Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver

25460Nonfiction — print. HarperCollins, 2008. 384 pgs. Library copy.

Kingsolver’s memoir of “A Year of Food Life”came highly recommended by a favorite professor of mine. The book follows Kingsolver, her husband, and her two daughters from Tuscon, Arizona to their farm in Applachia. The family decides to swear off processed food, meat from CAFOs, and non-local fruits and vegetables. What’s more, they decide to eat only those foods currently in season for where they live which means no bananas (fine with me) and no blueberries in January (no!).

I was so inspired by this book! Whereas other books I’ve read about the state of America’s food system left me absolutely disgusted, this book made me want to till the whole backyard and plant one giant garden. Or, at the very least, buy food items besides salsa and tortillas at the local farmer’s market on Saturdays. Once I reached the sections on Kingsolver’s chickens and turkeys, I started dreaming up plans to put a flock of chickens in the backyard. But, unfortunately, keeping chickens are against the homeowners association’s covenants; I checked. Twice.

The book’s not perfect, though. There are no footnotes in this book; readers receive a list of references in the end. It is obvious that Kingsolver has does a lot of research for her project, but some people (read: me) are big sticklers about footnotes when it comes to books about food. Each family member is allowed to have one must-have item such as olive oil and coffee, but her kids came across as a little too perfect to me. Let’s just say, at this readers’ house, there would be a riot over the rule on no tomatoes outside of summer. And I think I’d be hard pressed to get my family outside pulling weeds from the time they got off work/school until sundown. And its moments like these (and a few others) were the books just comes across as down right preachy.

I also would have liked more input from Kingsolver’s college-aged daughter, Camille. At the end of the memoir, Camille states that she actually spent almost the entirety of this project away at college. Being a college student myself, I was intrigued to learn about how she managed to incorporate more local and organic foods into her diet. The dining service on my campus tries their best to label food that is cage-free or local, and I wanted to learn about Camille’s experience with eating on campus. Turns out her university has a whole dining room devoted to local and/or organic food plus she subsidized that fare with trips out to restaurants serving only local and/or organic food. Um, I really don’t have those options. She then talks about how one could cook their own food while on campus, but I’m thinking she didn’t have to share a kitchen with 250 other people (two years ago) or 44 people (last year) or eleven people (this coming year).

Others’ Thoughts:


    • Kingsolver actually went and visited a woman in Massachusetts who grows tomatoes in a greenhouse during the winter months. She went on and on about the taste but said the operation would be just too much for her and her family. We have a hard time growing tomatoes as it is here in my part of Montana; I doubt they’d make it through the winter even in a greenhouse.


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