Monday, March 4, 2013

Book Review: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver


Author Barbara Kingsolver and her family took a pledge several years ago to spend an entire year only eating food that they grow themselves or that is grown in their local area. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life is a sort of memoir of that year in which Kingsolver, her husband and her oldest daughter share stories about their year as well as their thoughts about the food industry in general.

The book is split into monthly chapters in which Kingsolver tells about the work they're doing on the farm, what they're planting or harvesting at that time of year, what their animals are doing, and what they're eating. It's actually quite interesting to hear what is actually in season in Virginia each month, and how they learn to be creative in terms of how they use the foods they grow. She also shares quite a lot of detail about the turkeys and chickens that they raise and harvest ~ in case you're a little squeamish, you may want to skip the chicken harvesting chapter!

About halfway through Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I was telling people that it had already changed the way my family eats. I went to the store and bought organic milk for the first time; I doubt I'll buy non-organic milk again. Reading this book also led to my choosing organic and heirloom seeds this year for my garden, and I've become more committed to buying the majority of our vegetables from the farmer's market (we already buy almost all of our meat and eggs from a local farm).

But I have to admit, I'm not ready to jump in as far as the Kingsolvers. And I couldn't. After all, I don't have a farm of my own! I do intend to cut back on processed foods but I don't expect we'll ever cut them out completely. I'll try to choose more organic foods and avoid GMOs as much as possible. And I may even try making cheese this year, but I doubt I'll go as far as giving up most fruits because they don't grow in my area of the country.

With all that said, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a dense book. I'm a book blogger. I read a lot of books. Yet it took me three weeks to get through this book, and I didn't pick up another book during that time! It just went on and on and on. It's one of those books that is very wordy, but I didn't want to skip over anything for fear of missing an interesting point. It is full of wonderful information, though. I particularly enjoyed the sections at the end of each chapter written by Kingsolver's daughter. She offers some interesting recipes as well. Kingsolver's husband provides some sidebars throughout the book on more policy and technical topics, but I found them hard to read since they were located within the middle of each chapter.

Overall, I'd recommend this book if you're interested in learning more about where your food comes from and how to eat more locally. But keep in mind that it will take a while to get through it. I am glad I read it. It has changed my life more than many other books I've read, and I expect I will refer back to it as I expand my own garden and look for more ways to provide my family with a healthy diet.

My Rating: 4/5

This review was written based on a copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle that I purchased.

6 comments:

  1. This book has been of interest to me since it came out, but I still haven't gotten around to reading it.

    We are definitely more focused on eating locally these days. Two years ago, we joined our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and I just love getting super-fresh, seasonal, organic veggies grown right down the road! It only runs from June through October, though, so we are stuck with supermarket offerings the rest of the year. I have changed my buying habits, though, and try to only buy US-grown produce - and local when I can find it.

    Thanks for the great review - I need to finally read this book!

    Sue

    Book By Book

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    1. That's how we get our meat - through a CSA. Luckily it runs all year. We haven't joined the produce CSA because we like to pick out veggies and fruits that we know we'll eat. We try to get to the farmer's market at least a few times a month. And we're very fortunate that it's also open all year. Of course, in the winter it's mostly greens and potatoes!

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  2. I liked this book until I didn't. I was really enjoying it until I just got to the point where I got tired of her lecturing. I'm glad I read it and I think about it often, but I can't recommend it wholeheartedly.

    My review is here: http://www.rosecityreader.com/2009/01/review-of-day-animal-vegetable-miracle.html

    I'd like to link your review to mine. If you don't mind, please leave a comment on mine with a link to yours and I will add it to my post.

    Rose City Reader

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    1. I have to agree that she does get a bit preachy at times. I think I would have enjoyed it more if it were cut down to about 2/3 the length.

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  3. I've recently moved to Ithaca NY where it's very easy to be green and local in your living choices so I'm trying to change my habits to take advantage of that. This books sounds a bit extreme, but it seems like it was still useful to you, so I might give it a try :)

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    1. Somehow it has taken me two years to notice this comment! I went to school in Ithaca. It's a beautiful place and definitely an area where it's easy to be green!

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