Thursday, July 10, 2008

Book Review: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I checked my book list eagerly after finishing 352 pages of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Finally, I would be able to check one of the 54 books I've written down off my growing document. (Checking things off is a therapeutic past-time for me.) But, much to my disappointment, I never wrote it down! I don't regret the time I spent reading, but I was a bit annoyed that I have only added to my list, with not a one checked off! My next book, Lies My Teacher Told Me, IS on my list...however, it's a bit of a heavy summer read, so we'll see how that goes. I have to be done with environmental, foody books--for awhile, at least. I can't put them down, and they become like an addiction, whereas I don't think Mark has much to worry about in the way of competition for the others on the list, like say The Fountainhead.

AVM reminded me of The Omnivore's Dilemma, so much so that checked dates to see who was stealing from who. Both Pollen and Kingsolver attempt to objectively provide facts about CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), local food traditions, mushroom hunting, and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup). The similarities were striking, to say the least. However, I love Kinsgolver's wit and style, as well as the plethora of resources in the sidebars provided by Steven Hopp, her husband, and recipes by Camille, her daughter. She writes about the year her family became "locavores", only eating food that had been grown within a 100ish mile radius. Most of the food actually came from their own garden. I'd love to replicate the year, but 1. We need our own house and land to build a garden that large, 2. I'd need to seriously reconsider my job as a founding teacher at the new PCA due to time constraints, and 3. Mark would never go for no bananas. =) I definitely will be thinking twice, and a third time, when I lust over tropical fruits that I just know weren't grown over in Norwell, MA. I have also decided, quite triumphantly, that I am a selective vegetarian; that is, I will no longer eat meat from CAFOs, which greatly limits my selection. However, I feel like I've come home. This decision has been brewing in me for awhile, and for the most part I really don't eat many abused animals - with the exception of restaurants and other peoples' homes. Now, I finally feel like I have the strength to say, "no thanks!" And it is a multi-faceted decision - moral, environmental, nutritional, ecological, which makes counter-arguments that much more unconvincing.

Kingsolver may get a little preachy at times, but I'm Amen-ing her message! I think some of the chapters could be off-putting, or dismissed at slightly insane, to those who can't quite reconcile the idea that seasons are for reasons, and eating outside the season isn't always the best idea. I'd recommend this to serious gardeners, Kingsolver fans, and anyone interested in learning about ways to improve the world, one tomato plant at a time!

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