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Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

     by Kingsolver, Barbara

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

Barbara Kingsolver and her family decide to live for a year on what they can grow themselves on their Virginia farm or buy from farmers in their county. The driving force behind this decision is not only a concern for good food with good flavor but also a concern for the environment. States Kingsolver: "The average food item on a U.S. grocery shelf has traveled farther than most families go on their annual vacations... Fossil fuels were consumed for the food's transport, refrigeration, and processing, with the obvious environmental consequences." Committed though they all are to this project, they decide to allow for one luxury item each in limited quantities: coffee, dried fruit, hot chocolate and spices. The book is organized chronologically beginning in April with asparagus and rhubarb, and ending in March by cleaning out the freezers, pantry and root cellar. But March was also a beginning: the suspenseful tale of their heritage breed turkeys, purchased the year before with a view to producing breeding stock. Having learned that most American turkeys have lost the ability to reproduce by themselves, Kingsolver wonders if her turkeys will mate? And if they do, would they sit on the eggs, hatch them and raise the turkey chicks without human intervention?  

This book is inspiring because Kingsolver makes it seem possible to feed a family from mostly locally grown foods. She also points out, however, that it is not necessary to go as far as they did in order to make a significant difference in the food economy. The author's husband and daughter make important contributions to the book; the former shares political activist informational sidebars, and the latter provides the perspective of a mature young adult plus recipes from the family files. The book's website: includes updates, a complete list of references, recipes, and a list of relevant organizations.

Reviewed by mc, 6/07. Other reviews by mc.