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

4.1 185
by Barbara Kingsolver, Camille Kingsolver, Steven L. Hopp
     
 

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Author Barbara Kingsolver and her family abandoned the industrial-food pipeline to live a rural life—vowing that, for one year, they’d only buy food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is an enthralling narrative that will

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Overview

Author Barbara Kingsolver and her family abandoned the industrial-food pipeline to live a rural life—vowing that, for one year, they’d only buy food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is an enthralling narrative that will open your eyes in a hundred new ways to an old truth: You are what you eat.

Editorial Reviews

Ellen Goodman
“Highly digestible…Engaging.”
Corby Kummer
“Engaging…Absorbing…Lovely food writing…[Kingsolver] succeeds at adopting the warm tone of a confiding friend.”
Rick Bass
“A profound, graceful, and literary work . . . Timeless. . . . It can change who you are.”
MoreMagazine
"Kingsolver beautifully describes this experience."
Outside Magazine
"Kingsolver dresses down the American food complex…These down-on-the-farm sections are inspiring and…compelling."
People Magazine
"Provocative . . . Kingsolver . . . evokes the sheer joy of producing one’s own food."
Self
“Lessons learned in sustainability are worth feasting on-and taking to heart.”
People
“Provocative . . . Kingsolver . . . evokes the sheer joy of producing one’s own food.”
Chicago Tribune (on the audiobook)
“Wry, insightful and inspiring to anyone who yearns to work with the earth.”
Tucson Citizen
“If you...buy...one book this summer, make it this one...As satisfying and complete as a down home supper.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Equal parts folk wisdom and political activism . . . This family effort instructs as much as it entertains.”
Houston Chronicle
“Charming . . . Literary magic . . . If you love the narrative voice of Barbara Kingsolver, you will be thrilled.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Loaded with terrific information about everything from growth hormones to farm subsidies.”
Raleigh News & Observer
“Full…of zest and sometimes ribald humor… Reading this book will make you hungry.”
Rocky Mountain News
“[Written] with passion and hope…This novelist paints a compelling big picture-broad and ambitious, with nary an extraneous stroke.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Charming...and persuasive...Each season-and chapter-unfolds with a natural rhythm and mouth-watering appeal.”
St. Petersburg Times
“An impassioned, sensual, smart and witty narrative…Kinsolver is a master at leavening a serious message with humor.”
Chicago Sun-Times
“ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE is a chronicle of food feats…I’m inclined to agree with most points Kingsolver makes.”
Washington Post
“Every bit as transporting as-and more ecologically relevant than-any “Year In Provence”-style escapism...Earthy...informative....[and] englightened.”
Chicago Tribune
“Delectable . . . steeped in elegant prose and seasoned with smart morsels about the food industry.”
Outside magazine
“Kingsolver dresses down the American food complex…These down-on-the-farm sections are inspiring and…compelling.”
Roanoke Times
“Anyone who read and appreciated THE OMNIVORE’S DILEMMA by Michael Pollan will want to read Barbara Kingsolver’s book.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch
“[This] is a book that, without being preachy, makes a solid case for eating locally instead of globally.”
Miami Herald
“Kingsolver, who writes evocatively about our connection to place, does so here with characteristic glowing prose. She provides the rapture.”
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“Homespun, unassuming, informed, positive, inspiring. . . . Unstinting in its concerns about this imperiled planet.”
Los Angeles Times
“A lovely book. ”
More Magazine
“Kingsolver beautifully describes this experience.”
Washington Post Book World
“Charming, zestful, funny and poetic…a serious book about important problems.”
Daily News
“[Kingsolver is] a master storyteller, and even those who’ve heard this tale before will be captivated.”
Bookreporter.com
“I defy anyone to read this book and walk away from it without gaining at least the desire to change.”
Christian Science Monitor
“Kingsolver…adds enough texture and zest to stir wistful yearnings in all of us...[A] vicarious taste of domesticity.”
Charlotte Observer
“Other notable writers have addressed this topic, but Kingsolver claims it as her own....Self-deprecating instead of self-righteous.”
BookPage
“Faithful, funny, and thought-provoking...Readers-whether vegetarian or carnivore-will not go hungry, literally or literarily.”
The Oregonian (Portland)
“A terrific effort. The delight for readers…is the chance to experience the rediscovery of community through food.”
Novelist Barbara Kingsolver once wrote, "If we can't, as artists, improve on real life, we should put down our pencils and go bake bread." In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, she manages to do both, applying her literary skills to a new food environment. In her seamless diary narrative, Kingsolver tells how she and her family relocated to southern Appalachia after suffering through years of drought in Arizona. The purpose of the move was simple: The Kingsolvers sought to "live in a place that could feed us" by growing their own food and living among a community of local organic growers.
Bunny Crumpacker
This is a serious book about important problems. Its concerns are real and urgent. It is clear, thoughtful, often amusing, passionate and appealing. It may give you a serious case of supermarket guilt, thinking of the energy footprint left by each out-of-season tomato, but you'll also find unexpected knowledge and gain the ability to make informed choices about what -- and how -- you're willing to eat.
— The Washington Post
Korby Kummer
What is likely to win the most converts, though, is the joy Kingsolver takes in food. She isn’t just an ardent preserver, following the summertime canning rituals of her farming forebears. She’s also an ardent cook, and there’s some lovely food writing here.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

