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Monday, January 28, 2008

Book Review: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

BookcoverWelcome to my first-ever (and possibly only) book review on this site. After three years of restaurant reviews, I would be happy to never review anything again, but this book is too phenomenal and monumental to not discuss here.

Also, though I'm discussing a book, this isn't REALLY a review. I just want to share some thoughts about it. To order a copy for yourself, click here.

As regular readers no doubt realize by now, I am a big fan of eating locally, eating responsibly and teaching my children to do the same. That said, it's not always easy. As the pretty, pretty Mir pointed out a week ago, this can be an expensive proposition. Organic meat, especially, is a lot more costly than conventional, but after reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I am more resolved than ever to change the way I shop for my family.

Specifically, I am going to do everything I can to buy more local, seasonally-appropriate and organic produce, dairy and meats. I am doing this for health reasons (organically-grown meat has more Omega 3's, more vitamin D and less cholesterol, not to mention the lack of chemicals) and for environmental reasons (I am tired of buying Washington apples, in the fall, when local ones are just as readily available. It's not worth the carbon footprint. It's for that same reason that I don't eat or buy tomatoes except in late summer). I just placed my grocery orders online. I ordered my staples from Peapod, but I ordered my meats, produce and dairy from Fresh Picks.

Additionally, Michael and I are going to see what we can do about creating additional food storage opportunities in our small-ish house. I'd like to be able to buy tons of tomatoes in August/September and then can them for the off months. Reading about this in Kingsolver's book was just mind-altering for me. I also think it might be nice to buy a large portion of meat (like a share in a pig or cow), and then store it in a freezer. Since I do want to buy only locally-raised, organic meat, this is the more economical option.

In the book, Kingsolver and her family eat only locally-produced food (with some very small exceptions, such as coffee) for a year. They grow and raise much of it themselves, on their farm in Virginia. Obviously, this is not entirely reasonable for me, seeing as I live on a city lot in Chicago, but the lessons taught in the book were meaningful regardless. EVERYONE can learn something from this book, even those of us living in big cities.

I have to say that at times the book is a bit preachy, but I was probably a bit more sensitive to that than others, just because with me, she was kind of preaching to the choir. That said, though much of the information in this book wasn't news to me (it's not that I was under the impression that factory farming was a good thing), it just brought it home in a new, more personal way that truly resonated.

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