Friday, May 31, 2013

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

I finally finished it!--By way of the audiobook, actually, which was narrated by Kingsolver herself, which was kind of fun. 

This book wasn't much like I was expecting. From the jacket description, it would be the narrative of a family used to the average consumer life of city folk who decide to leave it all behind and try their hand at growing most of their food and eating local. I expected many dreadful and hilarious mishaps along the way, a lot of humble research, and a "you can do it, too," attitude. 

Well, there was sort of a "you can do it too" attitude, but other than that, it was very different from that. Actually, Kingsolver and her family had had the ol' family farm (aka summer home) for several years before deciding to live on it exclusively and rely on it for food. They knew what they were doing when it came to farming. And even when they lived in Arizona, they were more "enlightened" about food than the average folk. 

From the very beginning, Kingsolver made it very clear that city slickers=dumb, country folk=smart. I resented that throughout the entire book. Kingsolver was constantly lamenting that "America doesn't know this! America doesn't know that!" Good thing she's around to teach us stupid urban dwellers that spending every meal eating TV dinners in front of the ol' set is unhealthy. Otherwise, we would just eat up everything the market tells us! (Uh....corn syrup has corn in it, so it's healthy, right?) 

Okay, I'll admit it. I did learn a lot in the book that I didn't know before, like that it's not actually impossible to make your own cheese or to buy local food. And she did get me a lot more interested in buying from the farmers market and understanding the origin of my food. I learned a lot about farmers that I didn't know before--for example, that small, virtuous farms still exist in America, which I have often despaired of. 

It was a fun book. Don't get me wrong. I loved the descriptions of farming, of enjoying locally grown and homegrown food as a family and, yes, even some of their mishaps and challenges. (How could you not love the chapter about breeding the turkeys? It was so funny!) But the book was elitist. I mean, it sounds weird to say that a small farmer is elitist--she's certainly turning the social system on its head, which is cool--but really, she's elitist. And it's annoying. Even in the part where she is clearly trying to dispel such a belief ("I mean, look at me, I've got my arm halfway down a chicken, what kind of an elitist does that?" --not a direct quote), she doesn't really manage to. I don't think she's destroying the world, or anything, I just think she's a little bit annoying in that way. 

I wish she would have given a little more credit to us city slickers. Not everyone has the option to eat everything locally grown. But that doesn't mean people aren't taking some steps. I make my own bread as often as possible, and I make dinners from scratch. I avoid heavily processed foods as much as possible. And yes, I know that pumpkin comes from a real pumpkin, but let's be real--not everyone has the time or endurance to cut up their own pumpkin every time they want to make a recipe that uses it. In an ideal world, we would be able to do these things, but the world today is fast-paced. We can't blame people who need (and want) to keep up with that. 

As far as I can see, there are far more people trying to take steps to eating "slow" than Barbara Kingsolver seems to know, and it would be nice if she would acknowledge that. 

I don't want to spend all my time bashing this book. I really did enjoy it, and I would even recommend it. I had more an issue with the tone of the book than the actual content. It was great to learn more about ways to eat locally. 


  1. Your review reminded me of Green Acres! I'd been curious about Animal, Vegetable, Miracle thanks for the honest review.

    1. Forgive my ignorance, but what is Green Acres? A book?

    2. No need to apologize! Green Acres is a tv sitcom from the late sixties (I watch too much tv land) It's about a couple living in the country. The husband is gung ho about living/working on a farm and his wife would prefer 5th Avenue. I might be a bit kooky but your comments on city slickers=dumb and country folk=smart & turkey breeding reminded me of it.

      I would love it if you'd guest post on my blog! I'm sorry the link didn't work for you. My email is

  2. Heh. You know what, my mom has had a giant garden forever and was a hippie homesteader before it was cool (or at least, from the last time it was cool)...but she thought that book was elitist in tone too. :) Snotty tone aside, I enjoyed learning a lot of stuff from it, and I still haven't gotten around to eating rainbow eggs or whatever it was, even though I wanted to, because I am not cool.

    1. Haha! I'm glad to know I'm not the only one, and that I don't just feel that way because I'm an ignorant city slicker. ;) I'm not cool either. (But I do want to try making my own cheese.)