Monday, April 28, 2008

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

When was the last time you loved a book so much that you wanted to sneak a flashlight into bed so you could read just a few more pages when you were supposed to be asleep? This is how I felt about Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingslover. The book follows Kingslover and her family though their year-long attempt to be "localvores" -- that is, only eat food that they either grew themselves on their Appalacian farm or purchased from nearby sources.

In the dark, cold depths of a Chicago winter, I curled up in my bed each night, read a few pages of Kingslover's odyssey and dreamed of my garden and farmer's markets. Although I loved reading about her family's day-to-day agricultural activities (i.e. harvesting asparagus, planting heirloom tomatoes, hunting truffles), I was mostly drawn to her approach to food and feeding her family.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle advocates for a connected approach to food and family. First, know your food. Buy local when you can -- it is good for you and your community. Be mindful of how your food has traveled from harvest to your home. Eat together. Enjoy your food and each other.

For me, food is totally wrapped up with family and love. I hope that the food I give to my little ones feeds them in all sorts of ways. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle has wonderful ideas about procuring and preparing food that I have already started to incorporate into our life.

And oh do I have big plans for the summer! We are all going berry picking in June and I am going to freeze the strawberries (real, small, sweet strawberries -- not the huge flavorless ones I have been buying from the grocery store all winter) picked at the peak of freshness to use in yogurt smoothies later on (same for blueberries). When my garden is overrun with ripe tomatoes in late August (hopefully), I am going to dry and can those we can't eat. And when my apple tree lets go of dozens of apples a day in late October, I am going to be up to my elbows in homemade applesauce to save and share.

This book was on my mind yesterday. In the morning, all four of us headed over to Ellie's school to work in the school garden and get some vegetables planted (lettuce and radishes for spring and pumpkins, squashes, and melons for when the children return in the fall). The children worked alongside the adults (when not happily running around and playing in the sandbox). It was happy and satisfying work. In the afternoon, Ellie and I made a stop at the nursery to choose some more plants for our own garden. Then Ellie, Brendan, and Daddy worked together to roll pizza dough and topped it with delicious toppings (the fontina, roasted shallot, and crispy pancetta was my favorite).

Delicious food and a happy family all wrapped up together.


Cindy Fey said...

We go to a farm near Braidwood or over to southwest Michigan for blueberries. Where do you find your strawberries?

The Hen said...

We belong to a CSA called Homegrown Wisconsin and in addition to getting a weekly box, members can go to one of the farms (JenEhr Farms) on Father's Day and pick a certain amount of strawberries for free. We are really looking forward to it! This will be the first year that my kids are old enough to do it.

Anonymous said...

sounds like you had the makings of a pretty perfect day...and the plans for a pretty delicious summer!