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BellaOnline's Women's Lit Editor

October Book of the Month

Food is the theme in this nonfiction, informative read. Not only is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver, packed with factual information on the status of food production in America, but it includes a fascinating journey of one family as they challenge themselves to only eat locally produced food, for one whole year.

Challenging themselves to see if they can do it has more to do with their love for nature, whole foods, and their relationships with others and the earth than proving something to everyone else.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle includes writings from author Barbara Kingsolver's entire family. From the witty musings of her elementary-aged daughter to wise insights and tasty, doable recipes from her college-aged daughter, to historically relevant and informative write-ups from her husband, this book and the entire year-long event are evidently a family affair.

There are some portions of the book I decided I just couldn't stay awake through, however. The section on asparagus, for example. Kingsolver is enamored by asparagus and shares an interesting portion about the fascinating journey the plant undergoes enroute to be harvested. But, this just didn't quite hold my attention for the length of time she chooses to write about it.

The light-hearted nature of the book is balanced with serious food issues our country faces and perplexing problems not being addressed by the USDA and the U.S. government.

I read this book with a mix of intrigue and wanting to change the ways I look at food, food production and relationships with my neighbors and the land, and also feeling helpless. The book caused me to grapple with some of the issues of environmentalism everyone is talking about these days, while trying to focus on the one or two ways I could alter my lifestyle to make a lasting impact.

The reality is, not everyone can feasibly do what the Kingsolver family did. Not everyone can own a rural farm in Kentucky and grow that many vegetables and chickens and own a hybrid car. But to Kingsolver's credit, her voice is never preachy, and she acknowledges that their journey won't be the same as everyone else's. But she does exhort readers to try something, even if it's one thing, to consider her thoughts, and to examine what one or two changes we can make to get back to local, "slow" food.

Perhaps most helpful to me was the manageability of some of the choices this family makes. There are several simple recipes included along with ideas for real life, for example, using the Crock Pot for meals and throwing together a pizza for lazy Friday evenings after a long week and utilizing the farmer's market.

Most of all, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle seems to invite readers in, to educate and think for themselves, to take part in our own quests for nourishment, and to not lose sight of the relationships with each other, our bodies and with health along the way.

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