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Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating


Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

Photo © Molly Watson

The Bottom Line

Compelling tale of one family's adventure of eating as locally as possible for one year--with most of their food coming from their small farm in Virginia.
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  • Engaging story well told
  • Inspiring tale for locavores
  • Rock-solid advice on the basics of local eating
  • Wonderful account of a family coming together around food


  • Politics can become heavy-handed at times
  • Perimeters of project not always clear
  • Limited number of recipes (it is not a cookbook, after all)


  • A story, not a guidebook or cookbook, about eating locally from one family's perspective
  • A literary portal into farm life, including planning a year's crops and harvesting poultry
  • By a great writer who finds enchanting ways to recount the quotidian
  • Consider yourself warned: You WILL want to plant a vegetable garden when you finish reading this book!

Guide Review - Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

Award-winning author Barbara Kingsolver and her family decamped from Tuscon, Arizona to live on a small farm in Virginia they'd used as a summer home. For one year they ate as much from their own farm and neighboring farms as possible. This book traces their journey month-by-month, including the fateful day in April when they flipped the switch.

One of the most engaging aspects of their story is how reasonable their approach is. Each family member got to choose an "exception" to the local rule (Kingsolver's husband and co-author, Steven L. Hopp wisely chose coffee). Theirs is not a tale of deprivation. This family literally weighs in even at the end of their year-long experiment, and revels in the bounty--and how it changes through the seasons--that their land produces.

Along with the story of their local diet is the often more compelling tale of a family's group project. Older daughter Camille does a lot of the cooking and recipe writing. Younger daughter Lily takes full charge of the chickens and establishes an egg business while in grade school. The connection the family has to its food and each other is enough to get anyone wanting together their brood around the table.

The book also ventures into the politics of local eating. The issues are intelligently handled and well researched, but can get a bit heavy-handed and unquestioning. The emphasis on carbon production in transporting food is, in particular, accepted a bit too readily, as evidenced by recent studies showing how complicated calculating a "carbon footprint" is.

All this is easy enough to accept in exchange for their story, not to mention the singularly best bit of advice on local eating (from the freezing-, preserving-, drying-obsessed Kingsolver) I've ever heard:

"Eating locally in winter is easy. But the time to think about that would be in August."

So true.

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