Saturday, October 24, 2009

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A year of food life

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Two words: turkey sex.

Barbara Kingsolver is hands down my favorite modern author. She uses the most beautiful prose--vivid and lyrical--to write stories and characters that come to life, no matter whether she's writing fiction or nonfiction.

In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Kingsolver tells the story of her family's decision to deliberately buy, grow, and eat only food produced in the vicinity of their farm in southwestern Virginia. The idea is to eat seasonally and get off the petroleum-fuel-dependent global food system with its gigantic carbon footprint and devastating environmental consequences. They aren't quite as strict about defining "local" as were the authors of Plenty: one man, one woman, and a raucous year of eating locally. But Kingsolver's family lives on a small farm where they can grow much of their own produce and raise--and slaughter--their own poultry, so they have a head start in the "local" department.

Barbara wrote the bulk of the book, while her husband, Steven Hopp, wrote sidebars filled with related facts & figures, and her daughter, Camille Kingsolver, contributed the sections about meal plans and recipes. The sidebars were really interesting (if sometimes a scary reality check), despite my irritation that they interrupted the flow of the story. I only wish I were a competent enough cook to attempt some of Camille's recipes. (What does "braise" actually mean & how do you do it?)

I already miss having my own vegetable garden, and this book is inspiring me to plan how I can carve out space to grow much of my own produce in the back yard I now have. I can spend this winter poring over online heirloom seed catalogs and drawing diagrams, just like my father used to do (and maybe still does?) with roses and flowerbeds.

And as for the turkey sex...well, let's just say that Barbara's evocative description of the trials and tribulations of mating teenage turkeys had me laughing 'til my face hurt.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally

Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally by Alisa Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Basically, Plenty is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for the urban dweller. It's the story of one couple's determination to get off the petrochemicals & pollution diet our global food supply has turned into these past few decades. They made a decision to--for one year--only buy & eat food grown/raised/gathered within 100 miles of their Vancouver, BC, apartment, started blogging about it, and learned just how many people were interested in their story.

I enjoyed how the authors took turns writing the chapters, so readers get two different perspectives on this adventure. I felt I got to know the authors--to the point where I got really anxious when they nearly broke up over canning tomatoes. And they inspired me to plant a garden in my back yard next year as well as to resume purchasing the bulk of my produce from my local farmer's market this summer. I just wish I knew how to cook (or even recognize!) half the vegetables J.B. MacKinnon writes about using.

In reader's advisory terms: the main doorways are story and character, although setting is fairly important as well. Many of the chapters include stories and information about the history of people, wildlife, and food in the Pacific Northwest--which I found fascinating and often sad.

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