In her engaging though sometimes preachy new book, Kingsolver recounts the year her family attempted to eat only what they could grow on their farm in Virginia or buy from local sources. The book's bulk, written and read by Kingsolver in a lightly twangy voice filled with wonder and enthusiasm, proceeds through the seasons via delightful stories about the history of their farmhouse, the exhausting bounty of the zucchini harvest, turkey chicks hatching and so on. In long sections, however, she gets on a soapbox about problems with industrial food production, fast food and Americans' ignorance of food's origins, and despite her obvious passion for the issues, the reading turns didactic and loses its pace, momentum and narrative. Her daughter Camille contributes recipes, meal plans and an enjoyable personal essay in a clear if rather monotonous voice. Hopp, Kingsolver's husband and an environmental studies professor, provides dry readings of the sidebars that have him playing "Dr. Scientist," as Kingsolver notes in an illuminating interview on the last disc. Though they may skip some of the more moralizing tracks, Kingsolver's fans and foodies alike will find this a charming, sometimes inspiring account of reconnecting with the food chain. Simultaneous release with the HarperCollins hardcover (Reviews, Mar. 26). (May)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal
What happens when the beloved novelist and her family decide to settle in southern Appalachia and eat only food that's available locally. With a 12-city tour; one-day -laydown. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal

Adult/High School -This book chronicles the year that Barbara Kingsolver, along with her husband and two daughters, made a commitment to become locavores-those who eat only locally grown foods. This first entailed a move away from their home in non-food-producing Tuscon to a family farm in Virginia, where they got right down to the business of growing and raising their own food and supporting local farmers. For teens who grew up on supermarket offerings, the notion not only of growing one's own produce but also of harvesting one's own poultry was as foreign as the concept that different foods relate to different seasons. While the volume begins as an environmental treatise-the oil consumption related to transporting foodstuffs around the world is enormous-it ends, as the year ends, in a celebration of the food that physically nourishes even as the recipes and the memories of cooks and gardeners past nourish our hearts and souls. Although the book maintains that eating well is not a class issue, discussions of heirloom breeds and making cheese at home may strike some as high-flown; however, those looking for healthful alternatives to processed foods will find inspiration to seek out farmers' markets and to learn to cook and enjoy seasonal foods. Give this title to budding Martha Stewarts, green-leaning fans of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth (Rodale, 2006), and kids outraged by Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation (Houghton, 2001).-Jenny Gasset, Orange County Public Library, CA

