Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle book discussion (chapters 1 - 3)

The time has finally come! The first discussion questions for the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle book club are here.

I have to admit that initially I wasn't too excited about reading this book as I figured it would be just too similar to the Omnivore's Dilemma. So far, I've been happily surprised. This book has renewed my excitement for all that I'm doing regarding what I eat. And by that I mean, growing my own food, eating locally, buying organically and canning or otherwise preserving what's in season.

And now onto the book discussion questions.

1. In Chapter 1, the author describes how her family spent years planning their relocation and finally packed up and moved everyone to an area where they could live a more sustainable existence by growing their own food and animals. If you live in an area where sustainable living is not feasible (such as the SW like the author), would you be willing to do the same?

2. Chapter 2 discusses the difficulty of finding fresh produce during the winter months. Kingsolver's family started this experiment basically during the food doldrums without having had a previous season of preserving and storing to get them through. What plans do you have this winter for eating local or seasonally? Do you intend on buying out-of-season fruit mid-winter or do you think you can try to rely on foods you are storing away now (by canning/freezing/drying)?

3. Kingsolver discussed in Chapter 3 how utterly crappy most grocery store produce is, as the result of off season produce and/or produce that gets picked terribly early so that it can ripen during long transports. Additionally, the variety of produce is limited - many of the heirloom varieties just aren't produced anymore due to their inability to travel or for other reasons. Does this bother you - the flavorless foods and their limited variety, or are you just so used to it that you don't care about the tasteless bananas from elsewhere?

Again, during this book club, feel free to throw in your own questions into the mix!


José-Luis said...

I was accustomed to the produce in America and thought that was just what vegetables were supposed to taste like. But since living in Japan, I've discovered just how good fruits and veggies can be. The grapes here are like candy and the green veggies are amazing.
I haven't read the book yet but I'm curious!

Ananda Devika said...

I read this book this summer and have since returned it to the library, but I'll play along as best I can:
1. If it were me myself, this would be an easy decision (yes), but I dont' think my husband would be amenable to moving to a farm (basically the only choice you have to raise meat and he's not about to go without meat). I grew up in a rural area, so it would be like coming home to me. He had never seen a tractor up close till we visited my hometown... Fortunately, we do live in an area in which we can grow veggies and some fruits, plus have access to locally-raised meat, so this isn't a real issue for us.
2. This winter, I plan to buy the majority of my meat from the local co-op, but unfortunately I did not put in nearly the effort I should have in storing produce. I have some frozen brocoli and beans, canned salsa and jams, but that's it. I think we will be forced back to the grocery store for the cold months, but I plan to really expand my veggie production next season and pack it away for winter '08-09.
3.It certainly bothers me now that I've experience fresh locally grown food all summer. It is easy to tell when someone serves you a crappy tomato the grocery store versus one from the garden.

Anonymous said...

1. We did move. My husband separated from the USAF and we bought 5 acres.
2. We buy in season and store it for winter. We do buy OJ though.
3. Store veggies = yuck!


Trina said...

1. Yes I would be willing to plan for years and move. It's actually what my husband and I are now doing. To live in western Oregon, we have to have him working a high paying job which to make ends meet. We are in the middle of a several year plan to get us out of this rat race and into small time farming.

2.This has been my first year doing any kind of food preservation and I have probably been too conservative. We will be buying some out of season produce. To minimize that, we've purchased an extended season from our CSA that will go through until late November. We have also purchased a CSA membership with a local meat farm and plan to increase our meat intake during the winter months.

3. Never use to notice the tastelessness of fruit and veggies from the store until I got more involved in eating locally. Now I definitely notice. Makes it much easier to pass up on that produce that looks so pretty on the shelf.

Lisa said...

I also read the book when it first came out but would still like to participate in the discussion--I liked it so much I read it twice!

