by Barbara Kingsolver, Stephen L. Hopp, and Camille Kingsolver; read by the author(s)
Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors; I have read and loved most of her previous books, notably The Bean Trees, Pigs in Heaven, Animal Dreams, and The Poisonwood Bible. I remember enjoying her first collection of essays, High Tide in Tucson. She writes wonderfully, so reading her is always a pleasure.
This, her newest book, is about her family’s year of “eating locally.” Soon after moving from Tucson to a small mountain farm in southwestern Virginia, theKingsolver-Hopp family put into action the plan they had been hatching for about seven years: that of eating only what they grew themselves or bought from farmers in their region or state. They planted a large vegetable garden and ordered chicks and turkey poults; the farm already had some fruit trees. The book follows their odyssey for a full year, beginning with asparagus, the first spring vegetable, and continuing through greens, tomatoes, infinite amounts of zucchini, turkey “harvest”, and tubers, followed by frozen and canned foods purchased and harvested throughout the growing season, which sustained the family through the winter. Barbara’s chronological narrative alternates with shorter sections by Stephen (on the science and politics behind the local food movement) and Camille (on nutritional aspects of local vs. ag-industry food). The youngest member of the family, Lily, did not participate in the writing, but she plays an important role in the book as the family’s egg maven (a born entrepreneur, she started her egg business at the age of 6 with mail-order chicks).
The book meshed very well with other books I have read recently, in particular The Ravaging Tide, because the fossil fuels used to transport mass-produced food long distances is implicated in global warming, and My Year of Meats, because long before they committed themselves to local food, the Kingsolver-Hopp family gave up eating feedlot beef and other products made from or by animals living in close confinement and denied any sort of normal existence (hogs, chickens, dairy cows…). Before they began to eat local, that had meant vegetarianism, but they resumed eating meat, poultry and eggs and consuming dairy products when they were sure that the animals had lived a more natural life and had been slaughtered humanely. As an ethical vegetarian myself, I found Kingsolver’s chapter on the pros and cons of vegetarianism very enlightening. It doesn’t make me want to eat meat again, but it makes sense.
My favorite chapter, the one that had me laughing out loud, was the one near the end of the book about turkey sex. It seems that domestic turkeys, having been artificially bred and incubated for many generations, have kind of lost the knack for natural reproduction. How Barbara managed to learn about the lost art of turkey breeding and then persuade her turkeys to mate had me in stitches. I also enjoyed Kingsolver’s descriptions of her and Stephen’s trip to Italy, where they ate their way through Tuscany, but in fact, I loved the whole book. It definitely inspired me to try to eat more locally grown foods, something I had actually never really considered as important before I read it.
More information and recipes can be found at http://www.animalvegetablemiracle.com/.
The three co-authors narrated their own contributions to the book.