Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

When this book was suggested for August's Kitchen Reader, I was not too happy. As I've mentioned before, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a book about a family that eats local food for a year. I was upset because I knew I would agree with the sentiments of the book and not be able to do anything about it. Kingsolver (usually a novelist) and her family of husband and two daughters take on an old farm, start growing their own vegetables, raising turkeys, producing eggs from their own hens, and shopping at farmers' markets. They spend a year researching and reading and writing about local food, and this book is the result. It only slightly helped me that the writing was by turns gigglingly funny and very astute. I find local food a hard concept here in Hong Kong.

I have written before about the local milk debate; I think the difficulties I faced over this simple issue had been blinding me to what I can do to eat more locally. I see now that local vegetables and fruit are very available to me. It takes a bit of label reading at the grocery store, but I can see that there are lots of veggies on sale from China. I have to turn down the "fresh by air" peppers, tomatoes, and spinach, but instead pick the amaranth, choy sum, and strange looking squashes.

Kingsolver, who co-wrote this book with her husband and elder daughter, argues compellingly in defense of local food and seasonal eating. And she entertained and cajoled me into resolving to try out some of her ideas. For example, I see that I could easily start making soft cheese. (I've attempted mascarpone once before. I now want cheese-making supplies for my birthday, take note!) And there is one organic farmers' market that I have discovered so far in Hong Kong, so I have been there a couple of times on a Sunday. I don't think I'm going to be able to raise egg laying hens, and sadly I can't grow a garden at the moment, either. But this book turned out to be an enjoyable and friendly account of a topic I was trying to avoid. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is an excellent, recommended read. Be sure to click over to see what other Kitchen Readers had to say. Thanks to Karen of Shortbread South for choosing what turned out to be a great book.


Karen said...

Yea, Sarah! I'm so glad you gave it a shot! I must admit I was expecting more of a "tale" than a memoir as it was, but like you I found by the end I was truly inspired. I was glad to find that my small changes can make a difference, too. My post about the book is up now, so please stop back by and check it out!

PharmaFoodie said...

I'm of Asian ancestry and I would kill to have access to the vegetables and particularly the tropical fruit that I assume you can source locally. Is taking a local cooking class an option for you, so that you can learn what to do with indigenous produce from a pro? I've seen examples of these types of classes taught by ex-pats on travel cooking shows.

Jennifer said...

What a beautifully written review, Sarah! This was an interesting read!

Thank you for being part of The Kitchen Reader this year!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that the book inspired you rather than just frustrating you. I enjoyed it and am trying to make some small changes in my eating. Every little bit helps!

Marla said...

Hi Sarah,

This is one of my very favourite food books! I've made her tomato sauce recipe that last two years and have just ordered my tomatoes for sauce-making this year.

I'm interested in reading more about how your local food sourcing in Hong Kong goes. Good luck!

sarah said...

Karen, thanks for stopping by, and thanks for your Kitchen Reader round-up post. Interesting.

PharmaFoodie, now that is a great idea. I will certainly look for one.

Marla, hello! I am curious now, what are your other favourite food books?

Marla said...

Hi Sarah,

I really enjoyed "Reclaiming the Commons" which is about a community farm just outside of Boston - very inspirational.

Brewster Kneen's books are some of the books that got me interested in food politics to start with. He wrote "From Land to Mouth" and "Farmageddon".

I've read some Michael Pollan. More of his articles than his books. Also great though.

I will admit, I mostly read food articles these days for work, so I read fewer food books. (On that note, my report on the benefits of local food in Nova Scotia is now out: http://www.ecologyaction.ca/?q=node/761)

For food movies, I really enjoyed "King Corn".


PS Your blog is making me hungry! And it's over an hour until dinner!

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