May 18, 2010

Book Notes: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , at 9:15 am by Editorial Team

I read this book a couple of months ago, and it still weighs heavy in my mind.  Famous for The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver is a masterful story writer who weaves culture, botany, and tragic characters together.  Often lamenting humanity’s soured relationship with the land, Kingsolver, is an important voice in recapturing a healthy relationship with what we eat and the land it is produced on.

Her challenge is simple, yet daunting: live a whole year off of the land, with only minimal outside resources.  Her family leaves Tucson, AZ (a dry and unforgiving land where almost every aspect of food, even water, is outsourced) to  Appalachia (a very generous land and climate).

This book is more than a journal.  It is a mix of personal accounts, nature-based humor, practical farming technique, food philosophy, and fact about our food system.  She employs her husband and eldest daughter in her writings, which give multiple voices to the concept of food philosophy.

Our culture has lost a philosophy of food.  Food rarely is an art form anymore.  It’s simply a means of filling ourselves with calories as we hurry on with our busy lives.  We are led to believe we save time with this efficiency, but Kingsolver suggests that we will be repaying that time later in life.

Kingsolver does not write from a Christian perspective.  However, her words ring spiritual for those of us who follow a God who formed us from the soil and gave us a primary task of caretaker.  Reviving our attachment to the land not only humbles us, but it leads us into the natural rhythms of God’s creation.  It leads us back to the task which God set up for man in the Garden of Eden — to be its caretaker.

In this book, you will find some sickening (literally) facts about our food system.  But you will find so much more.  You will find a way of life, re-envisioning a love for fresh food and a communal philosophy about meals.  Camille, the eldest daughter and away at college, even provides recipes and advice for those who cannot do what her family is doing on a full-scale.  Some might view this family’s way of life as extreme, yet the Kingsolver’s don’t expect everyone to follow suit.  They advocate in small ways for us to become more attached to our food production, for those who are not willing or able.

For those of us with a fast-paced life who cram one meal in after another, while rushing off to the next activity, this book will allow one to slow down and reflect on our way of life, and the food we eat.

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