With winter sweeping in like a wolf on the hunt, I’m going to be changing the format of the blog (just a teeny eeny bit) to include some posts that aren’t focused on a particular locally grown vegetable and how to cook it. That’s not to say I won’t find a way to keep cooking local between my own preserves and those of friends and family, as well as with some produce from local farmers that are lucky enough to have greenhouses.
In any case, since my winter months are often imbued with reading (and knitting), I’d like to showcase a couple books over the next several weeks that I feel have powerful messages, as well as the occasional aside of comic relief. Together, we’ll hopefully get a little more educated about what’s being written on the subject of eating local and supporting small farms, including urban agriculture.
There’s no better place to start than the poignant volume, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, which my coworker Carol was gracious enough to loan me. Thanks to an elaborate sticky-note system, I’ve managed to curtail my impulse to underline important points and scribble my comments in the margins. There’s a tremendous amount of discussion-worthy material in this book though.
Already a prolific writer, Kingsolver has now tackled an immensely broad subject (the value and purpose of eating local seasonal food) through her own personal journey. Full of pause-worthy quotes and a tremendous amount of research disguised as jaunty dialogue, I can’t put this book down.
Quotes from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
“What the fad diets don’t offer, though, is any sense of national or biological integrity. A food culture is not something that gets sold [in advertisements] to people. It arises out of a place, a soil, a climate, a history, a temperament, a collective sense of belonging… A sturdy food tradition even calls to outsiders; plenty of red-blooded Americans will happily eat Italian, French, Thai, Chinese, you name it. But try the reverse: hand the Atkins menu to a French person, and run for your life.”
“The baby boom psyche embraces a powerful presumption that education is a key to moving away from manual labor, and dirt — two undeniable ingredients of farming… When we walked as a nation away from the land, our knowledge of food production fell away from us like dirt in a laundry-soap commercial.”
“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.”
Each quote makes a tremendous amount of sense to me, but then again I’m closely tied to farming. I’d love to hear your thoughts about them. What, in your mind, constitutes a food culture/tradition? And how do you rebuild one that’s apparently as defunct as America’s? Or isn’t ours defunct? At one point Kingsolver goes so far as to suggest American school kids take an entire course on agriculture. Is this too drastic a measure? Has our society become too removed from “dirty” work? Knowing that it will reduce our nation’s oil consumption by so much, are you now going to eat one “local” meal a week? Let’s get some chatter going here, people!
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