Alright so I never did end up writing that extra credit paper for WFP, the whole reason I read this book in the first place, but I am so glad I read it nonetheless.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver is a beautiful year long journey of a family of four learning to live off the land again by eating mainly the food they grow in their own garden or at least by local farmers. This book captures the essence of what once was the family farm and why knowing where our food comes from is so important. Barbara preaches a local, organic food movement that appreciates the hard work that goes into our food.
One thing that really struck home for me was when Barbara talked about the American food culture, or lack thereof. “We have yet to come up with a strong set of generalized norms, passed down through families for saving and sensibly consuming what our land and climate give us….we’re looking hard for a food culture of our own.” Because really, America’s food has come from everywhere and a lot of that food can’t be produced without truckloads of ingredients being brought by gallons of gas to all the regions of the US. It’s just a really interesting thought….what is our food culture?
I also really enjoyed learning about how food actually grows! It’s really crazy to think about how the majority of us do not know how (for example) asparagus grows. (First off it’s only in season in the spring(!) and it starts to decompose the moment it is cut, metabolizing it’s own sugars. So when we’re eating asparagus at Thanksgiving those little spears are coming from a great deal aways away.) We don’t know that there are many many different varieties of pumpkins, or turkeys, or tomatoes. That there are heirloom seeds that have been passed down from generation to generation available instead of the GMO seeds that the majority of the produce in our supermarkets comes form. It really opened my eyes.
This book also struck home on buying organic. Like so many others, I always look at the price tag of the organic apples…then look at the price tag of the conventional and then pick the conventional because there seems to be such a wide disparity in price. However Barbara had a great way of comparing prices on the two
Here’s an exercise: add up the portion of agricultural fuel use that is paid for with our taxes ($22 billion), direct Farm Bill subsidies for corn and wheat ($3 billion), treatment of food-related illnesses ($10 billion), agricultural chemical cleanup costs ($8 billion) and costs of nutrients lost to erosion ($20 billion). At minimum, that’s a national subsidy of at least $80 billion, about $725 per household each year. That plus the sticker price buys our “inexpensive” conventional foods.
O.O Eyes wide open. If we don’t support the organic farmers nothing is going to change and we will keep forking over millions in taxes to support an unsustainable agriculture. I’ve decided to stay with my local, organic CSA now.
Really, I recommend this to anyone who loves food, especially one who loves whole foods. It’s filled with interesting information, cute stories, environmental issues, and even delicious recipes. No, I may not be ready to make my own cheeses yet, but I sure feel like I’m one foot closer to trying it out! (I am going to get my bread maker back from my Dad and give making my own whole grain breads another shot.)
Anyway I hope this didn’t seem at all preachy and made you want to check out this amazing read! I’m really trying to eat local now…but I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to give up my bananas. =(