1. I don't know if we would move--we live very close to our family and value that proximity. Fortunately, we already live in an area (Midwest) where we are able to grow what we need and rainfall is plentiful. 7 years ago we moved to our 6-acre homestead.

2. We have homegrown/local meat in the freezer, along with applesauce, corn, blueberries, beans, and jam. Honey, eggs, and milk are provided by our critters. We canned a lot of tomatoes. The potatoes in the garden will last awhile but we will end up purchasing things by January. We try to buy things that are in season during winter, like kale, squash, apples, potatoes, etc., locally-grown if possible. We buy as much we can from local farms, produce stands, and Amish bulk food stores. The rest comes from a small regional grocery chain.

3. The more I garden, and the more heirloom varieties I discover, the more disgusted I am by grocery store produce!

Chile said...

1. Yes.
2. Our CSA in current location runs year-round. We'll eat from that and extra summer shares that were dried, canned, and frozen.
3. Shipped commercial produce sucks.

Anonymous said...

1.) I would be willing to relocate, just as the author did. We are looking for property, but our state will sustain us.

2.) I have completely changed my idea of eating. I am going to do my best to eat locally. I am goign to the farmers market (as always) and I will be getting all I can on the local produce, then preserving it for this winter. I hope to dehydrate lots of tomatoes! I am also not going to buy produce out of season (or at least I will limit it tremendously).

3.) I was appaled about the Heirloom extinction. I was actually angry. I am also angry that we are supposed to love and pay for tasteless produce. why do we keep voting for it (with our $$$$). If we don't buy it, they won't sell it. As for the bananas -- I am not sure if they are tasteless, I have never had a "local" banana...LOL! but hte tomatoes and strawberries -- I don't want them out of season, they just are not the same. I know that there are others (peaches, nectarines, plums, melons, etc), but I am really big on those two.


Isle Dance said...

1. Absolutely. 9/11 and several previous significant changes boosted me further in this direction much sooner than I originally anticiapated. Like the cloth wipe challenge...once I made the (permanent) move/change, I couldn't believe I ever waited so long to do so.

2. In island/remote communities, finding enough fresh produce has been a big challenge and winter is extra challenging. With allergy and liver issues, I must stick to fresh organic/raw as much as possible. Nutrient/sugar-wise, frozen might be my best long-term storage option, but our frequent/long power outages can wipe that out in a heartbeat, so I've learned to live without relying on refrigeration. I'm still trying to figure this one out.

3. Absolutely. This is what helped me justify going organic (when I'd feel guilty for doing so) years ago. I do care and know better, so I do whatever I can to find what is certified organic and tasty. I've definitely stopped relying on conventional resources/resellers to fill this need, but by no means have I found a perfect solution.

Anonymous said...

1.I would consider moving. My yard is big and I can have a garden but I am not able to tend to one just yet. I am hoping next season will prove better for me. My few flower gardens are overrun with weeds at the moment.
2. I would love to start canning and have been reading about the process. When I have a garden, I will definately preserve food. Also looking around to buy local meat.
3. I hate grocery tomatoes. I just do without in the winter. Garden vegies are just sooo much better. I love oranges, but haven't been able to find any good ones lately. Guess i need to give those up or move to Florida!

Anonymous said...

I'm enjoying the book.
1.Yes I would move, we recently moved to our current house on 1 1/2 acres on the same street as my parents. We have a large garden and lots of room for growing many things. So hopefully we won't need to move again. Well, unless the sea really does rise 20 feet.
2. I'm in Florida and our growing season is really from Sept to June, with harvesting in Oct or Nov. So I really have to stock up for summer here, not winter. I was not ready for this summer since we moved and I didn't start eating local until May. Next year should be better.
3. A few days ago I bought fresh bcoccoli from Calif and it was terrible. I can't wait for homegrown. We do have a local grocery store that sells local produce and labels where all the produce comes from.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the book -- this kind of book (like those by joel salatin) is (sadly) my new fantasy addiction, like the slow food books were when they first started to come out. I guess I want to think of myself as a cook, an earth mother, a nature girl, a survivor.

