Thursday, February 21, 2008

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: Cheese and Chickens

This book should come with a warning label: Warning, Do Not Read and then go to the Grocery Store.

Barbara Kingsolver sets out in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle to document a year in the eating life of her family. They have decided to try and eat only localy grown foods, some from their garden and farm and the remainder from various local sources. The book is written chronologically, floowing the food year from the planning of their garden to the first fruits and vegetables through the fall harvest and winter months.

The result for me was not so much a look at what she was eating as a look at what I was eating. Her book is full of the flavors of fresh fruit, the anticipation of eating food in its proper season not as it is shipped up from Florida or Chile or wherever you get peaches from in January.

It is February here in Boise, and there is no fresh fruit available that is local. So when I went shopping and saw the apples, strawberries, peaches, pears, etc on the grocers shelves I had to ask myself, "are these really going to have the flavor that I crave or will they be a pale imitation of what I know they should taste like?"

I garden. I have both a vegatable garden and a small number of fruit trees (apples, cherries and peaches). I have a raspberry patch and an herb garden. And to be honest, much of the fruits and vegetables from these are eaten in the yard, where the food travels in a streight line from plant to mouth for myself or my family. And Kingsolver is right, the food tastes so much better when it is fresh, not picked while unripe and shipped thousands of miles to sit on a shelf for a week and then be consumed.

I like the fact that Kingsolver discusses buying from local farmers. The best way to increase the variety of what we eat is o create a demand. Buying heriloom varieties from local farmers gives them a reason to grow cool stuff, and gives us the chance to eat it. Buying the same old apples that you can get anywhere at a farmer's market only keeps you from experiencing new things.

When Laura and I finished this book, we made some decisions. We bought a copy of "Home Cheese Making" by Ricki Carrol and have started working on making our own cheese (I'll review this in a later post). We are expanding our garden with more beds, trees and raspberries. And we will be getting chickens for freah eggs (I'll be builing the chicken house over the next month or so).

I know that I cannot change the world overnight. But I can change what and how I eat, and Kingsolver helped me to see a path that is full of flavor and good food.


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