I would imagine that many of you are familiar with Sharon Astyk's writings (Casaubon’s Book; Sharon Astyk’s Ruminations on an Ambiguous Future). I am an avid reader and Sharon has recently commenced a daily blog entry on the books she suggests for our edification. The title of the posts are, "365 Books #___." Sharon is a prolific writer and a farmer in upstate New York. I cannot believe she finds the time to write all that she writes AND farm(!), but, in plentiful evidence in her writings, she reads a whole lot too.
I only have an acre to keep up with and a couple of writing projects, so I am a little envious of her time management skills (and should go looking for anything she has written on the subject), but I will emulate her after a small fashion. I will post one book review every so often and over any amount of time, build a library of the books I suggest. These will be mostly garden books, but every so often, I will add in books that have changed my life in ways that have contributed to me becoming the gardener I am today.
So here we go with the first book, a 'why' book more than a 'do' book.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
Barbara Kingsolver, Steven Hopp and Camille Kingsolver
Cost: $14.95 Paperback
“At its heart, a genuine food culture is an affinity between people and the land that feeds them.” Barbara Kingsolver
A lot of books a person finds in the bookstore are eager to tell you what to do, sometimes with a rather shrill tone. Kingsolver, with her husband and two daughters (one was too young too sign a publishing contract), tell us what they did, acting on their conviction that they had to change their participation in the way they ate and participated in the American food chain.
Most of us are probably more than a little queasy about the modern American food distribution system. No other culture has had the luxury of food choices that we enjoy and the productivity of our agriculture staggers the imagination, still at no other time in mankind’s history has a civilization faced such an epidemic of obesity and diabetes. Something is terribly broken with the way we eat.
The Kingsolver/Hopp clan do not intend to preach to us about what we could do, but quietly set off on their own private revolution and simply confide in us what happened. They chose to become “localvores” (also written as “locavores” by some), eating only food produced within a 100 mile radius of their home in Southwestern Virginia. Each family member was allowed to chose one item from a further realm (Steven Hopp, obviously a man of vision, chose coffee), but beyond that, the commitment they signed on for was to eat locally for one whole year.
Most Americans would think of eating seasonally as a little too “quaint” – something akin to foregoing indoor plumbing – if they thought of it at all. But when one chooses to eat locally, one is also choosing to eat seasonally in some degree as well. This alone would be a shock to most of us, used to, as we are, strawberries any month of the year, or peaches, asparagus, or any of our common fruits and vegetables. In fact, it’s probably a point of pride for our culture that we can eat these things at any time of the year.
But what has the cost been? Our farmers are as bankrupt as the taste of the food from the local market. No preaching, but plenty of common sense guides the family through the year as they learn how to provide a lot of their own food and how to get the rest from local sources. Not only is the family empowered, but those they work with locally are also empowered. Not only do they not starve, but they eat well. In fact, their year long experiment has changed by year’s end from experiment to lifestyle.
Along the journey, the “Miracle” in the title seems to morph as the book progresses. In the beginning, filled with the fear of throwing her family’s diet to the winds, the “miracle” seems to be they might really be able to eat through the year. By mid-book, the “miracle” becomes this tastes so good, even though it is a lot of work. By the conclusion, the miracle is the transformation that will inspire many others to try this as a way of life and the hope that Kingsolver and clan clearly offer the rest of us.
The Kingsolver family maintain a blog site that has more to tell about their year of food 'freedom.'