Book Review: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

I recently read the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver.  This book tells the story of the author and her family who, having lived for a long period in Tucson, Arizona, packed up and moved to a rural area in western Virginia where they attempted to live one entire year eating almost nothing other than what they could grow for themselves or obtain from nearby local farms.

I found this book very entertaining.  It presents a ton of interesting and useful information about the biology of fruits and vegetables.  This information is the kind that people once took for granted but now, with modern supermarkets, have forgotten.  It mentions everything from which vegetables are actually flowers to the sex lives of turkeys.  The author, along with her husband and co-author Steven Hopp, provide a lot of information on the politics of food and how our modern food culture is dominated by large industry.  The book provides numerous recipes.  But most significantly, it explains, in an interesting and colorful way, how important it is to understand food, where it comes from, the role it plays in local economies, and how it feeds not just bodies but also the spirit of communities.  The book is less a source of information than it is a work of art showing an example of a healthy outlook on the place that food should have in our lives.

All this being said, the book does not provide a model of how to eat.  Its theme is strongly pro-vegetarian, discussing at length the produce that the author and her family grow, eat, and preserve, and it makes rare mention of any kind of meat, with the exception of eggs and the occasional chicken or turkey.  The author leaves the reader with the strong impression that she and her family eat almost all vegetables and grains.  The author admits without apology that she and her family frequently eat pasta, often store-bought.  For all of her discussion of vegetables, the author never mentions lacto-fermented vegetables.  She never mentions the benefits of soaking grain.  She does not attempt to debunk the myth that saturated fat is linked to heart disease.  And she never explains the extreme benefits of raw dairy or organ meat.  While her dietary recommendations, as I could gather, would certainly be an enormous improvement from the typical American diet, it does not serve as a model for a traditional diet.

I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle because it was recommended by Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms, who is closely allied with the Weston A. Price Foundation.  In the end, this book does not advocate for the traditional foodways that Weston A. Price promoted.  However, I’m glad I read it.  It was delightful to read, and it does inspire people to be aware of where food comes from and of the value of growing and preparing one’s own food, and it encourages people to support local economies and communities with local food-buying practices.

I give it a thumbs up.

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About Patrick Crawford

Patrick Crawford was raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He attended college and law school at the University of Notre Dame, spending one year during law school studying at Notre Dame’s campus in London, England. He is now living and practicing family law in Annapolis, Maryland. When he is not practicing law, he follows the strong interest that he has acquired in the interaction between big business, government, the media, and the lives of individuals affected by these influences. He is particularly interested in the severely negative effects these forces have on nutrition, food production processes, local agriculture, and therefore, on health. He hopes that, through his articles, he will be able to educate others on the importance of traditional and sustainable foodways and agricultural practices, for the sake of both individual health and the security of local food systems. He runs his own website, called: National Fork.
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