book review: animal, vegetable, miracle by barbara kingsolver

May 18, 2010

As the author herself describes it, “This is the story of a year in which we made every attempt to feed ourselves animals and vegetables whose provenance we really knew…and of how our family was changed by our first year of deliberately eating food produced from the same place where we worked, went to school, loved our neighbors, drank the water, and breathed the air.”

Sounds like a nice little memoir, but this book is much more than just their family’s story of eating nothing but local, organic food. It’s also a well-researched defense for this way of life, and I have to say, I’m sold. Give me a few acres of land and a pitchfork and I’ll learn to garden & farm to my heart’s content.

OK, maybe I won’t go that far. But seriously, this book has had an enormous impact on me. It has hit me from all sides: logically, emotionally, medically, ethically, and even spiritually. It is impossible for me to eat the same way – or even shop the same way – now that I’ve read this book.

Already I’ve made changes. If there’s an organic option at the grocery store, I’m choosing it. In fact, I’ve started frequenting farmer’s markets and all-organic stores like Georgia’s Market. Sometimes it’s really hard to do, because the price difference is noticeable, but to buy conventional food now would require me to actively ignore what I know to be true, and I just can’t do that. I’m not going to get into it here, because I couldn’t even scratch the surface – and that’s what the book’s for.

I want to make even more changes eventually. I signed up for a class to learn how to make my own cheese and dairy products at home, for example. And I want to learn how to garden, although I didn’t know the first thing about it before reading this book. I couldn’t have even told you what fruits or vegetables are in season when, except that watermelons are for summer and pumpkins are for fall. I have a backyard, and I don’t want to use it just as a giant toilet for my dogs. I want to grow things, and eat them.

Does this sound boring? It’s not. If you’ve ever read anything by Barbara Kingsolver you know that she writes beautifully, and this holds true for nonfiction. (Incidentally, if you’ve never read The Poisonwood Bible do so as soon as you can. You’re welcome.) I was captivated from beginning to end, and never felt the words coming across were judgmental or snobbish.

I may not ever like vegetables as much as the next girl, but I do plan on retasting some of the ones I previously rejected: asparagus, for one. And I may not ever be able to tell the difference between a Yukon Gold and an All-Blue potato, but I do believe I can make a difference with the way I eat.

Posted in: books & reading, book reviews, books & reading

Comments on book review: animal, vegetable, miracle by barbara kingsolver

  1. 1

    From Krista:

    Love, love, love this post! Nothing makes me more happy then when I read or here that people are making changes to their food supply. Knowledge is power and this is a great book!

  2. 2

    From Ashley:

    Years ago when I read the Poisonwood Bible, I heard that she was working on this project, but I didn’t realize the book was already out.

  3. 3

    From B:

    I second what Krista said. Knowledge is power, and if more people knew how the simple choices they make affect everything around us, I can guarantee more people would choose differently.

    I think I may add this to my summer reading list!

  4. 4

    From becca:

    I would like to comment on the asparagus. I had never had asparagus prior to this spring. However, with our new house we inherited a gigantic garden plot that is already beautifully composted and rich. Our garden was producing asparagus when we moved in and we have had it several times a week for a month or so. I have heard that asparagus is gross, but fresh from the garden it is amazing! All to say, give EVERYTHING another shot when you grow it. The taste is completely different!

  5. 5

    From Scott:

    Is asparagus particularly good for you that you mention it specifically? I was tempted to start a garden this spring, but I lost the motivation in the end.

  6. 6

    From kapachino:

    I mention it because it is one vegetable that I have always thought is gross, and the way she describes the taste of a fresh asparagus makes me want to give it another chance! Because honestly, I haven’t eaten one since I was young, and have refused to try it since then. :)

  7. 7

    From Ashley:

    ahhh yes. asparagus is delicious. also cucumbers are really easy to grow in houston. we had a little cucumber patch in our backyard for awhile

  8. 8

    From Lauren From Texas:

    I want to read this! But I’m a little scared because organic is so expensive. Eep.

  9. 9

    From nic:

    Kat. I could talk for hours on the subject of food… After reading this book a few years ago, we strictly bought our food at our farmer’s market, which was amazing. ( I also gardened the last two years, but I still need lots of practice.) I didn’t realize quite how lucky I was until I went to the Fort Worth farmer’s market. And then I spent the rest of the day sulking and thinking of moving back to PDX. I now know that for me CSAs are the best option here. It limits my choices, but it’s still better than purchasing whatever is at the grocery store.

    Now when you’ve got this down and are ready for a new challenge, pick up Eating Animals. :)

    But seriously, if you ever want to ramble on about this sort of thing, just email me!

  10. 10

    From kapachino:


    I think I’ll have to just drive up to Ft. Worth sometime so we can REALLY talk. :) The farmer’s market in Katy is tiny. I’m sure there are better ones in Houston but it’s too much of a drive. This is going to be long process! I don’t know what the gist of Eating Animals is, but I liked Kingsolver’s position on the issue.

    Miss you!

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