Monday, June 8, 2009
A True Story of Inspiration from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
Although I've been a foodie all my life, this spring I started gardening for the first time ever. As soon as I saw my first little sprouts peek out of their peat pots I was hooked. For further inspiration, my friends recommended I check out the book Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. The book is a true chronicle of one family's year long project of seasonal, local, eating. In the book Kingsolver and her family forgo almost everything not local. If they can't grow it themselves, they get it from neighborhood farms. I loved it!
The book begins with Kingsolver relocating husband and kids from Arizona to Virginia, where the climate is lush with water and life. (Go east coast!) They settle into her husband's family property and begin to plan out the good life. They don't give up coffee or olive oil--they make a few precious exceptions--but tropical fruits and California produce are forbidden.
Right away I realized Kingsolver makes my first gardening attempts look puny. I got over it, and if you read the book, you will too. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is very inspiring. Kingsolver describes how she and her family do it all: growing all their own veggies, making their own cheese, raising chickens for eggs, and even starting a flock of heritage breed turkeys. On the vegetable front, they impressively raise several varieties of a wide assortment of veggies. The flavor saver in me finds some valuable insights in every chapter. Kingsolver weaves together the days and weeks on her Virginia farm into a seasonal playbook of the good life. Month by month, she relates the phases of growth and speaks about agriculural and cultural politics. Interspersed through the book are essays from her husband Steven Hopp about health vs. government. Her daughter Camille chimes in with more inspring anecdotes and delicious recipes. The subtext of the entire book is that the sustainable life they've found is better in about a thousand different ways from the "mainstream" commercial world they left behind. From health to happiness, Kingsolver describes the many benefits of eating local!
On a personal level, this is a life I know I want to emulate, but I don't own acreage, nor am I a best selling author who has earned the kind of stable (home based) income that Barbara Kingsolver has. It's a lot more challenging to do what Kingsolver has done than to simply read about it, and going all out for a year just isn't realistic for most people.
Still, the book points out that even if you don't have a garden you can help your local farms by buying from them. And the book delivers a ton of other great information, sharing details on things such as canning and preserving. Finally and towards the end you get to the "money" chapter. Here Kingsolver totals what all her family's efforts costs... 50 cents per meal per person. Who doesn't want to spend less time in an office and more time enjoying food and nature with their families at a dramatic cost savings? The point of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle I think is to inspire people by showing the real tangible savings and intangible benefits that eating locally can provide.
If you're like me, you probably don't need any more inspiration to start or continue growing at least some of your own food this year. But Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a great read that will get you thinking about the possibilities of truly living local.