Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, Barbara Kingsolver (2007)
I have mixed feelings about this book. It took me an inordinately long time to get through, over three months. (I’ll explain why in a bit.) It was very readable and informative, but often, the tone just turned me off.
First, the good. This is a memoir about a year that Kingsolver and her family spent trying to eat as locally as possible, down to growing and raising most of their own food, and supplementing that at the farmers market and local purveyors. Several sections of the book are quite inspiring. When Kingsolver describes the satisfaction she derives from working her garden and canning her produce, it makes me want to get into my own garden and really bring it to life (even though it’s the dead of winter). Her account of a trip to Italy is mouth-watering, and her descriptions of breeding turkeys that have forgotten how to “get it on,” so to speak, are hilarious.
I learned a lot too, especially about planning a garden, eating seasonally and preserving food. Recipes are provided throughout, and I marked several I want to try, especially for homemade mozzarella.
But quite often, the tone of the narrative becomes hectoring, lecturing, not pleasant to read. I consider myself fairly well-educated about local and sustainable eating, but Kingsolver still managed to make me feel guilty about not doing enough. Such a militant tone can be quite a turnoff, which led me to putting down the book for weeks at a time. Not all of us have the luxury of time or space to grow such a large garden or slaughter our own chickens. Surely it’s enough to be concerned with where our food comes from and how it’s produced without all the residual–and useless–guilt. Michael Pollan manages to tackle similar issues without using such a heavy hand; Kingsolver’s heart is in the right place, but she needs to take care not to turn off the very people she is trying to convert.
So I can only give Animal, Vegetable, Miracle a lukewarm recommendation. Still, a recipe for homemade mozzarella may more than make up for the book’s weaknesses.
Related articles by Zemanta
Tagged: Barbara Kingsolver