"Raising food without polluting the field or the product will always cost more than the conventional mode that externalizes costs to taxpayers and the future."

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle : A Year of Food Life - Barbara Kingsolver, Steven L. Hopp, Camille Kingsolver

Bullet Review:

A good message with some beautiful writing, though Kingsolver and her daughter, Camille, can adopt a rather preachy, self-important tone. And I'm sorry, but I've never encountered the "farmer stigma" that apparently runs rampant over the US.

5 stars for content; 2 stars for delivery.

Full Review:

"If every US citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country's oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week."



This one quote, in essence, provides the entire premise for the book. Kingsolver and family want to be more environmentally conscious so they embark on a year of being a "locavore" - a person who eats locally. ("Local" in their case means about 120 miles away from where they live, though the distance is just a rough guesstimate, not a hardline number.)

Reading books like Fast Food NationThe End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American AppetiteThe Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, and even Eat to Live: The Revolutionary Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss coupled with my own weight loss have really buoyed my desire to A) keep the weight off (Duh), but also B) eat more naturally and more in tune with the environment. One of my Goodreads friends had already recommended this, so when this was suggested for Book Club, I heartily voted for it. When the motivation to eat right is flagging (and with a Burger King on every corner, it will flag), it's always great to turn to books and movies and documentaries and such to tell yourself that yes, this was a good choice.

Like The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Mealsbefore it (of which, this book notes as a source), this book showcases the problems with the current industrial farming system. If you've read any books on this or seen any documentaries, this will not be new information.

But honestly when you have quotes like this:

"Obesity is generally viewed as a failure of personal resolve, with no acknowledgement of the genuine conspiracy in this historical scheme [human being's built-in weakness for fats and sugars]."


and this:

"We have...a string of fad diets convulsing our bookstores and bellies, one after another, at the scale of the national best seller."


I can't really rag on the author for repetition because this stuff is SO IMPORTANT you can't repeat it enough.

But hands-down, my favorite quote is this (emphasis mine):

"...a perception of organic food as an elite privilege is a considerable obstacle to the farmer...Raising food without polluting the field or the product will always cost more than the conventional mode that externalizes costs to taxpayers and the future."


So sure, you can pop into McD's for one of their dollar menu items. But you can be sure you'll be paying for it later with cholesterol problems, more poverty-level people, and an overreliance on oil.

On top of that, Kingsolver has a beautiful way with words. Her prose is really enjoyable and makes me regret that this is the first work of hers I've read.

So, I know the question: "If you have so many wonderful things to say about this book, Crystal, why the 3 stars?"

You know that person who converts to such-and-such religion or political viewpoint and won't SHUT UP ABOUT IT? Who claims that EVERYONE should convert and believe what he or she does because it is SO AWESOME? And who can't understand WHY anyone would be stupid enough NOT to believe what, in his/her mind, is obvious?

That's the impression I got of Kingsolver and her daughter, Camille. Kingsolver says outright at the beginning she doesn't expect everyone to follow this plan to the T - but then she has this condescending tone to people who don't follow this plan. As for Camille, well, the phrase "pampered child" comes to mind.

(NOTE: Kingsolver ends up revealing that she and her family did NOT 100% follow their own rules, going out to eat at restaurants that didn't abide by the locavore law or eating at friends' homes, thereby being more than a little deceptive.)

It's easy for a woman, who basically inherits a farm and whose job is EXTREMELY flexible (she works from home most of the time and is a famous author), to be able to take up the second full-time job of farmer. And that's what she was for this year: a full-time farmer/farmer's wife (what with all the canning, preserving, and freezing).

This, like Joel Fuhrman's 2 pounds of vegetable plan, is very unrealistic for a lot of people. I live in an apartment, travel A LOT, and have no interest in gardening whatsoever. Other people are single parents, or hell, just parents, who don't HAVE the time between all the other responsibilities.

The other thing I wasn't fond of was the author's perceived notion that farmers are stereotyped as "harebrained hippies" and looked down upon by everyone else. To this I must say: is she not familiar with the bajillions of movies and TV shows and books where the entire premise is how some person goes BACK to the farm/countryside where everything is perfect and idyllic?! Many times, the city person is made a joke, because he or she is so "stuffy" and doesn't "really work" and would be clueless without the farmer (the latter being very true, but still rude).

And let's face it: whining that the farmers are looked down upon, making it into an "us vs. them" argument isn't what we need. Farmers need us cityfolk to get off our @$$es and start buying their produce. We need farmers to educate us on good foods. WE NEED EACH OTHER. Fighting about who gets looked down upon and made a joke helps NO ONE.

But...on the other hand, all this DOES make me want to frequent farmer's markets more. All this DOES make me want to exert a better effort for buying local foods in season (I already don't buy strawberries/raspberries/blueberries out of season unless it's an emergency). And really, the PREMISE of this book, the emphasis on QUALITY and LOVING YOUR FOOD - how could I NOT love that?

Maybe I'm just a bitter, crotchety city girl who is too lazy to attempt to give gardening a chance. Maybe I'm just overly sensitive to people's tone. I can overlook that to 100% support Kingsolver's biggest idea:

Love your food enough to know what you're eating. And eat well.