Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life 

By Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver. Harper Collins Publishers, 2007

This book feeds me. It doesn’t fill the tummy-rumbling/haven’t eaten kind of hunger, but rather satiates the empty pocket around the solar plexus that wants for more out of life.

Barbara Kingsolver, her husband and daughters paint a picture of the local food scene in their small corner of Virginia by taking the reader on a year-long walk through the fields, gardens, pastures and pantry shelves of their food life. They even share some family favourite recipes. You see, as a family they committed for a full year to eat only what they could grow themselves or source from neighbours. Within reason! When it came down to olive oil and chocolate (which they purchased sparingly), they researched the most sustainable sources they could find – fair trade, organic and ethically treated.

The book shows that the journey to eating locally and sustainably is a lot of work but doesn’t have to be hard… it pays off both financially and physically. They saved money and kept the dollars they did spend in their local economy. Physically they were challenged by the demands of farm labour but also endlessly rewarded by the tasty, soul-satisfying homemade meals they prepared together.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a poignant reminder of what we lose by heavily investing in large-scale agriculture. Not just the environmental losses, but also the economic, emotional, cultural and regional losses that are the by-products of a fast-food nation.

It’s an interesting read at this time in Manitoba. With raids on small, local farms, issues related to quota for livestock, and strict regulations for the production of value-added products, we would all do well to take to heart the message from this book: that local and small is better – for the environment, our health and our local economy.

It’s also better for our souls. The other day my friend Rebecca posted this to her Facebook wall: “Just ate my first garden tomato sandwich. It was a life-changing, spiritual experience. I can’t stop thinking about it.”

And that’s how I feel about this book. That reading it was a spiritual experience that gave me food for thought. It makes me think twice about what I put on the table and challenges me to take more steps towards fostering a sustainable, regional food system; to continue growing my own food where and when I can, while supporting local farmers for products I can’t produce myself. Delicious!