Saturday, May 22, 2010

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle....Maybe

I've been listening to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver lately.  I read her book The Poisonwood Bible a few years ago, and it's one of those books that will pop up in your head for no reason later on, and you almost remember it as something that happened to someone you know.  It was a good read, and I had heard good things about this one too, though the format was completely different.  The Poisonwood Bible was fictional, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is the true story of the year that the author's family decided to eat only locally farmed food - from vegetables to grains to meat and dairy - the whole deal.  If it wasn't in season and produced locally, they just weren't going to eat it.  This obviously knocked out a huge selection of food, but surprisingly, they ate pretty well that year.   And much of what they ate was grown in their own backyard.  

The book is packed with more information than I have ever imagined knowing about vegetables, meat, and even cheese.  It has been educational to say the least.  One enlightening moment in particular came when I was listening to the audiobook in my car while eating lunch at Sonic.  As I got ready to bite into my Junior Cheeseburger, they got to the section on beef production.  Specifically the part about America having some of the lowest standards of all developed nations when it comes to protection from Mad Cow disease.  What America protects is apparently the beef industry.  Case in point -  when one American company a few years back decided they would test every batch of beef for Mad Cow disease, the government told them they could not.  It was essentially illegal for them to take that extra measure to protect consumers.  That has to make you think.  I gotta tell ya, that section of the book will kill the desire for that Junior Cheeseburger pretty quickly.  

Another eye opener for me was in the vegetable arena.  I'm embarrassed to say that I've never really thought about the fact that there are times of the year that if I'm eating a tomato, it has traveled way farther than I have lately, and it's been engineered to live longer, not necessarily to taste like a tomato should.  Seasonal eating was a foreign concept to me, and it makes a ridiculous amount of sense.  No wonder I never liked vegetables - I never paid attention to choosing fruit & veggies that were actually in season and had a shot at tasting the way they were meant to taste.  Go figure.

Now, I can't see myself ever taking things to the level that this family did, but it did get me thinking about different areas that I could change in my own life to support local farmers and buy (and eat) more quality food.  I even found myself contemplating making my own cheese.  That's probably taking it a little far, but I have to say, I was intrigued when I heard that I could make mozzarella in my own kitchen in an hour's time.  I considered planting a vegetable garden, but I'm a little weary of that proposition.  I kill plants at an alarming rate if they have needs that go further than "water when I appear to be dying".  So the next thought was the local farmers market.  I haven't made a trip yet, but it's on the agenda.  I've been looking into joining a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm.  I don't know too much about them yet, but basically you commit to support a local grower and pick up your crop share at periodic intervals.  I'm not a big vegetable eater, and I really want to change that.  I'm that lady standing in the produce aisle picking up every single avocado, trying to remember if it's supposed to be smushy or firm, dark, or really dark.  I am lost in the produce aisle.  I thought that committing ahead of time to buy produce, being given a fresh selection of things I may have never picked on my own, and then having to figure out what to do with them once I got home, would be a great way to make myself jump in feet first.  Local Harvest has a variety of options, but I haven't settled on one yet.  I also recently heard of Urban Acres, the concept is a little different, but still intriguing.  However, it's a little pricier than some of the other options I've seen.

So are any of you out there part of a CSA?  I'd love to hear your experience.  And I will definitely keep you posted if I take the plunge!  In the meantime, I highly recommend Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  I didn't necessarily agree with all of the views of the author, but it was really educational and I think it's worth giving some extra thought to what you're putting in your mouth.

1 comment:

  1. Please, please, please make a video of yourself making cheese! :)