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Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

December 2nd, 2009 (09:37 pm)

current mood: curious

I'm reading novelist Barbara Kingsolver's memoir, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I'm not even halfway through the book yet, so this is based on an incomplete reading. But so far I'm finding it to be an intriguing and well-written book about a year-long experiment in sustainable eating that she and her family undertook. (Don't worry; I'm not including any spoilers here.)

Kingsolver, her husband, and her two daughters moved from their home in non-food-producing Tucson to a small farm they owned in the mountains of Virginia. There, they grew and raised much of their own food and bought most of the rest from local farmers. With a few exceptions, they chose to eat only food from local sources. They did it out of concern for the amount of energy consumed by processing, packaging, and transporting most of the food we eat; out of outrage at the long-reaching implications of the commercialization of the food-producing industry; and for the better taste and nutrition of produce grown locally from seeds that have not been genetically altered and animal products raise locally using humane methods.

I agree with her reasons and her concerns. And I respect what she was trying to do. I try to do some of this as well, but on a much, much smaller scale. I compost. I buy some of my produce at a local farmer's market. And I pay attention to where things are grown when I select them at the grocery store, though that doesn't mean I buy only local foods.

But it seems like such an enormous sacrifice to give up all fruits and vegetables that cannot be grown locally or that are not currently in season locally. All winter long without fresh fruit? I'd really, really, really hate that. Yes, apples that have traveled here from New Zealand may have lost some flavor en route, but I still prefer them to no apples at all. Of course, as a vegetarian, I'd never consider the raising-and-slaughtering-your-own livestock idea. But I also lack all patience and skill with gardening, let alone actual farming. I am married to someone who is a more skilled and enthusiastic gardener than I am, so we do grow some vegetables of our own. I just can't take credit for anything but picking them off the vines.

Still, this book is making me think harder about the foods we're buying and eating. I felt hyper-conscious -- and a little bit guilty -- last night as I sat here reading the book while eating a dish of grapes grown in California!

I am definitely hitting the farmer's market this weekend.


Posted by: dragonet2 (dragonet2)
Posted at: December 3rd, 2009 03:10 am (UTC)
I commend the idea

but I think you live in an even more clement place than I do.

Here in the KC area, you;'re out of luck from October to about May. You CAN overwinter apples, pears and the hard squashes, and cellar/sand root vegetables, but you have to be prepared to do the work.

Though except for the cabbage (no marker where it came from) and the boullion cubes, the rest of the greens for my soup (kale and chard) were grown here in KC. And came out of my freezer.

That said, one of my favorite reference books for living in the fantasy lands I write in is "Lost Country Life," by Dorothy Hartley (Pantheon Books, 1980). It walks through the rituals of the year when there were no power tools, no electricity, nothing but people living in communities on the land.

Posted by: petrini1 (petrini1)
Posted at: December 3rd, 2009 03:43 am (UTC)
Re: I commend the idea

Yes, we do have a warmer climate and milder winters, though you probably have better soil. But I'm useless at gardening and canning, and really don't want to work that hard at it, either! My husband plants some vegetables every year. But at the end of the season, that's it. We don't have the storage space to want to keep months' worth of local produce around, canned or otherwise.

I did make some pies this month from fresh pumpkins, not canned!

I'll look for Lost Country Life. I tend to re-read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books for my glimpses of how things are done without modern technology (and grocery stores).

Posted by: dragonet2 (dragonet2)
Posted at: December 3rd, 2009 05:29 am (UTC)
Re: I commend the idea

My father was a great gardener and when they moved out to the farm where he could have a HUGE garden, I helped my mother deal with the waterfall of produce so we could enjoy it through the winter.

You just about need staff to deal with the job if most of the folks in the household are trying to make enough money to keep the household going.

It would be beyond my dealing with.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: December 5th, 2009 12:33 am (UTC)

I enjoy gardening and I've liked Kingsolver's other books but I found this book to be a bit high and mighty -like we should all be learning how to craft artisan cheese. Sort of felt like Martha Stewart could have been her neighbor and friend. A lot of things she was able to do on account of she's a gazillionaire and not just because she was "living off the land."

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