Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Book Reviews: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I love Barbara Kingsolver.  I've read most of her books, and I've been meaning to check out Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for awhile.  I got it from the library recently and I'm pleased to say that it is, in fact, as good as I had hoped.  If you've read Prodigal Summer, you'll recognize some of the same science and some of the same characteristics of a small Appalachian town.

There is one major downside of this book, which is that it will make you want a garden, or better yet, a farm.  I've never before wanted chickens, but after reading about having chickens, I suddenly want chickens and fresh eggs of my own.  (We have two fish I never feed, so don't worry Dad, I'm not getting chickens.)  I want a garden that grows an excessive amount of summer squash and I want to plant and harvest my own garlic and keep it in a root cellar.  I want tomatoes at the ready, for easy salads and bruschetta and so I can make panzella!

I was in fact, on such a kick, that I investigated community gardens in Baltimore.  All but the furthest from us are full for the season, so we'll try again next year, especially after our CSA (yes, we signed up for it) tells us what is excess and what we will want to grow more of for ourselves.

There are a few overarching themes in the book - one of them is a wee bit offensive, a sort of self-righteousness that can be expected from somebody who raises backyard chickens.  There is a chapter that talks about dairy laws without any acknowledgement of why the laws were put in place initially (although her point that we regulate the milk industry much more than the meat industry is well taken.)  There are moments where you want to scream out, "I have a job! I can't make my own cheese!" There are times where she makes things seem so simple and easy that you wonder why you haven't been canning your own tomatoes for ages.

The book doesn't focus that much on the major problems with factory farming, instead focusing more on the positives of buying locally grown, sustainable, or organic.  It talks about the problems with labeling things "free range" or "cage free".  And I think these are things that are worth thinking about, even if you don't want to think about how your food is treated before it gets to your table.

I have not reached the end yet, but already, this book is changing the way I think and feel about food, and I highly recommend it to anyone who a) likes vegetables b) likes to know more about their food, or c) likes Barbara Kingsolver.

I'll probably be on the lookout for more books about food, but I find non-fiction books that are really heavy on the science to be unenjoyable reading.  (I spend my days reading non-fiction, why would I do it at home?) So I'm on the hunt for good, light, enjoyable books about food.  Not books that will make me feel sick to my stomach about how I've been eating, but books that make me want to make positive changes in the way my family eats.  Any recommendations?

1 comment:

  1. That was a great book! I got a little annoyed at pretty much the same things you did though. I wanted to say to her, "yeah, maybe I'd be able to grow all my own food too if my publisher paid me in advance for the book I was going to write about it! But that part aside, it did motivate me to can my own tomato sauce last summer!

    I have only read one other book of hers (so far): The Poisonwood Bible. I loved that one too.

    Sadly, I can't think of any food related books to recommend to you that didn't make me feel a little sick inside while reading them. I will check back here in hopes that someone else can think of some!