Monday, March 7, 2011

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I finally finished reading Barbara Kingsolver's book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle this morning. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it brought to my attention a lot of food issues that I hadn't thought of before, but there was one thing that just didn't rub me the right way.

The premise of the book is that Kingsolver and her family decide to eat nothing but local food for an entire year, but they seem to break the rules every chance they get! They start off immediately breaking the rules by allowing for several exceptions right off the bat. They are allowed to eat grains and olive oil based on the simple fact that those things just aren't available locally. Okay, I said to myself, those are kind of necessities and if there's no way to get those locally, it's at least a step in the right direction. Then, on top of that, each family member got one "freebie" food: coffee, dried fruit, hot chocolate, and spices. Alright, I'll let that slide too. In fairness, they were buying those things from farmers who got fair wages and practiced sustainable agriculture, which is also important, and everyone needs a treat now and then.

But then they went on not one, but two multi-week vacations over the course of the year. And yes, they ate local foods from their vacation sites, sometimes, but not always. And they ate at friends' houses who didn't follow their locavore lifestyle and even ate out at restaurants that didn't serve local food on occasion.

Now don't get me wrong. Kingsolver and her family did a much better job of eating local, sustainable, and organic food than I do and probably better than I ever will. They grew a huge garden and raised their own animals and bought plenty of food from local farmers. And the vast majority of their food was local. But the thing here is that this was hardly a change for them. They already ate out of their garden previously and bought lots of food from the farmer's market and made an effort to eat local whenever possible. My point is, how is this any different than what they already did? They stepped it up a notch, but they really didn't go all the way, as the book promised in the beginning.

That being said, Kingsolver did an excellent job of making me appreciate and understand the importance of purchasing local food. I already knew it was important because you put money back into your local economy and it's fresher and all that. But one thing I never really thought about was all of the fossil fuels it takes to get food from all over the world to the grocery store. If we ate locally grown food instead, the fuel cost would be practically non-existent. Even doing something as simple as buying fruits and vegetables at the farmer's market instead of the grocery store would make a huge difference.

One other thing I really liked about the book was the inclusion of so many recipes they used to make locally produced breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Once spring starts to roll around, I'll have to try to make some of these when the produce is in season.

I also appreciated the alternating format of the book. Most of the story is told through Kingsolver, but her older daughter, Camille, had an essay related to Kingsolver's story at the end of most chapters. And Kingsolver's husband, Steven Hopp, interjected with relevant facts and statistics throughout the narrative as well. The writing is charming, witty, and endearing. I could feel the happiness, worry, pride, and panic in Kingsolver's words, and her passion fueled my desire to eat better. I think the next book I'll work on is Marion Nestle's Food Politics. Michael Pollan referenced this one several times in his works, so it's likely awesome.

On that note, I went to the co-op grocery store today and picked up a few more local items than usual. After I went through nearly two dozen eggs last week, I snatched up a carton of my usual cage-free organic eggs. But just as I was about to walk away, I saw a row of plain egg cartons and all that was stamped on them was the name of the farm and the city where they farmed. My city. Without a second thought, I checked the local eggs for cracks and put back my usual eggs. I also found a brand of cottage cheese made on a farm only 20 miles from where I live, so I grabbed some to make lasagna this week. I also got another whole chicken from a local farm, and I bought bread baked at the co-op rather than baked elsewhere and then shipped to the co-op, so it saved a little gas there.

Also, one of my cooks at work read about my poached egg fiasco and gave me a little pep talk (re: made fun of me). So I watched him poach a couple eggs this weekend, and retried poaching eggs on Saturday afternoon. Here are my results:

Much better!

Basically, my problem was that I was trying to keep all the white intact, when really only the inner whites need to cook with the yolk and the rest just melt away. So pretty much all you have to do is drop the egg in the water and don't touch it til it's done. Sorry Julia, but you made that way more complicated than necessary.

Eggs Benedict with Paprika

1 comment:

  1. Not that it has anything to do with food, but one of favorite things in the book was the firefly incident.
    Also, those poached eggs look beautiful!