Book Response: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Book Response: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life inspired my own efforts in gardening. Currently, the dogs rule my small backyard, so I am limited to planters on my balcony, but I still plan to expand my efforts to herbs, edible flowers, and lettuce this year. I may even volunteer at my nearby community garden.

In her book, Barbara Kingsolver describes how she produces enough from her land to sustain her family for a whole year. This book is an engaging narrative of her year growing all the food that she eats.


Memorable Images:

- An asparagus plot

- “Agritourismo” in Italy

- Countertops covered with tomatoes


Three images stand out in my mind: asparagus, “agritourismo” in Italy, and tomatoes! I had no idea that asparagus takes a few years to establish itself before it can be harvested. Kingsolver sums up what most people don’t know about asparagus: it is the first crop of the season and one of the shortest-producing crops. She explains, “Asparagus is different. Its season ends by declaration, purely out of regard for the plant” (p. 28). Kingsolver’s first-hand knowledge of growing helped me to see things in a new way. The stories of her and her family’s adventures showed me how much hard work is involved in growing your own food, but she also showed me how rewarding it can be.

With all the hard work of gardening it is amazing that Kingsolver finds the time to take a vacation in Italy. Through her travels she reveals the country’s established food culture. She buys a unique squash from a stand on the side of the highway and she loves the plant so much that the farmer convinces her to seed the squash herself and dry the seeds in her hotel room so that she can grow her own squash back home.

“Agritourismo” is very popular amongst city-dwellers in Italy who want stay the weekend at surrounding farms. As part of this business, the farmers host guests on their property and they provide them with food and wine from their backyards for the city guests. It is a beautiful picture of the interaction between city-folk and farm-folk.

Tomatoes were an abundant crop in Kingsolver’s year of food life as she explains, “At what point did we realize we were headed for a family tomato harvest of 20 percent of a ton? We had a clue when they began to occupy every horizontal surface in our kitchen” (p. 198). These tomatoes sustained the family throughout the winter in the form of canned tomato sauce; the secret family recipe is provided at the end of the chapter. I loved how her narrative was interspersed with recipes.

As a reader, I did not agree with all of Kingsolver’s opinions, but the focus of this book is on the narrative. There is a limited amount of educational information about growing your own food in this book; although, if you’re thinking of starting your own garden she will provide you with inspiration!

Quotes are taken from the First Edition Hardcover by HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2007, By Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver.



About Avery Peters

Sharing stories. Sharing food.

I express my creativity in the kitchen. My inspiration comes from being outside—in the forest, on the farm, by the ocean, or going to the farmers’ market. I love to share food with family and friends.