Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Finding your inner farmer

I know that we were reading Barbara Kingsolver at least as far back as 1992 when we read Animal Dreams in our Reading Group. But I also have on my bookshelf her The Bean Trees, Pigs in Heaven, The Poisonwood Bible and Prodigal Summer. I know that we DID read Poisonwood Bible as a group; DID NOT read Prodigal Summer as a group; and probably DID read the other two but alas memory and my archives fail me. Of course what unites all of these titles is that they are Fiction.

I can be sure that one title of hers that we will NOT read in our Book Group is her most recent Animal, Vegetable, Miracle A Year of Food Life because it is non-fiction. We have few proscriptions in our group but after many years there is a line in the sand and all “Book Group books” are on the Fiction side. So I had to read it on my own.

There are actually 3 authors of this book: Barbara writes most of it in her wonderful prose but her husband Steven contributes more factual background pieces and Barbara’s daughter Camille writes the recipe sections. In addition to the book there is a website with the same name that has additional recipes, farming resources, and some fabulous photos. I have found this to be the case with several non-fiction books lately – the tie-in website which is actually a great idea for updating the material.

But if you have grown up in an urban/suburban environment like I have, don’t be fooled into thinking that you can pack your belongings, move to the country and with only this book as your guide release your inner farmer and sustain yourself. Barbara and family didn’t just move from Tucson to southern Appalachia and start from scratch on day one of this year-long chronicle. They had owned the farm and spent summers there for many years. Barbara herself had grown up in a rural area of eastern Kentucky. So they had a lot of the experience and knowledge which I suspect can only be gained the hard way – by trial and error and trial again.

I loved reading this book, learned a lot and was inspired to take a more local and seasonal approach to the food I eat. (Does that mean that I can never have another banana?) Maybe I’ll start with a few containers of herbs and some San Francisco Fog tomato plants in my backyard. After all, “a journey of a thousand paces…”


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