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Author Barbara Kingsolver and her family abandoned the industrial-food pipeline to live a rural life—vowing that, for one year, they’d only buy food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it. Little did the standing-room-only crowd in Duke Chapel know that Barbara Kingsolver, the keynote speaker for the 2006 North Carolina Festival of the Book, was anxious about a potential avian crisis back home. Kingsolver is joined by her family: Hopp, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and her daughters Camille, now a junior at Duke, and Lily, who was nine during the year the book chronicles.
The book opens with the family leaving Arizona, where they lived during the academic year, and heading east toward the twenty-acre farm in Virginia that has been in Hopp's family for generations. After a year of getting the farm and its environs fixed up, the family launches its year of eating locally, which kicks off in early spring when the tips of asparagus begin to poke through the soil. Like her other works, Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle contains wit and wonder about the world, from the curious sex life of turkeys to the seductive fragrance of wild mushrooms. A Hunter College sociologist, Stone conducted interviews with fifty-four highly accomplished professional women who left the workforce at some point after becoming mothers.
The tyrannical workplace culture in this country is a scandal, but it isn't much of a secret.
Contributing to women's sense that they had to be incredible Elastigirls is the current trend toward intensive parenting. The second half of Stone's book surveys life on the other side—how these hard-driving career women adjusted to being stay-at-home moms. Stone provides sensible suggestions for creating a more hospitable workplace and showcases companies like Deloitte & Touche, which has had success with its progressive policies aimed at retaining women.
Livshin '96 is a member of Duke Magazine's Editorial Advisory Board and a former staff editor at The Atlantic Monthly. Our mission is to share information, help empower dog and horse owners with knowledge about nutrition and health of their animals, and to bring them the best whole food supplements.
Our blog articles are our personal experiences and opinions, as well as scientific research and nutritional studies. For the Spring of 2016, BioStar has pledged a portion of our proceeds to help support The Pollinator Partnership. Equine and dog shampoos are as much a staple in barns and homes as food and grooming tools. Kingsolver’s book begins with her family’s departure from their home in Arizona to a farm in Virginia. Once in Virginia, Kingsolver’s family begins the work of getting off the global industrial food grid—described by wasteful fossil fuel consumption, cruel factory farm practices, unsustainable environmental policies, and unfair labor practices—and becoming locavores, growing the bulk of their own food and buying the rest through local food producers. As one who has only dabbled in vegetarianism, I was encouraged by Kingsolver’s reflections on meat consumption. Citing the wasteful use of fuel to haul produce halfway around the globe to stock American grocery stores with tropical fruit in mid-winter, Kingsolver writes: “Should I overlook the suffering of victims of hurricanes, famines, and wars brought on this world by profligate fuel consumption? For myself, I want to live in a world where our ethics and spirituality and civic responsibilities are not so far apart as they appear now.
Cut a lid off the top, scoop out the seeds and stringy parts, and rub the inside flesh with salt.
Sautee garlic, peppers and onions in olive oil until golden, add chopped carrots and cook until tender. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is an enthralling narrative that will open your eyes in a hundred new ways to an old truth: You are what you eat.
As she charmed her audience with colorful anecdotes about her writing career and its marriage of art and politics, Kingsolver kept to herself thoughts of what was transpiring at the family farm in Virginia, where a first-time mother turkey was tending to a nest full of eggs that may or may not have been viable.
Kingsolver's message is that Americans' addiction to immediate gratification, be it fast food or happy endings, comes at a high cost, and that savoring a long-awaited reward makes it all the sweeter.
Hopp contributes informative essays about the far-reaching and environmentally damaging impact of the way most food is grown and distributed in this country, and Camille brings a wise-beyond-her-years teenage perspective on living in harmony with the land. Kingsolver grew up in rural Kentucky, surrounded by farmland, so the pilgrimage is a homecoming of sorts.

