Friday, August 29, 2008

Vegetable, Animal, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver

I was searching the inter-web for information on food miles travelled from ‘field to fork’ when I came across this book by novelist Barbara Kingsolver.

In it the writer documents a year on her farm with her family, raising plants and chooks. This is interspersed with a lot of commentary on the political, environmental and economic aspects of food.

To be frank, I found myself in 100 percent agreement with everything that Kingsolver wrote on the politics and economics of food. When she writes that agricultural knowledge has vanished and that we don’t know the true value of the food we eat, I couldn’t have agreed more.

Kingsolver is a smart and energetic writer, and doesn’t waste her reader’s time. Having said that, however, I did find she could be too peppy sometimes. Also, there is a risk that when people start talking in glowing terms about their diet, the underlying message is, hey, you should be eating what I eat, and if you did, your health would be much better. It comes across as a tad condescending.

The author does like to take the high moral ground a bit. This is not overt in the text, but you feel it lurking beneath. For example, when her daughter’s friend wants to buy some bananas, she is told no because of the food miles involved. Of course Kingsolver herself is allowed to drive a car hither and yon, and to indulge in European holidays.

No matter, these are minor quibbles. As mentioned above, on the politics, economics and environmental aspects of food production, I totally agree with Kingsolver.

Bonus features: the writer’s husband, Steven L. Hopp adds sidebars throughout text with little facts and figures, and Kingsolver’s teenage daughter, Camille, adds some charming essays, making the book a family effort. Her youngest daughter Lilly, we learn, was too young to sign a writer’s contract!

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