1.05.2009

And Back! BookReview

I hope everyone's begun a wonderful, healthy, happy new year. I'm finally back from my seemingly endless, 8-day venture "back east" and ...I could use another vacation. We saw tons of lovely people, I had a delightful breakfast with my bridesmaids, and TheBoy and I spent a great deal of time just bonding and getting along together.

Over the vacation, I made some progress on a number of eco-related things, chief of which included finishing "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle." Kingsolver's book really urged me to look hard at the way and things I eat. Unlike Pollan's, "The Omnivore's Dilemma," which really only made me feel guilty about eating, Kingsolver's uplifting views challenged me to work toward a positive, wholesome food outlook.
Now, I loved "The Omnivore's Dilemma," but I felt that Pollan only presented negatives -- what not to eat -- a completely valid piece, but his only positive options were too inaccessible for me. "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" could easily have been equally inaccessible, considering that it takes place on a rural farm in Appalachia, but Kingsolver worked hard to bridge the considerable gap between temperate Virginia and my home here in Southern California, land of the endless growing season.

Book Summary: "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year in Food Life" is, as the title suggests, primarily about food. The author's family moves from Tuscon to Southern Appalachia to ahcieve a year of local-only eating, with all the necessary steps involved in that decision. Kingsolver presents a concept of the "vegetannual," a fictional everyplant that represents all stages and seasons of plant production. We move from the seedlings and greens, in the vegetannual's spring, to fruits in the summer, to roots and squash in the autumn. The winter season bears harvests "put by" in cans along with dried and frozen goods. Kingsolver animates their year of food life with highlights from a family vacation, a Tuscan second honeymoon, and generous dashes of good humor.

There are no bananas in the Kingsolver kitchen, but this delightful book provides plenty of interest with husband Steven L. Hopp's brief, on-topic essays about ecology and where to find more information along with daughter Camille's fantastic recipes and youthful interjections. The book is light-hearted and interesting, reads clearly and with pleasure, and provides a wealth of knowledge along with completely approachable topics. The accompanying website provides an index to the book and also a complete listing of all the recipes, including the 30-Minute Mozzarella (pdf) that I'm dying to try out.

Overall, I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in getting more involved with their food, food choices, and health. "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" is a wonderful book brimming with knowledge and good taste.

Incidentally, I'm not the only one to read books about food lately -- TheBoy is embarking on the audio book version of "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and Farmer's Daughter reviewed "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" on her ever-delightful blog.

3 comments:

janice said...

Our book group, which reads mostly fiction (but no lightweight, fluffy stuff, and no Oprah picks, either), is looking for good reads for 2009.

Do you think that Kingsolver's book would have enough to keep a discussion going for an hour or so? Or would it be more of a "yeah, that's so true!" or "i had no idea!" sort of talk?

Opinions would be greatly appreciated!

psuklinkie said...

@Janice: don't knock Oprah so quickly! She picks some pretty worthy stuff every now and then, like "Night" and "100 Years of Solitude."
"Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" is actually not a work of fiction, so if you're looking for fiction, you might try some of her other, excellent novels like "The Poisonwood Bible." Her website actually has information specifically designed for book groups. http://www.kingsolver.com/home/index.asp
To your original question, though, I'd definitely recommend "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" to a book group. A good deal of the discussion might just be the "wow" sort, but Kingsolver raises many valid, controversial points in the book and her husband's brief essays are excellent discussion points.
This book would be excellent to read in conjunction with other foodie books like "The Omnivore's Dilemma."

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