1. My current fantasy is to buy land, sink a well, set up a wind generator, get some chickens and live nearer the land. I have an aunt and uncle, now in their 70s, who did just that and made a good living rasing organic fruit and veggie farming for high end restaurants. I helped out during several childhood summers, when our reward for a hard days work was a long bicycle ride to watch the sunset. So I also know what hard work it is, that I don't like bugs, and that I'd be lucky to make it through my first winter. Maybe I need to add to my fantasy a Big Useful Man . . . ?
Good for chores and as a heat source.

2. I do buy as much local food as I can find and try to support my local farmers, but (said the grasshopper to the ants) I didn't do a good job (again) this year about storing food for the winter. I will probably spend the cold months reading books about how to do better next year.

3. I have always valued local
produce, thanks again to my organic aunt and uncle and the rest of my formerly-farmer family. My mother taught us that vegetables should be picked after the water to steam them was already boiling, and the whole family canned and froze and stored food all summer. Grocery stores make me sad. They are such a good idea in theory, as places where people can conveniently shop, but it is such a waste to truck tomatoes and strawberries here in january. People need to be educated to Just Say No.

Deb G said...

1. Yes I would move. Luckily I don't have to!
2. I've been canning, drying, and freezing fruits and vegetables all summer so that hopefully I can make it through the winter with a few summer "treats." I'm also going to do some baking and freeze some things while I can still get eggs from my parents. The chickens go on vacation for about 2-3 months a year :) Past that I'm going to buy what I can find in season locally. Pretty lucky as I can generally get a variety of things. Will be a lot of root crops, squashes, apples and pears though.... I'm sure I'll have to sneak in a few citrus, avocados, and olives.
3. This is something I've pretty much been aware of all my life. My grandparents raised fruits and vegetables for their own little grocery store and then later for other local grocery stores and a farmer's market. My mother is continuing that tradition now... I'm pretty spoiled. I'm also lucky that our local co-op makes a point of buying as much local produce as they can, so I have pretty convenient access to good food. I would be very unhappy if I didn't have the resources that I do.

I'm really curious about whether any one had some thoughts about Kingsolver's discussion on having a food culture (chapter one)? I've been thinking about this a lot. I certainly feel that I have one as an individual (shaped by my ethnic background, the location I live and by my family's career choices-fishing and agriculture), and that most of us probably do to some degree. But on a national level....

Now I'm off to dehydrate the grapes I grew this year!

Christy said...

Chapter 1 - We are planning on moving somewhere where we can grow our own food including animals. We are just waiting for my husband's transfer to go through.

Chapter 2 - I've been freezing and canning quite a bit of food this year. I've never preserved food for the winter but I've been enjoying the process. There is no way I have enough for the winter so I will be resorting to grocery store veggies at some point. I usually buy frozen veggies at the grocery store so I can get them more locally than the fresh in the winter. My goal is to eventually be able to put up enough food for the winter.

Chapter 3 - I've definitely noticed the difference in the flavor of food at the grocery store since I've been eating locally from the farmer's market. Our grocery store did have local heirloom tomatoes for a few days but they told me almost all of them rotted and had to be thrown away. Noone wanted them I guess.

Jean Martha said...

hope you don't mind, i suggested your blog to the dudes at Apartment Therapy:

suki said...

I enviously traveled with the Kingsolver family to their new home, wishing I could do the same and wondering if I really would. I believe I would if I lived alone or if my husband was on board with eating locally. Are these excuses? Yes, definitely, but valid ones, I think. We live in a little community of our own making with my daughter and her family next door and my son and family beside her. That means I have a daily connection to my five preschool children. Still I am thinking of renting a patch of land from a local farmer next summer.

