I’ve been meaning to read this one for awhile. I’m not sure why. I have all kinds of issues with people who tell me I should do more for the environment, especially if it involves changing my eating habits. I’ve blogged about this already and I will blog some more about it in the near future, based on the thinking I’ve done about this book. To make a long story short here, let’s say that although I am fascinated by the concept of being a locavore (one who eats only food grown or raised in one’s immediate local area) I’m unlikely to become one anytime soon, for a variety of reasons.
However, it was Barbara Kingsolver herself (in her essay collection, Small Wonder), who introduced me to this whole idea, and as it’s since become trendy in so many quarters, I was interested to read what she had to say about her own family’s experience with this experiment. Besides, whether she’s writing fiction or non-fiction, Barbara Kingsolver is just a very engaging and readable author, so I knew I’d have a good time no matter what I thought about her experiment.
The book was everything I’d hoped it would be and more. It was a highly readable and often funny memoir, a well-informed rant on the state of food culture in America today, and a practical how-to guide for living as a locavore in one very fertile area of the U.S. Much of what Kingsolver’s family did would not work for someone living in place like St. John’s, Newfoundland, and much of it wouldn’t work for me personally as I have no interest in farming or even gardening. But I learned a lot from this book, even with the vast differences between us and the few points on which I disagree with her (I think it’s possible that having out-of-season fresh fruits and vegetables available to us may be one of the positive GOOD ways in which we use fossil fuels — kind of like flying to Italy for vacation, which Kingsolver and her husband did in the course of the book without any apparent guilt pangs). I may not be prepared to concede that year-round bananas are a bad thing, but there are countless other ways in which we have become disconnected from the sources of our food and ways in which we are squandering environmental resources to provide food that does us more harm than good (like beef cattle from commercial feedlots).
No, I’m not prepared to become a true locavore and live and die like my ancestors did (of scurvy and malnutrition). However, as a result of reading this book (which contains not just Kingsolver’s story but essays by her husband and daughter about their experiences, and about broader issues relating to food production and consumption — oh, and recipes!!) I am giving a lot more thought to what we eat, where it comes from, and what small changes we can make to choose foods that will be healthy both for my family AND for the planet we live on.