ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE

A Year of Food Life

Barbara Kingsolver, Camille Kingsolver & Steven Hopp

Kingsolver takes readers through the seasons, chronicling the joys and challenges of eating only foods that she, her husband, and two daughters grew in their backyard or purchased from neighboring farms. Part memoir, part cookbook, and part exposé of the American food industry, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is one family’s inspiring story of discovering the truth behind the adage “you are what you eat” and a valuable resource for anyone looking to do the same.

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Kingsolver takes readers through the seasons, chronicling the joys and challenges of eating only foods that she, her husband, and two daughters grew in their backyard or purchased from neighboring farms. Part memoir, part cookbook, and part exposé of the American food industry, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is one family’s inspiring story of discovering the truth behind the adage “you are what you eat” and a valuable resource for anyone looking to do the same.

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  • Harper Perennial
  • Paperback
  • April 2009
  • 400 Pages
  • 9780060852566

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$14.95

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About Barbara Kingsolver, Camille Kingsolver & Steven Hopp

Barbara Kingsolver’s twelve books of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction include the novels The Bean Trees and The Poisonwood Bible. Translated into nineteen languages, her work has won a devoted worldwide readership and many awards, including the National Humanities Medal. Her most recent book is the highly praised, New York Times bestselling Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, published in hardcover in May 2007. She lives with her family on a farm in southwestern Virginia.

Camille Kingsolver attends Duke University, where she studies biology, anatomy, and dance, and teaches yoga.

Steven L. Hopp teaches environmental studies at Emory and Henry College and conducts research in bioacoustics and the natural history of vireos.

Praise

“Kingsolver takes the genre to a new literary level; a well-paced narrative and the apparent ease of the beautiful prose makes the pages fly. Her tale is both classy and disarming, substantive and entertaining, earnest and funny…More often wry than pious…this practical vision of how we might eat…is as fresh as just-picked sweet corn.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“With… assistance from her husband, Steven, and 19-year-old daughter, Camille, Kingsolver elegantly chronicles a year of back-to-the-land living with her family in Appalachia…Readers frustrated with the unhealthy, artificial food chain will take heart and inspiration here.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“This is a serious book about important problems. Its concerns are real and urgent. It is clear, thoughtful, often amusing, passionate and appealing. It may give you a serious case of supermarket guilt, thinking of the energy footprint left by each out-of-season tomato, but you’ll also find unexpected knowledge and gain the ability to make informed choices about what and howyou’re willing to eat.” —The Washington Post’s Book World

Discussion Questions

What was your perception of America’s food industry prior to reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle? What did you learn from this book? How has it altered your views on the way food is acquired and consumed?

In what ways, if any, have you changed your eating habits since reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle? Depending on where you live—in an urban, suburban, or rural environment—what other steps would you like to take to modify your lifestyle with regard to eating local?

“It had felt arbitrary when we sat around the table with our shopping list, making our rules. It felt almost silly to us in fact, as it may now seem to you. Why impose restrictions on ourselves? Who cares?” asks Kingsolver in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Did you, in fact, care about Kingsolver’s story and find it to be compelling? Why or why not? What was the family’s aim for their year-long initiative, and did they accomplish that goal?

The writing of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was a family affair, with Kingsolver’s husband, Steven L. Hopp, contributing factual sidebars and her daughter, Camille Kingsolver, serving up commentary and recipes. Did you find that these additional elements enhanced the book? How so? What facts or statistics in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle surprised you the most?

How does each member of the Kingsolver-Hopp family contribute during their year-long eating adventure? Were you surprised that the author’s children not only participated in the endeavor but that they did so with such enthusiasm? Why or why not?

“A majority of North Americans do understand, at some level, that our food choices are politically charged,” says Kingsolver, “affecting arenas from rural culture to international oil cartels and global climate change.” How do politics affect America’s food production and consumption? What global ramifications are there for the food choices we make?

Kingsolver advocates the pleasures of seasonal eating, but she acknowledges that many people would view this as deprivation “because we’ve grown accustomed to the botanically outrageous condition of having everything always.” Do you believe that American society can—or will— overcome the need for instant gratification in order to be able to eat seasonally? How does Kingsolver present this aspect in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle? Did you get the sense that she and her family ever felt deprived in their eating options

Kingsolver points out that eating what we want, when we want comes “at a price.” The cost, she says, “is not measured in money, but in untallied debts that will be paid by our children in the currency of extinctions, economic unravelings, and global climate change.” What responsibility do we bear for keeping the environment safe for future generations? How does eating locally factor in to this?

Kingsolver asserts that “we have dealt to today’s kids the statistical hand of a shorter life expectancy than their parents, which would be us, the ones taking care of them.” How is our “thrown-away food culture” a detriment to children’s health? She also says, “We’re raising our children on the definition of promiscuity if we feed them a casual, indiscriminate mingling of foods from every season plucked from the supermarket.” What responsibility do parents have to teach their children about the value and necessity of a local food culture?

In what ways do Kingsolver’s descriptions of the places she visited on her travels—Italy, New England, Montreal, and Ohio—enhance her portrayal of local and seasonal eating?

“Marketing jingles from every angle lure patrons to turn our backs on our locally owned stores, restaurants, and farms,” says Kingsolver. “And nobody considers that unpatriotic.” How much of a role do the media play in determining what Americans eat? Discuss the decline of America’s diversified family farms, and what it means for the country as a whole.