If you were to meet me on the street, you might get the impression that I’m a snob. I’m really not; it just takes me a long time to warm up to people, and it takes even longer for me to establish a long-lasting friendship. Even so, I had a sudden urge a few weeks ago to meet new people and make new friends; thus, I invited myself to my friend LFro’s book club at Well Fed Head Books .
In college, I did a really good job of faking what I read by listening to class discussions and responding intelligently, but I actually wanted to do the "assigned reading" for this, so I picked up Barbara Kingsolver ‘s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Michael Pollan ‘s The Omnivore’s Dilemma at my local library one week before the book club meeting. I only had time to read Kingsolver’s book, but even as I sped through it, it opened my eyes to the issues surrounding what we eat.
In the book, Kingsolver documents her family’s pact to eat only local food for an entire year. What they can’t grow on their own plot of land, they buy from neighbors and local farmers, and if they need something that can’t be found locally, they find a fair trade and/or organic version (i.e. coffee) or go with out (i.e. gummy worms). They start in April by growing asparagus and hunting morel mushrooms and end the following March by hatching turkey babies. In between, they grow every vegetable imaginable, can gobs of tomatos, harvest roosters, and store up enough food for the entire winter. In every chapter, Kingsolver’s husband Steven Hopp contributes sidebars with supplemental information and references, and her daughter Camille Kingsolver offers recipes and college student’s perspective. Truly, the book—just like their year of food life—is a family project.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up the book, but Kingsolver’s narrative drew me in, and soon I couldn’t put it down. Almost immediately, I started rethinking how I buy groceries for my family and where our food comes from. Yes, that was a little annoying, but I didn’t feel that Kingsolver was condemning me for eating bananas; she laid out what her family did and made me think it was possible for my family, too. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be growing an orchard in my backyard anytime soon, but I started buying local milk. And I found out that my local hardware stores gets produce from a farm in Arkansas, which is considerably closer and better than buying produce from California.
Some might not like this book because it sounds liberal or utopian or whatever, but I come from a blue-collar, working-class family who has practiced much of what Kingsolver preaches for years. They grow their own food, they raise their own meat, they live off the land, and they’re probably a lot healthier for it. Admittedly, food is a touchy subject for us all, but if you eat, you should consider reading this book and prepare to have your food paradigms shifted.