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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle book discussion (chapters 17 - 20)

Phew! This has been the longest book club evah!

Here is the moment you've all been waiting for (well, maybe not) - the final installment of the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle book club discussion posts.

For those of you interested in the next book club and haven't noticed the never-ending polls and various posts, you can check it out here. I think it's fairly obvious at this point what we'll be reading.

Okay, now on with it!

Chapter 17. Celebration Days: November - December: In this chapter, Kingsolver states:
I only vow each winter to try harder to live like a potato, with its tacit understanding that time is time, no matter what any clock might say. I get through the hibernation months by hovering as close as possible to the woodstove without actual self-immolation, and catching up on my reading, cheered at regular intervals by the excess of holidays that collect in a festive logjam at the outflow end of our calendar.

How about you? Do you hibernate during the winter months, waiting for the end? Or do you relish in the shorter days, warmer foods and lots of company?

Chapter 18. What Do You Eat in January?: The author and her family fill their plates in January with foods high in omega-3s to fight off the winter doldrums. Add to that legumes, baked goods, winter squash and whatever else is in the freezer.

Do you have certain foods you tend to eat during the dead of winter?

Chapter 19. Hungry Month: February-March: This chapter discusses, in its entirety, well, turkey sex.

You see, the majority of turkey growers artificially inseminate their breeding stock. In effect, knowing how to breed turkeys naturally is becoming a lost art. And the turkeys don't know how to do it either since they don't have to. Skill in sexual prowess isn't selected for if even the most inept turkey come-ons still result in offspring via a tube. Add to that the fact that mothering instincts have been bred out of turkeys.

What in the world is going on around here? Did anyone else find it incredibly disturbing that sex and parenting have been completely bred out of turkeys?

Chapter 20. Time Begins: The final chapter wraps up their year of changes, between growing their own food and making everything from scratch. When she calculated everything out, they ended up spending about 50 cents per person per meal. Kingsolver also discusses some of the changes that occurred in society during that year, like more acceptance and desire of eating locally, driving hybrids, etc.

One thing she touches on is the act of ridiculing the small gesture. She argues that "small, stepwise changes in personal habits aren't trivial. Ultimately they will, or won't add up to having been the thing that mattered."

What have you done in the last year to change your personal habits, that when they add up really make a difference?


On Thursday, December 20th, I'll be doing a BOOK GIVEAWAY CONTEST. The book? Well, none other than my miraculously pristine hardback copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, A Year of Food Life. Stay tuned!

11 comments:

Magpie said...

I loved that book. It's made me think a lot about how and what we eat, it gave me specific ideas for things to do with the odd vegetables we got from our CSA, and, if I get around to getting the supplies, it gave me the encouragement to try making my own mozzarella.

Amber said...

I really enjoyed this book as well. It opened my mind up to so many possibilities and responsibilities that we all have.

I totally hibernate during the winter but I relish the opportunity to do so. I enjoy the comfort food of winter and always look forward to hearty thick stews and beans.

I'm so with the author on the turkey sex thing. I'm appalled to find out that we are so cruel to our animals and don't respect their right to mate and parent - and IT IS THEIR RIGHT! I can't believe we've disregarded our food sources (plants and animals) so much that we've put many of them on the "endangered species list".

Kristi said...

Ch 17 - I wouldn't say that we hibernate. Definitely things move more indoors. Fires in the woodstove, snuggling up with a book, seed catalog, or a movie. Food tends towards soups, comfort food, and cheeses. So much of this book is about getting ourselves back into the rhythm of the seasons, whether it's what we eat, or what we're doing in or out of doors.

Ch 18 - Learning how to preserve everything from the garden or farmer's market is a challenge. It is time consuming, but very satisfying that you're not dependent on "the man" for what you're eating. BTW, year-round gardens, which are not possible where she lives, but are in the PNW, dispense with the need to preserve quite so much. You just go out in the rain and harvest. Pulled some delicious carrots just the other day.

Ch 19 - Spring was always known as the "starving time", when stores of food ran out or went bad, and before the garden was up and running.

As for the turkeys, I was horrified to read what she had to say. I couldn't find any this year, but I will definitely be on the lookout for heritage birds from now on.

Ch 20 - I can't imagine putting someone down for making a positive change to their lifestyle, no matter how small. Yes, there is much to be done, but trying to do it all at once is like trying to quit something cold turkey; prone to failure.

Personally, I'm growing as much of my own food as I can (180 lbs this year!), learning how to can, buying organically and/or locally if I don't grow it or run out, turning down the heat, drying clothes on the line when possible, and trying to reduce the amount of meat, especially beef, that we eat. Could I do more? Sure, but I find my family is more likely to go with my new choices if I do it slowly.

Thanks for the opportunity to participate! I can't wait for the next book.

Megan said...

Are your sure you want to give it away? I've ready my copy, like, five times.

Trina said...

