Iowa City Public Library's Reviews > Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
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Jul 22, 2010

bookshelves: staff-picks-blog, nonfiction, heidi

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life is about a family’s effort to eat only foods that were locally produced for one year. The book had not made it to the top of my Should Read List for two years, despite the fact that I am a fan of Barbara Kingsolver. I believe I was avoiding the reflection in the mirror it would hold up to my own lazy food buying habits. But this book was chosen as the “2009 One Community, One Book: All Johnson County Reads” title and I wanted to participate in the Library’s discussion of it. Duty turned to pleasure before I finished the first chapter. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading about food, rural living or family.

Kingsolver’s project was embraced by her whole family and my favorite parts usually involved the eight-year-old daughter Lily. The story of her venture into an egg-selling business, beginning with the arrival of a box full of chicks at the local post office, is typical of Kingsolver’s ability to transparently join facts with humor, love and a firm grounding in reality.

In addition to shopping their local farmer’s market and neighboring farms, the family had an extensive garden. They planned their menus from what was in season, and canned, dried and froze much of the produce. For those of us used to buying fruit year-round at the supermarket, eating only what is in season appears as a huge challenge. The deprivation of no fresh fruit in the winter is matched by the over abundance of vegetables all coming ripe at the same time in summer. The secret ingredient in Lily’s birthday chocolate chip cookies was never divulged to the kids at her party, but I’ll just say that this particular story appears in the chapter for July entitled “Zucchini Larceny”.

While true to the intent of their project, Kingsolver freely admits their stumbles and fears, and acknowledges that a few relief valves were necessary; for instance, each family member got to choose one food item that couldn’t be grown locally, and you can be sure that one of the adults chose coffee.

If you have not yet read this wonderful book, do so! Whether you are persuaded by facts or enticing menus or just a heart-warming example of a family working together to do good, you are bound to be a more conscientious food consumer after reading it. --Heidi

From ICPL Staff Picks Blog
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