How Barbara Kingsolver Almost Ruined My Life

I’ve been a long-time fan of Barbara Kingsolver.  I have read most all of her books, except The Poisonwood Bible, and I don’t know why I haven’t read that one.  I think my favorite has to be Prodigal Summer.  Who knew moth copulation could be put down so beautifully on paper?  She’s a lyrical writer, and I relish every sentence as if it’s a morsel of the finest chocolate (fair trade chocolate, of course.  Just kidding.  I’ve never seen fair trade chocolate in Metropolitan St. Louis, although I have not looked.).  She is fantastic.  A friend, when describing Kingsolver’s books, introduced me to the word “polemic.”  I’m sure Kingsolver seems that way to some.  Oh, heck:  She is polemic.  It is true. 

BUT, that she is polemic and writes beautifully about moth sex is not what almost ruined my life. 

Reading her book, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”, is what darn near did me in.  You see, this book is to the Locavore what the Bible is to the GideonsAVM has the elements of what I need in a story:  A journey, history, family, food…..Truly, it is a perfect book.  If you haven’t done so, please read it (click on the title above for a quick link to it).  It may change your life.  There is no doubt it will cloud your thoughts at the grocery store.  This reading is a great primer for rethinking the food on your table, and for trying to incorporate local food into your household. 

Plus, you may just learn a lot about food along the way.  Much you will already know, such as: 

~Cattle feed lots are bad and disgusting;

~Chickens are piled up like cordwood in industrial chicken farms (boy, do they stink!  There used to be one along Highway 70 somewhere West of Columbia.  If you’ve driven by it, you remember it!); and

~It takes an immense amount of energy to ship food from the West Coast to the East Coast, and all points in between. 

A few appalling things I hadn’t considered, if accurately stated in the book: 

~75% of the antibiotics used in the United States are used in ‘concentrated animal feeding operations’ – feedlots and chicken projects; and

~“Each food item in a typical U.S. meal has traveled an average of 1,500 miles.” 

The 1,500 mile thing is what almost ruined my life. 

Go to the Shop & Save, the Dierbergs (“home grown Florida corn!”), Aldi’s, Schnucks, any of them, and try to find on any sort of regular basis locally grown food.  It is tough.  To get a guilt complex over Honduran bananas makes grocery shopping even more painful than it already is.  Sigh……

Obviously, the answer is to eat food only in season, get over the banana guilt, and try really hard to buy food from a local grower or farmer’s market.  That’s a difficult thing for a working family to do, financially and timewise.  Remember, the Kingsolver/Hopp family’s checkbook likely looks a bit different than the rest of ours.  Luckily, Community Supported Agriculture is becoming easier to find.  And part of the gist of the book is to return thought and planning to the dinner table – to practice the opposite of the Fast Food Life and enjoy Slow Food Living!

If you buy the book, click here  for an index created post publication.  You’ll be glad to have this in the future.  This is a book you will revisit from time to time.  Be prepared to buy yourself a new one every now and again, though.  You’ll want others to read your current copy, and you may or may not ever get it back!

In closing, here’s a cheese receipt from The AVM Book, Page 144, Verse 3 (just kidding about the verse).  It is fun to do, and it is tasty.  A gallon of milk makes a surprisingly small amount of fresh mozzarella. 

30-minute mozz


[Read around a little online.  If you don’t have an easy source for rennet, you can buy Junket at most grocery stores.  The purists will say it won’t work, but I’ve used it before, and it will work.  I hate when people do this with recipes, but let me tell you, too, that if you buy “sour salt,” found in the Kosher section of the grocery stores, that can stand in for citric acid.  I have found it periodically at the Schnucks in Ladue, MO.]

~Happy Locavoring!



PS:  See these nice Christmas Lima Pole Beans on the cover of The Book?  The show offs.


Christmas Lima Beans Cover of The Book


Here’s what we got from, oh, three teepees of Christmas Lima Pole Beans:


Christmas Lima Beans CW

Gardening is not for sissies!



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