Saturday, August 15, 2009

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Sometimes I don't discover great books for a year or so after they're published. Too busy with life and other things. This is the case with Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I always thought of her as a novelist. Not normally a fan of novels, I lean toward nonfiction, particularly history, and usually listen to my books with an Ipod Touch while driving. I'm a library rat, and my public library has a terrific selection of books to download for IPods, other mp3 players, ebook readers and computers.

When I ran across Kingsolver's book, I was immediately attracted to the library's description of their adventure in Appalachia. Best of all, this was definitely not a novel. I'll read anything about the Appalachian Mountains, which I dearly love, and I decided to download the book. Wow. Truly. It's just a pleasure to fire up the Ipod every morning and listen to this account of a family moving to a farm and embarking on a grand experiment to eat only what they raise or what is grown locally. Listening to Kingsolver's descriptions of their lucious black cherries, apples, lettuces, it just puts you in a good frame of mind. She even makes asparagus sound appetizing.

Now, would it make me feel as good if I were reading it, rather than listening to the author's soft, gentle descriptions of the family adventures? I assume so.

If you're looking for a good book, try this one out. Here is its website: You can pick a softcover up on for $10-12.00, or check it out at your local library. I think you'll like it.

Here's a partial review from Publishers Weekly:
Reviewed by Nina Planck.

Novelist Kingsolver recounts a year spent eating home-grown food and, if not that, local. Accomplished gardeners, the Kingsolver clan grow a large garden in southern Appalachia and spend summers "putting food by," as the classic kitchen title goes. They make pickles, chutney and mozzarella; they jar tomatoes, braid garlic and stuff turkey sausage.

Nine-year-old Lily runs a heritage poultry business, selling eggs and meat. What they don't raise (lamb, beef, apples) comes from local farms. Come winter, they feast on root crops and canned goods, menus slouching toward asparagus. Along the way, the Kingsolver family, having given up industrial meat years before, abandons its vegetarian ways and discovers the pleasures of conscientious carnivory.

Kingsolver takes the genre to a new literary level; a well-paced narrative and the apparent ease of the beautiful prose makes the pages fly. Her tale is both classy and disarming, substantive and entertaining, earnest and funny.

(Kingsolver)makes short, neat work of complex topics: what's risky about the vegan diet, why animals belong on ecologically sound farms, why bitterness in lettuce is good. Kingsolver's clue to help greenhorns remember what's in season is the best I've seen. You trace the harvest by botanical development, from buds to fruits to roots. Kingsolver is not the first to note our national "eating disorder" and the injuries industrial agriculture wreaks, yet this practical vision of how we might eat instead is as fresh as just-picked sweet corn.

The narrative is peppered with useful sidebars on industrial agriculture and ecology (by husband Steven Hopp) and recipes (by daughter Camille), as if to show that local food—in the growing, buying, cooking, eating and the telling—demands teamwork.

Nina Planck is the author of Real Food: What to Eat and Why (Bloomsbury USA, 2006). Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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