Three hundred and sixty-eight pages, no pretty pictures, and it's about food? Yes it is, and it's fascinating. Written by best-selling novelist Barbara Kingsolver, her scientist hubby and teenage daughter, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" chronicles the true story of the family's adventures as they move to a farm in rural Virginia and vow to eat locally for one year. They grow their own vegetables, raise their own poultry and buy the rest of their food directly from farmers markets and other local sources. There are touching human stories here (the family's 9-year-old learns a secret to raising chickens for food: don't name them!) but the book's purpose is serious food for thought: it argues the economic, social and health benefits of putting local foods at the center of a family diet. As Kingsolver details the family's experience month-by-month, husband Steven adds sidebars on the problems of industrial agriculture and daughter Camille tosses in some first-person essays ("Growing Up in the Kitchen") and recipes ("Holiday Corn Pudding a Nine-Year-Old Can Make").
And it is all so well written! Kingsolver can veer way off topic -- wandering off into subjects like rural politics, even turkey sex -- and still, somehow, stay right on point. Her husband can say more in two pages than some professors I know can say in 200, and the daughter's writings... well I often couldn't tell who was writing what without checking for the byline.
The book looks and feels great, too. The dust jacket has been pressed into the nubby texture of burlap. The pages have ragged edges, which makes them soft on your fingers.
Reading this book, drinking my Phosphoric Acid Diet Coke and snacking on some Partially Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil Walt Disney World Hungry Heroes Yogurt Pretzels, I suddenly felt like I was a kid again, sitting in my bedroom in 1969 listening to that Joni Mitchell "Woodstock" lyric: "Time to get back to the land, and set my soul free." Now that song is stuck back in my head! Maybe it should have never left.