In celebration of the tenth anniversary of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, the Savvy Women's Alliance recommends this book for it's summer chapter Gatherings.
Envision: you are entering your local chain grocery store. The glass doors slide open and the produce aisle greets you. On your right are avocados from Mexico, bananas from Colombia, and peppers from Israel. You walk further through the market, snatching some rice from Vietnam and beans from India that you plan to throw together into a meal that you will later wash down with Vermont milk.
Now imagine the items sourced from over 100 miles away vanishing. Bye-bye Mexican romaine lettuce and beef sourced from Brazilian cows. What would be left in your shopping cart? Would you panic?
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle begins by introducing us to author and protagonist Barbara Kingsolver, a longtime resident of the famously-parched desert community of Tucson, Arizona where “virtually every unit of food consumed (…) moves into town in a refrigerated module from somewhere far away,” in her own words. Fed up with a life of well-traveled foods and desiring to exercise her then-sedentary green thumb, Kingsolver uprooted her life and family and transported it nearly 2000 miles to Washington County, Virginia. Here, she intended to dramatically transform her lifestyle by nourishing her family using foods they grew or could obtain from local sources. She would keep a physical log of her journey along the way in the form of a novel she would later name: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
The book is funny, enlightening, fruitful and even upsetting, at times.
Kingsolver’s voice is witty and perceptive as she renders a complex subject relatable and easy to understand for any reader. She plays back and forth between storytelling and information sharing carefully, never doing too much or not enough of either. She uses Animal, Vegetable, Miracle as a channel to speak directly to you – the ignorant consumer who had no idea how ignorant you were until reading and learning more. (In the nicest way possible. You will actually love her.) She is sympathetic to our ignorance, however, gently prodding us into consciousness by sharing her imperfect journey and imparting the wisdom she’s learned along the way instead of badgering us with scary facts and shaming us for buying Mexican lettuce in February (though, according to her beliefs, she rightfully could.) The book is chock full of rich information and vibrant analogies. It is a full length crash course on local eating, growing produce and food systems in the United States for a bargain.
Your Animal, Vegetable, Miracle education will teach you, amongst other things that:
- Nearly ¾ of antibiotics in the United States are used on factory farm animals.
- Only six companies control 98% of the world’s seeds.
- Like animals, plant food varieties can go extinct. We’ve been robbed of so many food varieties and flavors, forced to believe that the watery grocery store tomato we can suspiciously still find on grocery store shelves in the winter are the only species to exist.
From already-skeptical buyers to fast-food fanatics, everyone can learn something from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Though it often reads as dark at times – tales of turkeys too fat and dumb to fend for themselves, the government’s complete lack of respect for the farming industry, the rise of a genetically modified foods empire - I finished reading feeling hopeful, not hopeless.
Change begins at an individual level and radiates outward. Barbara Kingsolver chose to make a change in her life and has inspired change for so many others, myself included. It is possible to live a comfortable and wholesome life on local foods. The only thing standing between us and a future of healthier foods and a healthier planet is education and the choice to use what we know to make a positive difference for ourselves, for our future, and for our planet.
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