By Courtney Cochran
In Barbara Kingsolver’s fascinating new book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,
the bestselling author of The Poisonwood Bible
chronicles a year in which her family – having relocated to a small Virginia farm – commits to consuming only those foods grown on their own small patch of land or on those of neighboring farms. And while the premise of the book – a return to the local food culture on which our nation was initially based, and which has long been trumped by corporate farming and industrial food production – is fascinating, even more so may be the insights the book affords into Americans’ warped view of just how food is created today, and how it arrives at our tables (clue: we tend not to think too hard about it, to our own detriment).
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But the book does more than simply highlight the how, what
behind what we’re eating; as well, it insists that readers reconsider what’s on their plates, along with the impact their food choices have on our nation’s future, and that of the human race. It does so by way of revelatory insights on the impact of unpleasantries like CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) – which produce 98% of the chicken meat we consume in the US and which may be responsible for the development of new strains of bacteria harmful to humans – and entertaining accounts of the author’s own personal journey through a year of producing and consuming her own food. In all, Kingsolver strikes just the right balance between presenting the facts surrounding the industrial food movement and recounting – via candid stories related with the grace you’d expect from an award-winning fiction writer – her family’s own journey to something better.