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Animal Vegetable Miracle [Paperback]

Barbara Kingsolver
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 29 2008

Can we ever really know what we’re eating? Is it possible to walk away from today’s industrial, processed-food pipeline? Bestselling author Barbara Kingsolver and her family reveal that the answer to both questions is yes. They have chronicled a year in which they vowed to buy only locally produced food, grow it themselves or learn to live without it.
    With her illuminating prose, Kingsolver has created a compelling, wise and often humorous look at what it takes to reinvent a food culture that is healthy for the family, the neighbourhood and the planet. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, part resource and entirely a great story, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle passionately urges us to take a second look at what we put on our tables and how it gets there.


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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. [Signature]Reviewed by Nina PlanckMichael Pollan is the crack investigator and graceful narrator of the ecology of local food and the toxic logic of industrial agriculture. Now he has a peer. Novelist Kingsolver recounts a year spent eating home-grown food and, if not that, local. Accomplished gardeners, the Kingsolver clan grow a large garden in southern Appalachia and spend summers "putting food by," as the classic kitchen title goes. They make pickles, chutney and mozzarella; they jar tomatoes, braid garlic and stuff turkey sausage. Nine-year-old Lily runs a heritage poultry business, selling eggs and meat. What they don't raise (lamb, beef, apples) comes from local farms. Come winter, they feast on root crops and canned goods, menus slouching toward asparagus. Along the way, the Kingsolver family, having given up industrial meat years before, abandons its vegetarian ways and discovers the pleasures of conscientious carnivory.This field—local food and sustainable agriculture—is crowded with books in increasingly predictable flavors: the earnest manual, diary of an epicure, the environmental battle cry, the accidental gardener. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is all of these, and much smarter. Kingsolver takes the genre to a new literary level; a well-paced narrative and the apparent ease of the beautiful prose makes the pages fly. Her tale is both classy and disarming, substantive and entertaining, earnest and funny. Kingsolver is a moralist ("the conspicuous consumption of limited resources has yet to be accepted widely as a spiritual error, or even bad manners"), but more often wry than pious. Another hazard of the genre is snobbery. You won't find it here. Seldom do paeans to heirloom tomatoes (which I grew up selling at farmers' markets) include equal respect for outstanding modern hybrids like Early Girl.Kingsolver has the ear of a journalist and the accuracy of a naturalist. She makes short, neat work of complex topics: what's risky about the vegan diet, why animals belong on ecologically sound farms, why bitterness in lettuce is good. Kingsolver's clue to help greenhorns remember what's in season is the best I've seen. You trace the harvest by botanical development, from buds to fruits to roots. Kingsolver is not the first to note our national "eating disorder" and the injuries industrial agriculture wreaks, yet this practical vision of how we might eat instead is as fresh as just-picked sweet corn. The narrative is peppered with useful sidebars on industrial agriculture and ecology (by husband Steven Hopp) and recipes (by daughter Camille), as if to show that local food—in the growing, buying, cooking, eating and the telling—demands teamwork. (May)Nina Planck is the author of Real Food: What to Eat and Why (Bloomsbury USA, 2006).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–This book chronicles the year that Barbara Kingsolver, along with her husband and two daughters, made a commitment to become locavores–those who eat only locally grown foods. This first entailed a move away from their home in non-food-producing Tuscon to a family farm in Virginia, where they got right down to the business of growing and raising their own food and supporting local farmers. For teens who grew up on supermarket offerings, the notion not only of growing one's own produce but also of harvesting one's own poultry was as foreign as the concept that different foods relate to different seasons. While the volume begins as an environmental treatise–the oil consumption related to transporting foodstuffs around the world is enormous–it ends, as the year ends, in a celebration of the food that physically nourishes even as the recipes and the memories of cooks and gardeners past nourish our hearts and souls. Although the book maintains that eating well is not a class issue, discussions of heirloom breeds and making cheese at home may strike some as high-flown; however, those looking for healthful alternatives to processed foods will find inspiration to seek out farmers' markets and to learn to cook and enjoy seasonal foods. Give this title to budding Martha Stewarts, green-leaning fans of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth (Rodale, 2006), and kids outraged by Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation (Houghton, 2001).–Jenny Gasset, Orange County Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible celebration of local food April 3 2008
Format:Paperback
I already read this book and can't wait to buy my own copy and read it again. Barbara Kingsolver makes the topic of food riveting. Her family's journey to eat wholesome, local food is inspiring, informative and humorous. I laughed so hard reading about turkey sex. My friends and I talk about her book often and many of us are trying things that she wrote about; raising chickens, growing asparagus and more. The sections written by her husband and her daughter add greatly to the book. I especially appreciated her perspective on eating meat - I have struggled for years with wanting to be a vegetarian (which I was for 6 years) but not being able to feed my family well that way. With the Union for Concerned Scientists stating over and over that eating meat contributes to global warming, it was great to finally be able to distinguish for myself the difference between meat raised through large-scale agriculture vs. meat raised on small farms. It's a HUGE difference, one I wish the scientists would publicly acknowledge.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring read May 31 2007
Format:Hardcover
I was surprised to learn that Kingsolver's latest book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, was non-fiction, and was very interested to find out how her novelist skills would translate to the non-fiction genre. In a word? Brilliantly.

