Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver- Book Review

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Published by Harper Perennial, an imprint of Harper Collins

Although Barbara Kingsolver and her family enjoyed the time they spent living in Tucson, Arizona, the severe water shortage and lack of locally grown food was something that always somewhat bothered them. So the family packed up and relocated to their land in Appalachia to experience an entire year eating locally so that they could pay close attention to what they were actually eating, and so they could reduce the oil used for their food to travel to them. Over the year they primarily utilized their own land and the local farmers’ market.

Wow. Not only does Kingsolver have beautifully lyrical prose, but she and her family are totally hardcore as well. All four of them completely bought into this project, eschewing all forms of quick convenience food – not that they relied heavily on it to begin with – but also locally out of season fruits and vegetables. Of all of the books I read for Harvest Week, this was the one that most inspired me to want to get off of my butt and do something. There were times that I got somewhat frustrated feeling that what Kingsolver was able to do would not be feasible for a good number of families, but that annoyance was mitigated by the fact that Kingsolver acknowledged this fact and made suggestions for how to do what was possible. In many ways this was actually a very practical book. As Kingsolver narrated the family’s story, her husband wrote short articles bringing their story into a larger context, and her college-aged daughter did a sort of wrap-up for most chapters, including recipes and sample meal plans for the week.

The chicken report: Chickens played a pretty prominent role in “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” particularly in the life of Kingsolver’s youngest daughter who adored the birds and had a very well thought out business selling eggs. What really captured my attention, though, was a different breed of poultry. Kingsolver raised a brood of heritage turkeys, and some of the facts she shared about the type of turkeys most of us buy at the supermarket put me off my Thanksgiving dinner just a bit. For instance, we have so screwed with the genes of our factory farm turkeys that mature birds are “incapable of lying, foraging, or mating!” I mean, is that even a real bird at that point?

“Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” is a fantastically well-written and very inspirational book, and I highly recommend it.

Buy this book from:
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Source: Personal copy.
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23 comments to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver- Book Review

  • I loved this book and was inspired to make cheese after I read it. Virginia Tech featured it as their Common Book this year – they had a dinner with completely local food and Kingsolver spoke on campus. If an institution of that size can do it, so can we.

  • I loved seeing how excited you were about this book via twitter. Your excitement is definitely catchy! I’m going to the library today and might snag a copy.

  • I really should read this one.

  • Amy

    Great review, I really loved this book as well, and it made me want to do more. I do what little I can by buying more often from my local farmer’s market at lest. I also loved the recipes she included!

  • Pam

    Oh, I have this on my list! I’m actually reading her The Lacuna when I’m done with my current book. Glad you liked this!

  • Steph

    I’m so glad you just reviewed this book! I just bought it, and plan on reading it after, “In Defense of Food,” which is currently on my kindle. I’m totally convinced that we need to go back to our roots and eat real foods, and I try to support local farms as much as possible. I also just finished “The Dirty Life” (Kristin Kimball) about a New York journalist who gives up her life there to follow a farmer, whom she falls in love with and marries:-) I’d recommend it!

  • I don’t know if you have seen Food Inc. yet but there are some pretty scary trends occuring right now with all poultry, not just turkeys. Nice review!

  • Me again: Just wanted to stop in and say I’m so glad you’re joining in the fun of WHat’s in a Name! Hope you like the categories.

  • This is on top of my wishlist of books that talk about “responsible food”. Can I ask if you planned this week on purpose, during thanksgiving and so close to Christmas?

    • Sort of, yes. I was originally going to do it in September, thinking about the beginning of fall, but it didn’t come together in time so I moved it to Thanksgiving, I thought it would fit very well here.

  • Nice review! I loved this book too. I found it inspirational but it didn’t last. :-)

    It did me a bit more aware of what food I’m buying and I’ve been going to a local farmer’s shop more often.

  • I read this with my book club and it we had an interesting discussion. Some found it a hard concept to adapt to and it may not be practical for everyone. I think that you can take away good ideas from this book about buying local and being more conscious with your decisions about food you eat and purchase.

  • Thank you for the interesting review. I love her way of writing non-fiction (small wonders is fantastic).

    We had a farm raised heritage turkey yesterday and we took the breastbone out and spread the turkey flat, dry brined it for three days and I have to say it was the best turkey I have ever eaten. Don’t know if it was the cooking method or the bird itself or most likely, a perfect combination of the two but it would be hard for me to go back to a store bought bird. Unfortunately, I think my dad paid a small fortune for the bird so this is not a solution of many people.

  • Oooh, If you’re looking for scary but true documentaries you should watch “Meet your Meat.” Also, so glad you liked this book. This was one that inspired me to dig into the food industry with claws…I haven’t let go yet :)

  • I adored Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I’m so glad you did too!

  • I had sort of mixed thoughts on the “inspirational-ness” of this book. On the one hand, it was amazing to see what’s possible, given the right circumstances and dedication. On the other hand, I just never felt like I could do even half of what Kingsolver and her family did, which was sort of disheartening. But, I haven’t really found a “back to the farm” sort of book that feels really practical to me, so it’s probably not at all Kingsolver’s fault :)

    • I totally understand that. I was inspired by what is actually possible, even if it isn’t really feasible for me or for most people, really. I also thought that she gave some good, practical tips even for those people who can’t do everything that she and her family did.

  • I’ve got this one near the top of Mt. TBR–sounds like I’ll really enjoy it. Hopefully I’ll be inspired to do better!

  • This book sounds like it would inspire me to eat in a whole new way. I try to buy locally as much as possible but can imagine it is not an easy task to go as hardcore as Kingsolver and her clan did!