Book Review: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
by Barbara Kingsolver
Harper Collins, 2007; $26.95

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle will not rest on your bookshelves with Barbara Kingsolver’s fiction; this book demands permanent residence in your kitchen. Filled with delicious, seasonal recipes and tips from growing to canning, this stellar book chronicles the Kingsolvers’ move from Arizona to a family farm in Appalachia, VA, as well as their lifestyle shift from end users in a national food chain to central cogs in local food production. For a full year, they decided, they would eat locally and in-season; anything they couldn’t grow or raise themselves was sourced from neighboring local farmers.

Kingsolver combines their personal story—the anxiety her family felt before they made the plunge to local-only, how her daughter longed for fruit that might not be in season—to big-picture commentary on food culture and the realities of industrial agriculture.

For the Kingsolvers, it’s a family affair; though Barbara writes the majority of the book, all of the adults in the household take turns writing. Husband Steven Hopp, a college professor, writes about industrial agriculture politics and college-age daughter Camille contributes recipes and commentary. And you can’t help but fall in love with the depiction of second-grader Lily as she launches her own egg business venture.

There have been several landmark books about our current food production—see past Grid classics such as Marion Nestle’s Food Politics and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma—but this is probably the warmest. Read this book and you’ll not only rethink what you eat and where your food is from, you’ll also be reminded that meals are daily opportunities to create with, and for, the people you cherish the most.