Bestselling author Barbara Kingsolver wrote the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A year of Food Life. The book is a nonfiction narrative that opens the reader’s eyes to see an old truth in many different ways. As Kingsolver states, they say that all stories begin with the two following phrases: “A stranger came to the town” and “I set out upon a journey” (Kingsolver, Kingsolver, & Hopp, 2007). The latter pervades her memoir cum investigative nonfiction narrative that is a funny, faithful and though provoking account of a year that Kingsolver and her family moved from Tucson, Arizona and headed to a farm in Southwest Virginia. The objective of this travel was to spend a full year living on food that they would grow or purchase directly from farmers in the local farmer markets.
Kingsolver along with her husband and two daughters decided to head to Virginia to engage in animal keeping gardening, canning, freezing and cooking from scratch. They would only buy food that they could not make from their own farm but the purchase would only be done locally. Kingsolver decided to do things differently because the United States of America was widely characterized by preference of fast foods or foods bought from restaurants that are already cooked for consumption. Thus, Kingsolver brings up certain important facts. She clearly states that each item or ingredient in an American mean must have been transported more than 1500 miles distance before one can put the food on the mouth. She also reveals that, being on the second place after automobile industry, food industry ranks as the second largest fossil fuels consumer in the US. She states that Americans take close to 400 gallons of oil for one citizen annually with respect to feeding. Information that Kingsolver passes forward is that about seventy-five percent of antibiotics which are used in the US are utilized by operations of animal feeding. The decision that Kingsolver and her family took represented an aspect of food heresy within North America. The facts that are listed above are because of the Government policy that requires tax dollars for food production. Therefore, trying such thing as Kingsolver did would be difficult. When Kingsolver with her family decide to leave Arizona, they are not only going on a physical journey miles away but also a journey that will expose them to a different kind of life. Throughout the book, Kingsolver builds her argument on various facts (Kingsolver, Kingsolver, & Hopp, 2007).
With lots of humor and aplomb, Kingsolver spends much of her effort to explain the reactions that her family had on the experiment. She tells stories about the various courses and corrections that they did to make their experiment work. In the book, the author lists the inventory of the things that her freezer had together with the Mason Jars in January. She tells the reader about her cooking in the spring and the abundance of the summer harvest (Kingsolver, Kingsolver, & Hopp, 2007).
The author explores several themes in her book, but the most important theme is theme of food in America. Kingsolver takes the reader through several facts about the food culture in the United States of America and her travel to Virginia is meant to achieve a contrast from the normal life that most Americans are used to. She compares the fast food and ready-to-eat food that most Americans are used to and the food that is produced and made from scratch. At one point, Kingsolver takes the reader through the experience of multi-course, slow Italian food menu that comprises of pomodoro, antipasti, dolci, contorno, and secondo. She states that Italians know how to eat and at one point she asks, “How is it that every citizen of Italy doesn’t weigh three hundred pounds?” She then says, “They don’t, and I can tell you that” (Kingsolver, Kingsolver, & Hopp, 2007). She does this to inform Americans that their eating habits are dangerous. At the end of each chapter, the author includes a recipe that is featured through the section, for example, we can see that they had Pizza Friday nights. However, this pizza is freshly culled from their land (Kingsolver, Kingsolver, & Hopp, 2007).
The author also explores a theme of tradition barter trade. It can clearly be seen when Kingsolver exchanges foods with other farmers instead of buying the food that they cannot produce themselves. Despite the fact that this involves foodstuffs, this theme helps compare the present American with the past America where people did not depend so much on highly processed foods. This different way of handling food issues is not expected to work in the current set up such as the US.
Another theme that comes up in the book is the theme of togetherness. In the journey and change of life that the author enters into, she does not do it alone but with her family. Kingsolver together with her husband and her two daughters all decide to move from Arizona to go to Virginia. The decision they take is not a simple one because they move from a life where processed food is readily available to a life where they must produce their own foods. Despite the struggles they pass through at first, they cope well with the situation. We can see that they all contribute in making the new lifestyle work. For instance, we can see their youngest daughter who is the age of an elementary school child raising chickens and collecting eggs (Kingsolver, Kingsolver, & Hopp, 2007).
The other theme that can be clearly seen in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is the theme of exploration. Throughout the book, the author recounts to the reader on the experiences that she and her family had when engaging in the new experience. The theme of exploration originates from the point where Barbara Kingsolver and her family set on journey from Arizona to Virginia for one year. The decision to produce own food, the actual production of own food and purchasing only that which they cannot produce from farmers, are acts of exploration. Therefore, the experiences that the author and her family encounter and relate to the reader show their explorative actions (Kingsolver, Kingsolver, & Hopp, 2007).
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a remarkable account of stunt eating. The author writes the nonfiction narrative in an adventurous way that makes the reader interested not only in reading the book for its informational value, but also for the value of the adventure that the new experiences create. The author tells the reader of the new life that her family had to adopt with respect to food and the way of producing and acquiring it (Kingsolver, Kingsolver, & Hopp, 2007).
Throughout the book, the author uses humor and a highly descriptive method that keeps the reader interested in finding out the gist of information presented in the book. In addition, the topic that the author brings up is an interesting one because not so many Americans understand how one can live under the new circumstances. It is a totally new concept for the readers, and the topics create an interest to find out whether the author successfully achieved her mission in one year.
In conclusion, Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is an excellent informative piece that addresses an aspect of exploration, which the reader can relate to because anyone can decide to try it out. However, the experiences that the author brings up create an excellent piece of literature to the reader.