The book is basically a memoir, retelling the tale of a year spent by Kingsolver and her family sustaining themselves with home grown food. It starts off with the whole family uprooting themselves from a Tucson home and moving east, to 40 acres in Appalachia. They then proceed to do all the work required to feed a family of four with their own bare hands, including raising poultry for slaughter.
Kingsolver relays these tales with a self-depricating sense of humor and a realism that makes not only the book imminently relatable, but also inspires a sense of confidence in the reader. It makes me think that I too could grow all my own vegetables and bake all of my own bread. Perhaps I felt this way while reading because I am already moving in that direction – owning dairy goats, learning to garden, planting fruit trees and contemplating buying my own chickens this spring, but I like to think that it has as much to do with the authors sense of ease and her willingness to share her own failures and successes.
The book also contains brief additions written by Kingsolver’s husband and eldest daughter which include information on legislation, food trends and recipes. Each chapter in the book contains one or more of these short essays and I feel the communal nature of the writing helps engage the reader and makes one feel included in the project set forth at the beginning of the book – a year of self-subsistence.
All in all I feel that this book is a fabulous introduction to the ideas and realities of eating local, sustainable food. A much better introduction to the lifestyle and the philosophy than something like “Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Pollan, mostly because it presents the ideas of Slow Food in a day to day, down home manner, rather than as a terrifying look into the horrors of food production in the country. As Kingsolver’s own daughter relates in the book, people tend to dislike being preached to and when she tried to share her new found knowledge about industrial farms, people often resented being made to feel guilty about their food choices. For this reason alone I believe that “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” is a great book to recommend to those people who may be curious about changing their food habits, but need a gentle introduction to the lifestyle and the benefits of SOLE food.
This post is my contribution to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday blog carnival.