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
With some assistance from her husband, Steven, and 19-year-old daughter, Camille, Kingsolver (Prodigal Summer, 2000, etc.) elegantly chronicles a year of back-to-the-land living with her family in Appalachia. After three years of drought, the author decamped from her longtime home in Arizona and set out with Steven, Camille and younger daughter Lily to inhabit fulltime his family's farm in Virginia. Their aim, she notes, was to "live in a place that could feed us," to grow their own food and join the increasingly potent movement led by organic growers and small exurban food producers. Kingsolver wants to know where her food is coming from: Her diary records her attempts to consume only those items grown locally and in season while eschewing foods that require the use of fossil fuels for transport, fertilizing and processing. (In one of biologist Steven's terrific sidebars, "Oily Food," he notes that 17 percent of the nation's energy is consumed by agriculture.) From her vegetable patch, Kingsolver discovered nifty ways to use plentiful available produce such as asparagus, rhubarb, wild mushrooms, honey, zucchini, pumpkins and tomatoes; she also spent a lot of time canning summer foods for winter. The family learned how to make cheese, visited organic farms and a working family farm in Tuscany, even grew and killed their own meat. "I'm unimpressed by arguments that condemn animal harvest," writes Kingsolver, "while ignoring, wholesale, the animal killing that underwrites vegetal foods." Elsewhere, Steven explores business topics such as the good economics of going organic; the losing battle in the use of pesticides; the importance of a restructured Farm Bill; mad cow disease; and fairtrade. Camille, meanwhile, offers anecdotes and recipes. Readers frustrated with the unhealthy, artificial food chain will take heart and inspiration here.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060852566
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
04/29/2008
Series:
P.S. Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
77,369
Product dimensions:
7.96(w) x 5.14(h) x 0.96(d)
Lexile:
1160L (what's this?)

Read an Excerpt

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Chapter One

Called Home

This story about good food begins in a quick-stop convenience market. It was our family's last day in Arizona, where I'd lived half my life and raised two kids for the whole of theirs. Now we were moving away forever, taking our nostalgic inventory of the things we would never see again: the bush where the roadrunner built a nest and fed lizards to her weird-looking babies; the tree Camille crashed into learning to ride a bike; the exact spot where Lily touched a dead snake. Our driveway was just the first tributary on a memory river sweeping us out.

One person's picture postcard is someone else's normal. This was the landscape whose every face we knew: giant saguaro cacti, coyotes, mountains, the wicked sun reflecting off bare gravel. We were leaving it now in one of its uglier moments, which made good-bye easier, but also seemed like a cheap shot—like ending a romance right when your partner has really bad bed hair. The desert that day looked like a nasty case of prickly heat caught in a long, naked wince.

This was the end of May. Our rainfall since Thanksgiving had measured less than one inch. The cacti, denizens of deprivation, looked ready to pull up roots and hitch a ride out if they could. The prickly pears waved good-bye with puckered, grayish pads. The tall, dehydrated saguaros stood around all teetery and sucked-in like very prickly supermodels. Even in the best of times desert creatures live on the edge of survival, getting by mostly on vapor and their own life savings. Now, as the southern tier of U.S. states came into a third consecutive yearof drought, people elsewhere debated how seriously they should take global warming. We were staring it in the face.

Away went our little family, like rats leaping off the burning ship. It hurt to think about everything at once: our friends, our desert, old home, new home. We felt giddy and tragic as we pulled up at a little gas-and-go market on the outside edge of Tucson. Before we set off to seek our fortunes we had to gas up, of course, and buy snacks for the road. We did have a cooler in the back seat packed with respectable lunch fare. But we had more than two thousand miles to go. Before we crossed a few state lines we'd need to give our car a salt treatment and indulge in some things that go crunch.

This was the trip of our lives. We were ending our existence outside the city limits of Tucson, Arizona, to begin a rural one in southern Appalachia. We'd sold our house and stuffed the car with the most crucial things: birth certificates, books-on-tape, and a dog on drugs. (Just for the trip, I swear.) All other stuff would come in the moving van. For better or worse, we would soon be living on a farm.

