Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, with Steven Hopp and Camille Kingsolver:
I started reading this book in the winter, and was listening to it on CD as I made my way to my weekly beekeeper's class. It was the perfect accompaniment, as this book touches on the very reasons I decided to get into beekeeping: eating from your own backyard, eating sustainably and locally, making food choices that encourage diversity instead of monocultures, putting your food dollars in your community instead of the pockets of big business....etc., etc.
And this book certainly delivers on those ideals. Author Barbara Kingsolver and her husband and two kids move from Arizona to a small patch of land in Appalachia. They challenge themselves to produce everything they consume for one year, with a few minor exceptions like coffee and spices. If they cannot grow or raise a food themselves, they seek it out locally, like at farmers' markets or, in the case of their wheat flour, a mill.
We're along for the ride every month: an overabundance of asparagus in the spring, a last-minute attempt to pick all the cherries before leaving for summer vacation, canning and more canning in August, enjoying the fruits of labor in the Winter. And throughout all the personal stories, there's lots of well-researched information on our food industry and its effects on our health and the environment. There are also discussions on topics such as our children not knowing how vegetables grow, the importance of eating seasonally, the carbon footprint of the food you eat (hello, bananas), social implications of eating this way among your peers. And one of the biggest takeaways: that once you are established (your garden, your farmers' market routine, etc.) eating this way is both inexpensive and healthy.
It's ironic that I finished the book just as the farmers' markets are getting into swing. Our little town just introduced a weekly market, and there are a few larger farmers' markets in Columbus that we always visit. Why can't we just skip the grocery store this summer, and spend our food dollars at the farmers' market instead? And maybe plant a vegetable garden? It can be done, and this book shows that your community, your family's health, and the environment will be the better for it.