Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

On Sunday evening I  finished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  I was interested in reading this book because it is about popular writer Barbara Kingsolver and her family's challenge to live only on food produced locally for an entire year.  This is a dense book because it includes so many thoughtful pieces that challenges the way we think about our food and food system.  Included are recipes using seasonable foods and factual tidbits about laws, court cases and the realities of our food system.  Despite being dense it was still enjoyable to read and included many light hearted pieces that had me laughing.  I learned many new things, had some thoughts confirmed or challenged, and just enjoyed in the vignettes that told about the ups and downs on her farm.  This is a book that I highly suggest to those who have already begun or are contemplating making changes to eat more locally or sustainably.

Here is an excerpt from the book and some of Barbara's intelligent sarcasm to purposefully provoke thought and conversation about our food system.
     "How did supermarket vegetables loose their palatibility, with so many  people right there watching?  The Case of the Murdered Flavor was a contract killing, as it turns out, and long distance travel lies at the heart of the plot.  The odd notion of transporting fragile produce dates back to the early 20th century when a few entrepreneurs tried shipping lettuce and artichokes, iced down in boxcars, from California eastward over the mountains as a midwinter novelty.  Some wealthy folks were charmed by the idea of serving out-of-season (and absurdly expensive) produce items to their dinner guests.  It remained little more than an expensive party trick until mid-century, when most fruits and vegetables consumed in North America were still being produced on nearby farms.
     Then fashion and marketing got involved.  The interstate highway system became a heavily subsidized national priority, long-haul trucks were equipped with refrigeration, and the cost of gasoline was nominal.  The state of California aggressively marketed itself as an off season food producer, and the American middle class opened its maw.  In just a few decades the out-of-season vegetable moved from novelty status to such an ordinary item, most North Americans now don't know what out-of-season means."

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