Bestselling author Barbara Kingsolver describes her family's adventure as they move to a farm in southern Appalachia and realign their lives with the local food chain.
When Kingsolver and her family move from suburban Arizona to rural Appalachia, they take on a new challenge: to spend a year on a locally produced diet, paying close attention to the provenance of all they consume. "Our highest shopping goal was to get our food from so close to home, we'd know the person who grew it. Often that turned out to be ourselves as we learned to produce what we needed, starting with dirt, seeds, and enough knowledge to muddle through. Or starting with baby animals, and enough sense to refrain from naming them."
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle follows the family through the first year of their experiment. They find themselves eager to move away from the typical food scenario of American families: a refrigerator packed with processed, factory-farmed foods transported long distances using nonrenewable fuels. In their search for another way to eat and live, they begin to recover what Kingsolver considers our nation's lost appreciation for farms and the natural processes of food production. American citizens spend less of their income on food than has any culture in the history of the world, but pay dearly in other ways -- losing the flavors, diversity and creative food cultures of earlier times. The environmental costs are also high, and the nutritional sacrifice is undeniable: on our modern industrial food supply, Americans are now raising the first generation of children to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
Believing that most of us have better options available, Kingsolver and her family set out to prove for themselves that a local diet is not just better for the economy and environment but also better on the table. Their search leads them through a season of planting, pulling weeds, expanding their kitchen skills, harvesting their own animals, joining the effort to save heritage crops from extinction, and learning the time-honored rural art of getting rid of zucchini. Inspired by the flavors and culinary arts of a local food culture, they explore farmers' markets and diversified organic farms at home and across the country, discovering a booming movement with devotees from the Deep South to Alaska. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, and complete with original recipes, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle makes a passionate case for putting the kitchen back at the center of family life, and diversified farms at the center of the American diet.
This is a serious book about important problems. Its concerns are real and urgent. It is clear, thoughtful, often amusing, passionate and appealing. It may give you a serious case of supermarket guilt, thinking of the energy footprint left by each out-of-season tomato, but you'll also find unexpected knowledge and gain the ability to make informed choices about what -- and how -- you're willing to eat.