The Kingsolvers started in April when there were a few things available at farmers markets. That is hugely different from starting in September in New England. I am stocking up on all the produce I can get now, but, like the Kingsolvers, I’ll do much planning this winter and begin in the spring in earnest. It does bother me that I’ll be buying tasteless fruits and vegetables, but it bothers me even more that the distance this produce travels costs us so much in terms of environmental impanct. I think I’ll at least limit my purchases to food grown in the US.

Paula said...

I also returned the book to the library, but I think I remember enough to participate.

1. We are actually in the planning stages of moving to a more rural area with more land for growing some of our own food.

2. I did not put in enough effort to put up produce for the winter. Our garden did produce really well for the first time in a few years. We hadn't planted a lot because we didn't know how it would go. I'm definitely going to plan to plant more next year to be able to preserve.

3. I DEFINITELY prefer our fresh veggies (or from the farmers market) to store-bought. During the winter I will buy some frozen veggies, but not a big variety - not that that's really an option anyway.

jessica said...

I have not read the book, but would like to respond since you so well outlined what the chapters are:
1.due to family and career I was never able to relocate. however, now I feel lucky to be in two places during the year and grow some veggies and purchase local produce.

2.this is not a problem for me now, during the winter months I am in Bahia, Brazil where it is summer with abundance of produce.

3. interestingly, the bananas in Bahia are amazingly delicious and different. there are so many varieties and right off the banana tree. mangoes have incredible aromas that I never smelt here in the US, because I know it comes here prematurely picked and many times I end up throwing it away.

Anonymous said...

1) I don't have to consider moving because I live in the San Francisco Bay Area where there is an abundance of food grown all year round. For anyone else who lives here, I recommend Jessica Prentice's Local Foods Wheel. It helps you to know what is in season during each month of the year.

While I didn't move here because of food, I'm glad to stay!

2) I'm planning on eating whatever is in season during the winter. My local farmer's market is open all season long. It'll be fun to see the changes in produce.

3) Yes, grocery store produce is totally disappointing. We only eat it in emergencies, like while traveling.

By the way, I've been listening to the audiobook and loving it, as it's read by the actual authors in their own voices.

Anonymous said...


Do you still want to do this book discussion? I want to participate but in light of your recent post I don't know if it's appropriate...that's not the right word...maybe you will just want to focus your efforts on something else, maybe you will want the normalcy....I don't know.

I guess I kind of feel ill at ease participating in light of your husband's illness not knowing if you still want to do this.

Friends (or blogger friends) ask. That's what we do for each other.

Anyway, I thought I'd ask. Forgive my clumsiness....I hope I haven't offended anyone. Please know that's not my intention at all.

Crunchy Chicken said...

sandy - Yes! Please do continue participating in the book club and other posts. I need some semblance of normalcy somewhere :)

Anonymous said...

Crunch --

OK! (shwew, I feel better!)

Let me pull my book out and get my thoughts back together.

Let's do this thing!

Anonymous said...

Crunch -

Question 1: The easy answer is I don't know. I've 1) never lived in an area where I couldn't grow things and 2) I've never tried to live by producing a lot of my food. It has been more a hobby, along with growing my roses. And right now, even living in OR, I am missing the bar in a big way! A few tomato plants, eggplants, strawberries and basil does not a complete diet make! I think I would be more inclined to figure a way around moving. (No, I don't know how. Just that I would put a lot of thought into it before I pulled up stakes and moved. I like it here.)

One of the things that is most important to me is community: whether its family around you, or the people you pick as family. (Remember, the author moved back to where her husband's family was living or had lived.) I tend to gravitate towards community: work-church-studies-groups-volunteering...and I've been blessed that even though I've moved a lot I always seem to put a support system together. We all help each other. I guess I am just so happy where I am, which is a great place to grow food, eat locally, buy and buy organically that I can't imagine ripping myself up and moving someplace else so that I could have more land or a longer growing season. Maybe if I had a family (children) I would feel differently.

