I am reviewing two books together in this post because I think these are both such valuable books to anyone who wants to take control once again to the foods that they consume. For too many years we have been a world of blind consumers that are willing to eat just about anything that has the word food written on it. I still want to know what "Processed Cheese Food" really is, or maybe I don't. Each of these books gets 5 stars from me and have successfully changed the way I eat from the land and the sea.
ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE, A Year of Food Life
By Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp, and Camille Kingsolver
This book for me was like returning home. After years of living in Tucson AZ the author and her family decide to return to their roots and learn to live off of the land and other sustainable sources. I grew up on a small farm and many of the experiences that the author talks about have such a familiar ring to me that I could not help but laugh out loud.
This book takes you through an entire year of planting, harvesting and storing their own produce from their garden and their own hand raised meat and eggs. When they were unable to produce for themselves the food stuffs that they needed, they purchased locally with very few exceptions. It was good to be reminded that in most parts of the country fruit is not available year round unless it is trucked in from somewhere else. During the coldest winter months in most of the country there are no crops being produced. In order to be able to eat locally produced food it is necessary to know how to store food and plan for those cold months. While this seems like a lot of work there is no feeling like finishing up a day of canning by seeing the “fruits” of your labor happily lined up on a pantry shelf.
Each chapter of this book takes you through a different month of local food production as well as discussing the many reasons why it is absolutely necessary that we start to look at the foods that we consume with new eyes. As well as the words of Barbara Kingsolver you will also see a section written by her husband, Steven L. Hopp on the realities of commercial farming and its impact on the environment as well as our health. Camille Kingsolver, the author’s daughter also adds a wonderful array of recipes that will answer the age old question of “now that I have a basket full of wonderful vegetables what on earth do I do with them?” I am especially thankful for the information on cooking asparagus. I have now discovered the pure joy of eating fresh local asparagus all by itself or with other foods.
I really liked reading the story of this first year learning to eat locally. While the author makes it clear that it is hard work sometimes it is not that difficult. You just have to make different choices than you are used to. You eat what is in season, by the time you are sick of it something else is in season so you eat that when it is fresh. At one point she talks about the abundance that can come from the zucchini. She comments on the need to lock your car doors not because someone will steal your car but that they may pass on their excess squash to you. I remember some years in Ohio when that was very true of tomatoes. Everyone always planted more than was necessary and the glut of tomatoes would keep your fingers in tomato juice until you knew it could never end.
After reading this book I thought to myself that I could be preparing meals from locally grown produce at least several times a week. To my surprise I had no problem eating almost everything locally. Now I have to admit that I live in Southern California and we have organically grown farmers markets available to us everyday of the week, every week of the year. In Los Angeles we have no excuse to be eating oranges grown in Florida. After about a week of eating local I clearly noticed an increase in energy and more ability to focus. I know that this was due to eating clean healthy local foods. One of the other benefits to eating local produce is that you get to know the farmers personally. You are supporting a person, a family, a real farm. Not a corporate CEO who has never seen dirt under his nails.
This book was an inspiration to me. The writing style is very enjoyable as well as being informative. It made me want to make the effort to rethink my food purchase choices. It is an honest account of how a family makes a conscious choice about their health, and the health of the world around them.
By Taras Grescoe
I was really looking forward to reading this book and I was not disappointed. When it comes to eating seafood responsibly I have always felt at a loss for information. First of all I grew up in North Eastern Ohio and the only “local” fish there came from Lake Erie and there was a time that no one would eat fish from Lake Erie. I also am allergic to just about every kind of shell fish. So beyond the Gortons Fisherman my palate is unrefined to say the least. After reading this book I have a much better understanding of how the oceans of our world are being affected by the lack of understanding on the part of most of its people. This book, over the course of 10 chapters takes the reader through the problems facing our most endangered species of fish as well as the many reasons why these fish are endangered. It is not one simple problem but the answer is actually not that difficult to implement even though it is not popular every where. The answer is being informed and not accepting practices that are destroying our oceans. If we don’t buy products that are not ethically produced there will be no market for them. I liked the fact that every chapter had a focus on a specific fish and its ecosystem. What the challenges were for that ecosystem and what could be done about it. Because of this chapter by chapter approach when I want to reference the book again in the future I will have a much easier time finding the information I need. It seems to me after reading this book that the two main culprits in the problems facing our oceans is ignorant indiffference on the part of the consumer and the greed of those that see the ocean as a source of income and not a way of life. I will never look at seafood the same way again. While I am not a big seafood consumer myself I now want to explore eating the fishes that are sustainable and incorporate them into my family’s diet. After all fish is brain food. I liked this book a lot even though it was not a fast read. I had to work my way through each chapter because it was filled with so much information. The author does include a good index in the back as well as an appendix to resources. There also is a section on which fish to eat and which to avoid. My only real complaint is that I wish it had a good recipe for sardines.