Thursday, January 22, 2009

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, or 1 More Reason to Change Myself & My American Ways

I thought this book was going to be more anecdotal, but it was still super nonetheless because Barbara Kingsolver rules! The Kingsolver family vows that for one year they are only going to eat food they grow themselves, or that they can buy locally. They each get one caveat food but the rest is farmer friendly.

Within the tale of their experiment, I also learned the disgusting facts of our American food: how much fuel is used getting food to our stores (about $22 billion in tax dollars annually), how the Farm Bill no longer helps farmers and is instead used for corporate welfare, why 52 countries have banned our beef, why corn syrup is in everything and how it's making us fatter, why turkeys don't have sex, and why genetically modified food is so scary. Just to start with. Also the average household pays $725 in food-related taxes per year, some of which goes to the fuel mentioned above, and some of which pays for pesticides and chemical cleanups. Ouch.

It's not just a story to frighten you into growing your own food. Barbara shows you how to find a local farmers' market, and how to get involved politically to support local agriculture and healthy child nutrition. You can learn how to make your own cheese. Her daughter shares recipes.

Reading this book inspired me to take a personal field trip to my grocery store to see what I could buy from Arizona. I was shocked to discover that if I was going to go on the Kingsolver diet, Corey and I would have to survive on chocolate milk, bread, and honey. Those are the only things I could find from Arizona! I suppose we could also eat the grapefruits and oranges we grow in our backyard, but I can't say there were many recipes in the book for grapefruit honey casseroles. The other thing I noticed that was kind of disturbing is that all of the beef said it was from Canada, the United States, or Mexico. Thanks for narrowing it down for us.

Saddest Fact: "In India...150,000 farmers have committed suicide--often by drinking pesticide, to underscore the point--after being bankrupted by costly chemicals in a cycle of debt created by ties to corporate agriculture."

Most Awesome Arguments Against Buying Local Food:
Christian Science Monitor claims, " much local focus could breed 'unhealthy provincialism.'"
"John Clark, a developmental specialist for (where else) the World Bank argued that 'what are sweatshop jobs for us may be a dream job' for someone else--presumably meaning those folks who earn a few dreamy bucks from Dole, Kraft, Unilever, or Archer Daniel Midlands--'but all that goes out the window if we only buy local.'"

Funniest Quote: "I don't think of myself as the type to ply turkey menfolk with brandy and hoodwink them into fatherhood. But a girl needs to know her options."

So we've been boycotting Wal-Mart, we drive a Prius, we try to buy less from China, we helped the whales, we voted for Obama, and I guess now we'll have to add buying Holsum or Aunt Hattie's bread and going the the farmers' market to the list of things we're trying to do to make the world a better place. Barbara says, "Small, stepwise changes in personal habits aren't trivial. Ultimately they will, or won't, add up to having been the thing that mattered." I hope they do!

P.S. This book fulfills my Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge to read a book with a food name in the title.


Melissa said...

I've been bad about boycotting Wal-Mart lately. It seems that I end up there more often than I'd like...

Good for you for trying to go local; I think you underscore an important point about it, though. It's hard to go local in places that don't support farming. I'm lucky, here in Kansas, that I can get meat as well as vegetables from local farmers, so it's easier for me to go local. But, I could see how it'd be more challenging in desert climes.

Good for you for trying, though.

Have you read Michael Pollan's books?

Captain Nick Sparrow said...

Actually I found 9 farmers' markets when I did a Phoenix search, and 5 of them are open year round.

My sister lives in Kansas and is literally surrounded by farms. It's so pretty!

I have read "Botany of Desire" and loved it. I would like to read Michael Pollan's new ones too. Do you like him?