April 25, 2009

Animal Vegetable Miracle

I just finished the book Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I first heard about it from Colleen at Over Cocktails but since then ran into it and the slow food movement everywhere so I decided to check it out. I am so glad I did, it is life changing. Truly.

The book is a memoir of their move from Tucson to a farm her husband, Stephen Hopp, owned prior to their marriage in Southern Appalachia; and their vow to eat food either grown by themselves or bought from their neighborhood. Their two main goals were to eat food that's not only better for them but better for the environment.

Filled with incredible facts about the amount of energy consumed by the production, packaging and shipping of food all over the world as well as the benefits (for both the farmers and ourselves) of eating organic and locally grown foods it's hard not to rethink your own food life. Their description of what occurs inside a concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) is hard to swallow- literally. Let's just say I'm even more terrified of mad cow disease now than I was a month ago.

Here is an excerpt from one of Stephen's sidebars in the book, both he and their daughter Camille added to the book. This was probably one of the more eye opening facts for me.

"Each food item in a typical U.S. meal has traveled an average of 1500 miles. In addition to direct transport, other fuel-thirsty steps include processing (drying, milling, cutting, sorting, baking), packaging, warehousing and refrigeration. Energy calories consumed by production, packaging and shipping far outweigh the energy calories we receive from the food.

A quick way to improve food-related fuel economy would be to buy a quart of motor oil and drink it. More palatable options are available. If every U.S. 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. That’s not gallons, but barrels. Small changes in buying habits can make big differences. Becoming a less energy-dependent nation may just need to start with a good breakfast."

Barbara does a great job of educating her readers on the season's harvest. Here is her Vegetannual, an illustrated calendar of seasonal fruits and vegetables. A calendar to live by.

A hip new term deemed for this movement is "locavore" or one who tries to eat only locally grown foods. After reading this book I really want to incorporate more local and organic foods into my family's diet. Not only for our health and the health of our planet but especially to help support local farmers. The information she shares about the lobbyist of major food corporations is simply disheartening. It's no wonder so many Americans don't trust government. If only every American family could make this vow, what difference we could make.

The book is non-fiction but truly reads like a novel and is even funny. Her turkey mating debacle is hilarious. I know I've shared some saddening statistics but most of the book is fun and truly inspiring. I think she has inspired every reader to make their own mozzarella, bake their own bread, grow a vegetable garden and support local farmers. It's not just the eat organic mantra so many health food experts repeat like puppets. The book and website are is also filled with many great recipes.

She has definitely inspired my goals:

  • Support local farmers and shop at farmers markets. 'Tis the season!
  • Buy produce that is in season and learn how to can or freeze for the winter.
  • Make her 30 minute mozzarella.
  • Bake my own homemade bread. I think my parents may have an old bread machine in storage somewhere.
  • Eat organic and avoid meats from CAFOs
  • Grow a backyard vegetable and herb garden. I really want to do this one!!

If you want to become a locavore or check out this movement, make sure to visit AnimalVegetableMiracle.com or Cook Local is another great site. Also go to Local Harvest to find local farmers and CSA programs.

I highly recommend the read, like I said it is life changing.

*pictures courtesy of AnimalVegetableMiracle.com

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