Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Kitchen Reader: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

August's pick for The Kitchen Reader was "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver, chosen by Karen at Shortbread South.

I'll admit I was a little worried when I started this book that it would be overly preachy, following so closely on the heels of Michael Pollan's book. What I liked about Barbara Kingsolver's book is that her family put their money where their mouths are and put the local eating philosophy into practice, though this did take the local movement to quite the extreme. I found the family's perspective on their year-long experiment (only eating food that they could raise themselves or purchase locally) to be entertaining, and for some reason I found the section describing the Amish farmers' interest in the hybrid car technology to be extremely funny.

I was probably the most surprised by the maturity level of the two daughters and their willingness to embrace this lifestyle, since oddly enough, I had a similar experience growing up. My parents decided in the early 80's to eschew processed and industrially farmed foods (vegetables and meat). Because there was barely any interest in environmentally conscious practices at the time (may have to do with the fact that I lived in Canada, the land of the few and far between), this decision forced us to move to the countryside where we proceeded to grow all the vegetables and fruit that was necessary to feed a family of 5 on a 4-acre piece of land in a rural subdivision. Luckily we didn't raise animals - there were farmers within the region who followed free-range practices, so I got used to seeing a full cow and 50 chickens in our freezers.

I did become a speedy sheller of peas, and quite proficient at blanching or canning to preserve the produce for the year, but I certainly didn't embrace those skills as a teenager (my parents made the full switch when I was 10). In fact, every opportunity I had as a teenager was one to eat junk food, and when I left for college it got worse to the point where I was almost solely existing on processed foods if not outright fast food. In retrospect, it's funny how I've come full circle - now I cook all my food from scratch, and while I will never attempt what my family still does and what the Kingsolver family did, I have started to seek out local products as much as possible. I credit my husband for the gradual reversal in my habits and preferences, which is in itself strange since he grew up eating vegetables out of a can.

That's where I'm not sure if I fully believe Camille's parts in the book (the older daughter) since she sure doesn't sound like a typical teenager. However, the most meaningful quote to me from the book was written by her, which was "Most of us agree to put away our sandals and bikinis when the leaves start to turn, even if they're our favorite clothes. We can learn to apply similar practicality to our foods." Figures it took a fashion reference to bring the point home for me.


Jennifer said...

LOVE your review-and what an interesting childhood experience for you. Thank you for sharing that with the rest of us! LOVE that quote by Camille!

Thank you for being part of The Kitchen Reader during its first year!!!!

Anonymous said...

That's a good observation about the children - I wouldn't think that most kids would have adapted so well. And how interesting that your family did something similar. I can't imagine it, and I certainly would have been seeking out junk food too!

Karen said...

Very interesting perspective! I think it happens to a lot of us - we go through a phase where we turn away from our upbringing, but eventually come back to the things we learned were good for us.

The fashion reference totally makes sense!

Sarah said...

Thanks for sharing your personal story--fascinating. The quote that stuck with me was "Food is not a product but a process" and to only come in at the end of the process is a bit naive. Interesting stuff.

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