Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I first became familiar with Barbara Kingsolver's work when a friend recommended her wonderful novel The Poisonwood Bible. I was looking through the food/cookbook section at the library and was surprised to see a non-fiction book called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I checked it out, not only because I know from experience that she is a great storyteller, but also because I was interested in her family's experience of a year of eating local food. Her family was hard-core dedicated.  They moved from arid Arizona to Virginia farmland, grew their own produce, and raised their own poultry. Pretty much the only non-local food that they consumed was coffee and wheat flour.

Brett teased that this book was hippie propaganda. I do admit that it was preachy at times, but everything it said made sense. Why shouldn't we know, or at least question, where our food comes from and how it was raised? I've never really thought about the bananas I buy every week traveling thousands of miles to get to my grocery cart. Am I okay with the fact that gazillions of gallons of fossil fuel was used to transport them? I like to think of myself as a pretty environmentally conscious person, so I shouldn't be okay with that. When Kingsolver talked about practically all produce traveling from California, I felt reassured. I thought at least I live in California, so it's not really traveling that far to get to me.

Newly educated on the intricacies of eating local, I was checking snow peas off my grocery list and just happened to notice the label above the bin that read, "Product of Guatemala." Guatemala?! Ugh. I still bought them, but at least I'm aware of where they come from now. At least I thought to look! Mushrooms- "Product of USA." That's not helpful. The United States is a HUGE country- I know, I've driven across it twice! I even looked at the free range eggs. Maybe I'll start going to the farmer's market. One thing is for sure, this book has changed the way I think about food.  I hope that after this thinking period, that it will start to change the way I eat.

I will never have a farm like Kingsolver has, and I definitely will never raise (and harvest) chickens, but I would like to have a garden and grow some food someday. If you look beyond the "hippie propaganda", this book is really about the joy of gardening, cooking, and eating. The fresh avocados our friend gave us last week were a tangible reminder that food doesn't have to come from the store. We can grow it!

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