This latest book is timely, engaging and eye-opening. Although Kingsolver's story revolves around her own family and their move from their southwest home to Appalachia, the message of becoming socially conscious about ones food choices can be applied universally. Kingsolver makes the tough decision, not only to move her family to a completely new environment, but experiment with eating entirely locally for a year. They go about this by growing almost everything themselves as well as supporting their local farmers' market. It's not an easy experiment, and they all face their challenges. Kingsolver's husband, Steven, adds interesting facts about the state of the American food industry and their teenaged daughter Camille's contributions, which include delicious-sounding recipes, are fresh and engaging. What fans of Kingsolver will enjoy is her clever turn of phrase. She can make even produce and farming sound exciting, even whimsical.

A fantastic read and highly recommended. It made me think twice about mindlessly adding tropical fruit to my grocery cart and lead me to plant asparagus for the first time in my garden! It is my hope that readers will be encouraged, as I was, to support our local farmers by eating seasonally and reap both the environmental and health benefits of conscious eating & living.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Local is possible June 25 2007
By Friederike Knabe TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
What a delightful book this is! It is about food, of course, but also about much more. Kingsolver very skilfully combines an entertaining memoir of her family's year of living on local provisions, mostly home grown on their farm in southern Appalachia, with humorous and serious reflections on rural life, the food industry, the environment, health and local farmers' economics. Given her science background and success as a fiction writer, she is best placed to captivate her audiences.

Roughly following a monthly rhythm, we learn what crops to plant and when, how to mix and match what grows best together in the fields and how to deal with the vegetable abundance at one time or another. She shares the ups and downs of yearlong fieldwork in a personal and charming way that even non-gardeners will enjoy the walk. There are birds to observe, chickens to raise and Bourbon Red heritage turkeys to nurture without being adopted as the mother hen. Kingsolver and her family literally dig in to realize the growing plans they had made to ensure feeding themselves throughout the year. The periods of abundance when canning and drying and other methods of preservation become essential, are followed by less rich harvest when they have to rely on the pantry and eat what they have saved. For one month the kitchen may be covered in red: it's tomato season, another one in green when the surplus of zucchini results in experimenting with daily new recipes. Daughter Camille brings to book and the table a delightful range of easy to follow recipes that celebrate the fresh produce from their garden and fields. She also adds her own personal touch with reflections of a young person experience on family life on a farm. Friends, neighbours and the local farmers' market play an important role in any hobby farmer's life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Think globally, eat locally May 16 2007
Format:Hardcover
Barbara Kingsolver's new book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: a Year of Food Life is enough to make me think seriously about starting a garden and a compost pile. But is it enough to make me actually do it?

The premise of the book is that for one year, Kingsolver's family pledged to eat only what it could procure from within an hour's drive from their home, with a few exceptions for things like flour and coffee. Although the book is certainly more preachy than Kingsolver's early novels, the tone reminds me a lot of "Prodigal Summer". It doesn't cross the line into straight evangelism, always retaining the ability to entertain as well as inform. Even the message is not a monolithic one, being composed of forays into other philosophies as well as the main "eat local" one.

In one section, there's even what seems to be a tribute to an early advocate of the (mostly reviled) corporate attitude: Sanford Webb, the first owner of the Hoppsolver (conflation of Kingsolver's surname and that of her husband, Steven Hopp) homestead. This turn-of-the-century entrepreneur brought in refrigeration (now the tool of the long-distance transporters of produce), and bought trees rather than getting them from his neighbours like everyone else. Not only that, but these were grafted trees that wouldn't breed true If planted again from seed - and he got the whole neighbourhood doing it. I'm not sure whether Webb is absolved of being anti-local-food because of the period he lived in, or whether he's just there as a picturesque portrait, and not meant to be representative of anything modern.

In each chapter, the variety of voices kept me interested.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Great Read
Barbara Kingsolver is one of the most engaging writers I have read. She can even turn a non-fiction story into a page-turner.
Published 15 months ago by A. Payne
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful story of food, farming, and family.
I absolutely loved this book; it was very inspiring. It is a story detailing the day-to-day lives of the Kingsolver family, but also featured recipes and scientific pieces. Read more
Published 20 months ago by DalVeg
5.0 out of 5 stars Not preachy, just good food!
Great book! I'm generally a fiction reader with a short attention span for non-fiction, but this book was a page turner for me! Read more
Published on April 18 2012 by annie1000
5.0 out of 5 stars Miricle? We will see....
This is a very Informative book. Love the recipes at the end of each chapter. It really makes me want to get in the garden and grow. Read more
Published on March 3 2012 by Leslie
4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts...
Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle combines a gripping and often humourous account of her family's year of living on their Virginia farm and eating only local food... Read more
Published on May 30 2011 by Reader Writer Runner
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative and instructive yet real and engaging
This account of going back to the land by Barbara Kingsolver and her family is a well written glimpse into a family's attempt to move to a farming community and try to live and... Read more
Published on Feb. 21 2011 by Linda from Harrison Hot Springs
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost Life Changing
ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE is entirely inspiring. It has enough facts about the food industry to make you think, but not the gross-out shocks that some other local-types seem to... Read more
Published on June 4 2010 by Jessica Peter
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative and entertaining
Kingsolver is a deep and passionate writer. In this book she awakens us to the power of eating locally and the innate importance of fresh, healthy food. Read more
Published on Oct. 7 2008 by Caroline N. Dockendorf
5.0 out of 5 stars Choose Food to Enhance Life
If you read only one book about food in 2008, I suggest you make it this one.

Barbara Kingsolver, her husband, Steven Hopp, and her daughter, Camille, present selecting,... Read more
Published on Jan. 3 2008 by Donald Mitchell
3.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful Book on How to Eat Locally
This is a feature lengh non-fiction book that was a family collaboration of the Kingsolver-Hopp Family. Read more
Published on May 25 2007 by Teddy
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