TITLE/AUTHOR: Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
GENRE: Non Fiction
Animal Vegetable Miracle is the story of Barbara Kingsolver and her family who for a year live on food that they grow or buy locally within the same county that they live. The story itself is entertaining and heartwarming. Her daughter with her notebook, trying to determine if she can sell enough eggs to buy a horse; the farm’s history and the story of her friends not knowing that potatoes have leaves and a plant aspect.
As a friend had described the book, it was very much a Slow Food manifesto. There were a number of principles that she discussed that I was following along with for the ride:
Grow your own food. Whether it’s a little herb garden in your apartment window or a full fledge garden, grow some of your own produce. I have a patio that has a number of different plants growing from a small orange, fig and lemon trees to zucchini and tomatoes. Gardening is great therapy and so rewarding to be able to eat food that you grow yourself.
Buy from local sources. This can be done through farmers markets or subscribing to a CSA. Farmers markets are really great, with local small business and some amazing (CHEAP) produce. There are about 3 or 4 farmers markets that I really love here in Orange county. As well, CSA are a lot of fun.
Reconnect with your food. We as a society have forgotten where our food comes from. We don’t remember that our plants actually grow in dirt. We go to a grocery store where all the produce has all of the dirt scrubbed off, anything with a spot that doesn’t make it “pretty” is thrown out and there is a distinct disconnect between consumer and producer.
I was cheering along with her all the way through, right up until she got to the chapter where she slaughtered her home grown Turkeys and Chickens. It wasn’t that she raised the birds for food or even that they were slaughtering them right there on the farm. I am a realistic vegetarian and animal lover. I understand that not everyone is going to go without eating meat and if they do eat meat I would like to see more occurrences where the animals are properly raised. Also locally sourced meat, like our produce is ideal as well for a number of different reasons. Where the big and I mean REALLY big record scratch occurred was when she used the chapter to pick on vegetarians and vegans.
What she talked about was how vegetarians get tofu that is shipped in to them from across the country (mine comes from a producer here in Orange County, thank you very much). She also told the story of how a friend of hers who has a farm has vegetarians and vegans come to her farm to eat the meat that she raise, reminiscent of inner city school kids that have never seen a farm before. It felt like the whole chapter was a way for her to justify eating animals by putting down those of us that don’t.
It was a great opportunity for her to discuss why it was such a good idea to do what she did, or to maybe encourage those of us who want to eat meat to seek out local ranchers that do produce high quality meat that is grass fed locally to where we live. For example here in Orange county there is a company called Dey Dey’s that has 100% grass fed cows, chickens and organic eggs all grown here in Southern California (and sold at a number of farmer’s markets). I personally have not tried them but I have a friend that is always raving about how great they are.
Also, in regards to us vegetarians and our Tofu habit. The way I would have liked to see that addressed would have been to encourage us to look to see where our Tofu comes from. Can we get tofu from somewhere in the state? What about our other protein sources (contrary to popular belief, we don’t just get our protein from tofu, we do have other sources) can we get those within our state or county? Likewise, you can make your own tofu, I have had a few friends do it and it is on my culinary adventures to do list.
So as you can tell that really bugged me, even more so than almost every chapter talking about why California is horrible for agriculture. Ok I get it we under sell your local farmers as well as growing off season produce to sell all over the country! Luckily the Turkey culling chapter was towards the end so when I was grumbling to myself and skimming through some sections I didn’t miss much.
If I was new to the idea of Slow Food, or if I wasn’t a crazy uptight vegetarian I think I would have enjoyed the book more. I was able to garner a lot of tips for my everyday life, like how to use whole produce more and keeping a garden journal. I recommend this book to people who are curious about the whole eating local movement. Or for people who are just getting involved in Slow Food.