Thursday, January 29, 2009

Review: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Popular author, Barbara Kingsolver, and her family made the decision to spend one full year “eating locally” – primarily by raising their own food – and to write about their experience in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Kingsolver wrote the main narrative; her husband, Steven Hopp, provided nerdy, information-packed sidebars; and her teenage daughter Camille covered the nutritional angle and recipes.

Kingsolver is a talented writer and she makes a year of gardening and poultry husbandry entertaining and even, at times, fascinating – her descriptions of natural turkey procreation are enough in themselves to make the book worthwhile. She augments the “life on the family farm” memoir with stories of family road trips, holiday and birthday celebrations, her second honeymoon in Italy, and general reminiscences. She makes an excellent culinary case for eating what local food is in season, and only when it is season.

Unfortunately, Kingsolver and crew also lard the book with offputting lectures about “food politics” and “ethical” food choices, disparaging opposing views. I am all for eating locally grown produce, meat, poultry, and fish. I am fortunate enough to live in Oregon, a state with natural bounty enough to keep me fat and happy year round. This local food is fresher and tastes better than the same types of things shipped in from half-way around the world. And I am happy to support Oregon’s always anemic, now suffering economy.

But Kingsolver and Hopp’s holier-than-thou attitude about eating local food rubs me the wrong way. They beat the readers over the head with dire warnings about the imminent catastrophe of global warming, large-scale agriculture, and Big Oil, always following the party line to the letter. Whether they are right or wrong, they are boring. Nobody likes a scold. I found myself arguing with them even when I agreed with them, just because they got my back up with all their bossing.


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