Saturday, 22 September 2007


Recently I spent every spare minute of a 3-day holiday reading this book that Roger gave me for my birthday, back in July. Previously I had thought it would just be stuff I already knew, made less relevant for being American. Having time to savour something is always so rewarding and so I really got into this account of a USA family that took on the challenge of eating home-grown / seasonal/ local food for a year. Each member of the family contributes to the chapters and I love reading about the little girl and her chickens as well as the teenage girl and her views on what is going on and why. The main author, Barbara Kingsolver, writes beautifully but this is not a fairy story and it tells it straight,warts and all. Her husband adds lots of research and facts (as husbands are wont to do). The first 1/3 of the book has a lot of background about many issues such as pasture vs feedlot meat, global transport of food, farm size etc etc and really sets the scene and explains how they came to realise that life is taking some terrible turns.

Once they immerse themselves in the rolling seasons and the challenges they bring, the book comes to life.They begin to settle in to getting to know the people at the farmers' market and their neighbours and realise that this is how it is meant to be. Someone tells Barbara she is a "real housewife". She comments "It has taken me decades to get here, but I took that as a compliment".

The deeper they look into issues the more complex answers become. For example, in a discussion on vegetarianism she points out that "every sack of flour and every block of tofu came from a field where countless winged and furry lives were extinguished in the plowing, cultivating and harvesting. An estimated 67 million birds die each year from pesticide exposure on US farms....." Butterflies and other insects, foxes, rabbits and so on are starved out of their homes or dismembered by harvesters and plows. Many of the world's poor live on land that cannot support plant-based agriculture and only those that live where rain is abundant and the weather suitable, can have the luxury of choice.

I love this quote from the book "Cooking is 80% confidence, a skill best acquired starting from when the apron strings wrap around you twice." (I started my boys off then and now they can and do attempt to cook anything.)

All in all a lovely read and, I understand, Pattie from the Foodshed has been to a talk by the family, on their experiences and I look forward to her interpretations too. What a coincidence.


Pattie Baker said...

Kate: Just too weird that you read this book literally days before my daughter and I went to Barbara and her husband's reading here in Atlanta (Camille is at college). I bought the book that night and am currently still in the first few chapters--I thought of your gorgeous asparagus when I read that Barbara and her family kicked off their challenge with the asparagus!

It's a breezy, gray day here and the hammock is calling. :)

Pattie Baker said...

P.S. Camille is Barbara's daughter, for those who don't know the book. She ahs gotten a lot of great press about her contributions to the book.