Each month has its own task list, from time-sensitive imperatives such as planting and harvesting to longer-term projects such as planning meals months in advance.
It offers simple steps for improving one's dietary karma, while emphasizing how out-of-kilter (and political) the basic act of eating has become. Married to men whose earning power made it possible for them to consider quitting their jobs, all but a handful fought to hang on, but caved under intractable workplace pressures. But the focus on choice and values glosses over the real-life obstacles that women encounter when they try to have it all.
In their upper-middle-class milieu, you were a negligent parent if your kid wasn't involved in myriad enriching and character-building pursuits. Although the consensus was that quitting their jobs was the right decision for their families, their at-home experiences make for decidedly gloomy reading. Of the reasons for the move, Kingsolver lists the desire to “live in a place that could feed us” as a compelling motivation to leave Tucson, a city which, she says, “might as well be a space station where human sustenance is concerned” given its extreme dependency on external supplies of food and water. But contrary to what I might have imagined a year of growing one’s own food is like—long, hard days of backbreaking work for a meager crop of turnips and potatoes—Kingsolver’s monthly reports from the farm tell a story of beauty and abundance that, though not without labor, recovers the lost value in being a part of and knowing the land on which our lives depend. Though raised in the heavily irrigated San Joaquin Valley with orchards and vineyards on all sides of my small town, I internalized little of the agricultural realities and challenges of my environment.
She writes persuasively on this issue in her chapter “You Can’t Run Away on Harvest Day.” The word harvest, in this context, refers to the day when Kingsolver, her family, and a few friends butcher the chickens and turkeys they have so carefully raised. Bananas that cost a rain forest, refrigerator-trucked soymilk, and prewashed spinach shipped two thousand miles in plastic containers do not seem cruelty-free, in this context.
My husband once half-joked that many of the problems in American society might be traced back to Burger King’s motto: Have it your way. I want to live in a world where turkeys are free to roam about in the field and procreate the good old fashioned turkey way. Combine with liquid and spices in a large pot, mashing the cloves and heating carefully so as not to burn the milk. She also shares recipes that are simple and sublime—butternut-bean soup, basil-blackberry crumble, and a variety of seasonal potato salads, for example. She admits that the family loads up on junk food on its way out of town; such humbling confessions about the easy reliance on dietary conveniences should resonate with every reader.
The glorious bounty of summer's agricultural yield becomes the evening's gazpacho and zucchini chocolate-chip cookies and, once frozen or canned, next winter's tomato sauce and veggie stir-fry.
The writer who's made a career out of weaving together the personal and political uses this book, too, to hammer home the message that Americans' current culinary habits are unsustainable: Most food in your neighborhood grocery store has been pumped full of pesticides and preservatives, shipped thousands of miles using waning reserves of fossil fuels, and has exacted inestimable harm on the environment. Though a small number of women in Stone's sample had planned to stay home all along, and a few were blindsided by baby love, for the most part we hear from women who were committed to their careers and who made a valiant effort to integrate their professional lives with motherhood. Somewhat unexpectedly, women found that the intellectual, emotional, and scheduling needs of school-age children proved more pressing and less easy to hand over to a hired caretaker than those of babies—and were thus less compatible with the all-consuming nature of their jobs. The joys of parenting aside, many women struggled with isolation and the lack of intellectual stimulation, and felt acutely the loss of their professional identities.
In the meantime, no one would advocate discouraging ambitious young women from pursuing high-powered professional careers, but perhaps we should do more to cultivate realistic expectations about the lives they're trying to build.
Gratefully, the envy I feel now after reading this book may be more easily satiated than the yen I have been left with after concluding some wild travelogue or great spiritual memoir. Kingsolver’s descriptions of unchecked growth in the water scarce Sunbelt intone a precarious future if our habits of consumption do not change.
Kingsolver is not a legalist, however, and makes allowances for special purchases of food items that cannot be obtained locally, such as coffee, chocolate, and spices, if they meet fair trade standards.
The simple idea of eating seasonally, for example, never crossed my mind when the grocery stores my family frequented presented mangos in February as though a gift to us fog-trodden Central Californians. Though sympathetic to many of the concerns raised by vegetarians and vegans, she believes it is possible, and sometimes preferable, to be an ethical meat eater, defined here as a rejection of meats from CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) and a promotion of organic, free-range meat production mindful of the need for restrained, humane and conscientious eating habits. But living with an awareness of the complex factors affecting our food system means that we cannot ethically support the immediate gratification of having it our way—including eating at Burger King.

Most importantly, I want to live in a world where human beings make choices not simply on the basis of what feels good but what is good.
When the pumpkin is ready, fill with the liquid and replace the lid, putting a sheet of foil between the pumpkin and its top so it doesna€™t fall in.
But we can seek out farmers' markets, choose locally grown foods over those shipped from another state or country, and buy beef from cattle raised on grass, rather than corn-and-hormone slop. Women threw themselves into mothering and high-level volunteering, yet most said they hoped to return to paid work. The solution (or should I say absolution) to my dipping into the second deadly sin may be as simple as planting my own garden. The image of an overdrawn Colorado River—now running dry before it reaches the ocean—seems to be a fitting, if tragic, portent of things to come. And no one told me the true story of how turkeys are raised for our Thanksgiving table (hint: Google “turkey” and “artificial insemination”).
But given the strong claims Kingsolver makes, I found myself wishing citations had been included in the text itself to better ground her arguments.
Before I even finished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I found myself pulling weeds from the little plot of rented land, inspired to plant my very first garden. But when the year comes to a close, she calculates that the family has eaten for an average of fifty cents per person per meal.
After reading this book, you'll realize there's no easy answer to the question of what's for dinner. Since these women's husbands were similarly shackled to their careers, no one was around to patrol the home front. But their former careers seemed closed off to them by virtue of the work culture that drove them out in the first place. Her husband, a professor of environmental studies, includes pithy “Did You Know?” type sidebars throughout the book that provide economic and scientific rationale for locavorism.
Occasionally open lid and check with a spoon, carefully scraping some inside flesh into the hot liquid. Women tried to negotiate part-time, job-sharing, or other flextime arrangements with their employers.
And they were full of doubts about what else they could do or whether they'd be able to reenter the workforce at all—a valid anxiety, according to re-entry statistics. And her college-aged daughter provides her own perspective along with simple and popular family recipes. If the pumpkin collapses or if the flesh is stringy, remove liquid and flesh to a blender and puree. Those who weren't denied outright found that anything less than complete commitment was simply incompatible with success and advancement in their fields.
But I still wanted to know more and, like I now do with my food, where my information was coming from. Blessedly, a reference and resource guide included at the end of the book gives me a trail of articles and books on this subject.
But this is a good thing—to have to exercise my ethical and spiritual commitments in such a meaningful way every day—every meal—of my life. What would it mean if the most basic act of human existence—eating—became as fundamental to our ethical life as prayer is to our spiritual life as voting is to our civic life.

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