution: women who nurture their family, children who grow up with a healthy connection to food, and family mealtimes. I love her challenge to us to reclaim these areas of our lives.
Kingsolver is candid and at times brutal in her assessment of the average American’s relationship to food, but I think she’s also right for the most part. There are some excerpts that I have copied down just to keep me on track in my quest to make sure the food I serve my family is true to my desire to give them love and health. But more than just sharing her assessments, Kingsolver goes on to share the Why behind the healthier and smarter choices and, in doing so, arms her readers with practical knowledge that is easy to understand and simple to apply.
On the downside, the author often espouses a worldview that I, believing that Jesus is the only way to heaven and that men are not intrinsically good, don’t agree with, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a million other insights that each of us could learn from. As with any book, you have to “chew the meat and spit out the bones.”
I also found the book a bit long at times. However, if you like memoirs you will probably enjoy every bit of detail and description Kingsolver takes the time to share.
Overall, I give this book two thumbs up and 4 out of 5 stars.