Cindy Klein, Fit Fare and Health Counselor – Have you ever wondered how far the lettuce traveled before it ended up on your sandwich, or if the farmers who grew your tomatoes make enough money to feed their families? Do you consider whether a vegetable is in season before you throw it in your stir-fry? Before reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, I hadn’t given any of these things much thought.
Yet Kingsolver has a beautiful and subtle way of turning you into a more conscious eater. This book is the true story of her family’s year-long commitment to eat only what they can grow on their own or buy from their neighbors. No more tomatoes in January or going out for sushi. They gave up the comfort of eating what they wanted when they wanted it in favor of eating what they could grow in the season nature intended it.
Could you do it? I’m not sure I could. The no sushi rule would have me sneaking out at midnight for a secret nigiri binge.
However, Kingsolver has such a wonderful way of describing the process – both the struggle and the joy – of eating in tune with nature that I’m rooting for her and inspired by her. When she describes her kitchen in the summer with the tomatoes piled high on the counters and canning jars bubbling on the stove, I feel like I’m right there with her and the image and concept of eating local sticks. I read this book in May, and I couldn’t touch a tomato until a couple weeks ago. I didn’t want something from Mexico or even California. I gave up eating tomatoes on my sandwiches in favor of living in tune with the ebb and flow of produce. That’s a tough concept for me, having grown up with grocery stores overflowing with every imaginable veggie, no matter what the season. I realize now that just because we can eat something doesn’t mean we should, especially when it doesn’t taste nearly as delicious as it does when we wait.
This eating experiment is a family-affair and so is the book. Kingsolver’s husband, Steven L. Hopp, and her daughter, Camille Kingsolver, each add their own perspectives as contributors. Hopp peppers the book with sidebars detailing the politics of local eating, adding thoughts about oil consumption and reflections on the Farm Bill. Camille adds one of my favorite things about this book: recipes. Each chapter covers a different month, and at the end of the chapter are recipes utilizing the food that’s in season during that time. Camille is in college, so not only does she add yummy food ideas, she also brings in a younger voice and thoughts about how her generation looks at food. I tried her recipe for zucchini chocolate chip cookies, and I was a very happy girl.
This book offers both an escape into someone else’s life and a lesson in fruits and vegetables. Combine a good story with a great moral, throw in some yummy recipes and you’ve got yourself a Healthy Book Club winner.