Chapter 17: I’m a hibernator. I tend to spend a lot of time during the winter reflecting on me, where I’m headed, and if I’m staying on track to meet those goals. My husband hates to hibernate, so he tends to pull me out of the house on the weekends to do some winter hiking.

Chapter 18: This is the first year that we’ve been aware of the impact of eating whatever we find on the grocery shelves. We tend to be eating lots of soups and stews.

Chapter 19: I felt a lot of sadness regarding turkeys. We did eat a run of the mill Butterball turkey for Thanksgiving this year but that’s because we celebrated the holiday with my mother who doesn’t care a wit about factory farmed anything and can’t go more than 2 days without driving the 45 minutes it takes her to go shopping at Wal-Mart. Next year, my husband will be attempting to shoot his first turkey with his own hand made bow.

Chapter 20: In the last year I have replaced shampoo and conditioner with baking soda and vinegar, I purchase all my meat and 90% of my veggies from local small farmers, I only use baking soda and vinegar to clean my house, I buy Seventh Generation products for my dishes and laundry, I utilize a worm bin instead of putting my compost in the trash, I got a non electric floor sweeper so that I only have to use the electric vacuum about once a month which will hopefully let that vacuum last longer than the average 2 years the other ones have lasted me, I hang my laundry to dry now, I carpool whenever possible, I stay our of vehicles and on my feet and bike as much as possible, and I continue to breastfeed. I know there are several other things I have done, but my son says my computer time for the afternoon is over.

The Green Panther said...

I didn't realize you had a book club -- what a great idea!

I'm coincidentally reading this book right now but just started; I'll try to catch up and post something (I'm sure you're all just holding your breath for my dazzling insights! haha)

Not to detract from this discussion, but is anyone a fan of any of Kingsolver's other books as well?

Deb G said...

Chapter 17: I have a love/hate relationship with this time of the year. I hate that it's dark when I leave for work in the morning and dark when I get home. I think I wouldn't mind this time of year at all if could be home more. I love the appropriateness of warmer foods (soups, stews, pot pies-getting hungry!), I love the cozy feeling of being inside somewhere warm on a cold wet rainy day. I love not feeling torn between wanting to read or do some craft and being in the garden. And I really do think that I appreciate other times of the year more because of how dark it is now. Three more days and the light starts coming back!

Chapter 18: Definitely have foods I eat more of during this time of year, soups and stews :)

Chapter 19: Yep, very disturbing about the turkeys.

Chapter 20: I think the nice thing about small changes are that everyone should be able to make a small change that they can live with. And hopefully the small things will grow. For myself, I've been making lots of small changes. One of them was to put my microwave on a power strip and unplugged everything that draws electricity even when not in use. I did see a decrease in the power usage. Another small change was to start making yogurt on a regular basis and buying milk in glass bottles. It's really cut back on what was the biggest part of my garbage.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Thanks for doing this!

Oldnovice said...

is anyone a fan of any of Kingsolver's other books as well?

I'm familiar with at least one other work, which might have made this read less enjoyable as I felt I'd run across the same themes before.

Doing Crunchy's Book Discussion didn't work for me, as I don't BUY books; I borrow them from the library. The unpredictability of availability combined with the need to complete the read in a particular time-frame resulted in incompatibility with the book discussion.

The Green Panther said...

I don't think there's much of a chance of "repeat themes" since most of Kingsolver's other works are novels while "AVM" is nonfiction.

"Prodigal Summer" is one of my favorite books in general, and my favorite by Kingsolver. "The Poisonwood Bible" was an Oprah Book Club selection a few years back.

Does anyone know if Oprah mentioned "Animal" on her show? I don't watch it -- but I know her show reaches a lot of people.

Catherine said...

I couldn't stand the novel of hers that I read but I really enjoyed this book. I'm in the process of crunchifying myself so much of the info was new to me and I'm motivated to do some things differently.

The main food difference for me in winter is changing from salad to soups. I've found after reading this book that I can't look at a bunch of bananas or pineapples in the same way.

I'm horrified by the poor turkeys. It's so sad! I've heard about the chickens who are bred to be too big to walk too. It's like we've forgotten that animals are living things and not food machines.

I'm so irritated by a certain person I know who ridicules anything he sees anyone doing to help out the environment. If he sees a Prius he goes off on how the driver is being hypocritical and self-righteous without even knowing the person. I'm getting him some reuseable grocery bags for Christmas. My favorite response so far has been, "just because you can't do everything doen't mean you shouldn't do anything."

Can't wait to read Affluenza.

girlosun_9 said...

I enjoyed this book immensely; while reading it, I really stopped and thought about where my good was coming from. My family has made some huge shifts in where our food comes from and how it is produced due to this book. The largest shift was that everything we eat (with the exception of 1 item per person and 1 time eating out during the week) is local. We are still finishing up some of our old stuff and creating interesting meals is harder then I thought it would be. The book has inspired me to keep going through our cold months (even though they last much longer here in Maine :)

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