July 20

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

I’ve read a lot of Kingsolver recently. Demon Copperhead for one book club and Unsheltered for another and now Animal, Vegetable, Miracle which I loved. In fact I am just going to list all the things that I loved.

  • Her choice of vegetables. If I had to choose key vegetables I would choose the same as Kingsolver chose. As I write this in July and we are sinking under a mound of courgettes and almost eating them at every mealtime. I am going to chop some up and put them in the freezer for soups in winter but I really couldn’t face the amount of time she spent in the kitchen in August preserving all that food.
  • The idea that we can decide how we feel about cooking at the end of the day. Is it a mind-numbing chore or is it an act of love to bring everyone together around something that is good for us but also provides a social occasion for a family. I choose an act of love and health.
  • She’s funny. I am still chuckling at the thought that we ask our young people to delay having sex, wait until they are a bit older, but we can’t wait for tomato season. We buy them all year round and eat them even when they are tasteless winter blobs. In fact they are like that in the summer if you buy them from a supermarket. Or, how about when she had to teach her turkeys how to have sex because it has been bred out of them.
  • Living on what you can get locally. Kingsolver and family had animals for eating. It requires that we research local suppliers and then buy from them. I love the idea that our money can be put to good use within our community. Farmers were having a hard time when she wrote the book in 2008 but they are having an even harder time in 2023. Climate change is happening and affects what and how we grow.
  • “We all may have some hungry months ahead of us, even hungry years, when a warmed-up globe changes the rules of a game we smugly thought we’d already aced.” p325
  • Secretly, I hanker after doing the same thing. I would have to be a lot more organised and think more carefully about how much of each thing to grow but I do have the space and some know-how. I would start in May and I would really have to think about winter because I don’t have the space to freeze everything to keep us going all winter but I do have a polytunnel.

Were there things I wasn’t so sure about in the book? Yes. Her daughters never appeared to argue about wanting things they couldn’t have – perhaps they had been talking about this way of living for several years so they had bought in to the idea. They do come over as a rather perfect family. But, how do you live without lemons? I have grown 4 this year, all tiny. Not exactly abundance so the things we would have to go without might be quite a lot. I don’t eat many bananas so that isn’t a problem. Maybe I ought to start growing lemons a little more seriously.

This book is one woman and her family’s journey. It isn’t mine or yours and so I think if we take the principles we can all have a go. It’s just that some of us might have more disagreements (!) along the way.

June 29

Gardening book club

A little while ago I went with a friend to her gardening book club. I didn’t know such things existed and of course they are right up my street. Discussing books and gardening. What’s not to love?

We read and discussed Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A year of seasonal eating by Barbara Kingsolver, a book that has been out for a little while but felt quite prescient in today’s times especially if you grow it yourself. I absolutely loved it – and of course the tea and cake – and thought that I would like to join just such a group. I have looked around locally and online and can’t find anything at all like it and being a member of a large allotment association I wondered if it would be a good thing to have on our sites. The only thing is, I would have to set it up and run it and would it be more hassle than it was worth?

We could have it as an in-person group where we meet on either of our local sites in the sheds or on plots in the good weather or we could hold it online and discuss the book in our facebook group or on some other site we set up for that purpose. Or, we could have a meeting and discuss it online so that everyone has access to the discussion.

The other issue is about being able to buy the book. These days I don’t think we can assume that everyone can afford to do so. We don’t want to limit ourselves to books that you can get in the library because good as they are, the gardening section in our local library is not always the most up to date selection. I did wonder whether the allotment association would buy one copy of each book we discuss and then people could borrow it for a week, read it and then pass it on to the next person. It would also mean that the allotments start to build up their own small library of gardening related books.

Oh, what to do?