Question 2: One of the things that I realized is that I do have a hard time trying to figure out "what's in season" and what's not. I've never trained myself to think that way. If I want bananas, I buy them...and if I want mangos and they are there in the dead of February, I get them too. Never thought about it before -- the gas consumed to get that banana there on the shelf never ever occurred to me. So for me, baby steps. Once again, I am lucky that I live near a health food store that has tons of local food (WA/OR/CA). They label the food from the farm that it comes from and they have a binder that will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about the farms and such, and how to actually get ahold of the farmers if you want to talk to them. Plus there's farmers markets and co-ops galore. I will pay attention to what's in season when this winter. I endeavor to buy Oregon first, and if I can buy it from the Valley I live in, then I do that. Then I move on to WA, then to CA. I know myself though: I will make a concerted effort, and I will make little change by little change, and they will stick, but probably by February I will be jonesing for a banana and I will probably cave and get one. I'm human. But the hardest thing is to make the decision to choose local, and I have done that. Let's see what happens. (As it is now I freakin' feel guilty and won't buy a banana. And I miss them.)

Question 3: Most chain store produce is crap. Period. Some is crappier than others, but mostly just ick. I love heirloom tomatos so much that I literally made myself sick after weeks of eating them when they started coming in. (One thing that sucks about getting can't eat like you used to!) You just can't get great produce like that at a big chain grocery market. I can't eat iceberg lettuce or tomatoes from the grocery (or at a restaurant). I was seriously horrified at the part of the book where she talks about seed genocide -- where you can't even save seeds from your plants because next year they are programmed to not work! That's just Frankenstein crap right there! How can they do that? And then that part about suing the farmer because the pollen had blown into his field and he now had "infringed" upon their patented seed? (I would put the book down, call a friend and tell her about the seed thing, and then I'd pick up the book, read a while longer, make a phone call and express my outrage friend just kept shaking her head. She's not there yet! :) So next year I am going to endeavor to not just pick up the seeds from wherever I see them at the local stores-garden centers...I'm going to get seeds that I know haven't been altered in any way. I knew they did that stuff to food (gene splicing and such) but, duh, I hadn't made the connection that they did that to seeds! (I know. I know. Live and learn.)

I really like this book. I like how she tells her experience and then has the education/reference part woven in to make the whole. That type of narrative reminds me of "Garbageland".

Anonymous said...

Just bought the book, but I am in! Will comment as soon as I read 1-3

stacy o. in columbia, sc

Catherine said...

1. There is no way I'd be willing to grow all my own food. I have so little gardening know-how and not a lot of desire. I have looked into our CSA as a result of this book though.

2. I've already started experimenting with winter vegetables like my old nemesis the squash. I like to cook so it's been fun. Next summer I hope to build up a good storage.

3. I don't notice any taste difference in store food except for tomatoes, probably because I've only grown tomatoes. Farmer's market produce seems to taste better while at the farmer's market so I've always chalked it up to the ambiance. :) I need more local food experience, I guess.

Meghan said...

Finally - after waiting a MONTH I got this from the library! Talk about delayed gratification...I don't know if anyone is even still looking wayyyyyy back at this post.

1. If it was financially feasible, I'd do it in a heartbeat. I'd pack up a family, too - how can that NOT be a positive learning and growing experience? 'Course, I'm single, so now I'll add to my list of qualifications "willing to follow me around when I get an agricultural stick up my butt..."

2. I experienced my first full summer of REAL fruits and vegetables this summer. But I didn't perserve anything. Ananda Devika might be kind enough to pass me some salsa every once in awhile, but I'm in a mad panic. It's November, and I'm looking at just a wee bit more time with squash before everything goes away and I have to visit the...the...the....*grocery store*. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!
3. I can tell the difference NOW, and I hate it! I don't know that ignorance is bliss, but not prepping is misery! This makes me want to undergo #1 immediately, if not sooner.