For twenty years Steven had owned a piece of land in the southern Appalachians with a farmhouse, barn, orchards and fields, and a tax zoning known as "farm use." He was living there when I met him, teaching college and fixing up his old house one salvaged window at a time. I'd come as a visiting writer, recently divorced, with something of a fixer-upper life. We proceeded to wreck our agendas in the predictable fashion by falling in love. My young daughter and I were attached to our community in Tucson; Steven was just as attached to his own green pastures and the birdsong chorus of deciduous eastern woodlands. My father-in-law to be, upon hearing the exciting news about us, asked Steven, "Couldn't you find one closer?"

Apparently not. We held on to the farm by renting the farmhouse to another family, and maintained marital happiness by migrating like birds: for the school year we lived in Tucson, but every summer headed back to our rich foraging grounds, the farm. For three months a year we lived in a tiny, extremely crooked log cabin in the woods behind the farmhouse, listening to wood thrushes, growing our own food. The girls (for another child came along shortly) loved playing in the creek, catching turtles, experiencing real mud. I liked working the land, and increasingly came to think of this place as my home too. When all of us were ready, we decided, we'd go there for keeps.

We had many conventional reasons for relocation, including extended family. My Kingsolver ancestors came from that county in Virginia; I'd grown up only a few hours away, over the Kentucky line. Returning now would allow my kids more than just a hit-and-run, holiday acquaintance with grandparents and cousins. In my adult life I'd hardly shared a phone book with anyone else using my last name. Now I could spend Memorial Day decorating my ancestors' graves with peonies from my backyard. Tucson had opened my eyes to the world and given me a writing career, legions of friends, and a taste for the sensory extravagance of red hot chiles and five-alarm sunsets. But after twenty-five years in the desert, I'd been called home.

There is another reason the move felt right to us, and it's the purview of this book. We wanted to live in a place that could feed us: where rain falls, crops grow, and drinking water bubbles right up out of the ground. This might seem an abstract reason for leaving beloved friends and one of the most idyllic destination cities in the United States. But it was real to us. As it closes in on the million-souls mark, Tucson's charms have made it one of this country's fastest-growing cities. It keeps its people serviced across the wide, wide spectrum of daily human wants, with its banks, shops, symphonies, colleges, art galleries, city parks, and more golf courses than you can shake a stick at. By all accounts . . .

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Copyright © by Barbara Kingsolver. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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What People are saying about this

Corby Kummer
“Engaging…Absorbing…Lovely food writing…[Kingsolver] succeeds at adopting the warm tone of a confiding friend.”
Rick Bass
“A profound, graceful, and literary work . . . Timeless. . . . It can change who you are.”

Meet the Author

Barbara Kingsolver's work has been translated into more than twenty languages and has earned a devoted readership at home and abroad. She was awarded the National Humanities Medal, our country's highest honor for service through the arts. She received the 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for the body of her work, and in 2010 won Britain's Orange Prize for The Lacuna. Before she made her living as a writer, Kingsolver earned degrees in biology and worked as a scientist. She now lives with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.

Camille Kingsolver graduated from Duke University in 2009 and currently works in the mental health field. She is an active advocate for the local-food movement, doing public speaking for young adults of her own generation navigating food choices in a difficult economy. She lives in Asheville, N.C., and grows a vegetable garden in her front yard.

Steven L. Hopp was trained in life sciences and received his PhD from Indiana University. He has published papers in bioacoustics, ornithology, animal behavior and more recently in sustainable agriculture. He is the founder and director of the Meadowview Farmers Guild, a community development project that includes a local foods restaurant and general store that source their products locally. He teaches at Emory & Henry College in the Environmental Studies department. He coauthored Animal, Vegetable, Miracle with Barbara Kingsolver and Camille Kingsolver.

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Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
April 8, 1955
Place of Birth:
Annapolis, Maryland
Education:
B.A., DePauw University, 1977; M.S., University of Arizona, 1981
Website:
http://www.kingsolver.com

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