Thursday, July 3, 2008

Vacation Reading: Animal Vegetable Miracle

This memoir of a year of eating locally is on my list of favorite books, because it is the most memorable of the recent books I've read.

I admit: I have never read one of Barbara Kingslover's novels (are her books about bounty hunters?!). But I recently joined a CSA (Towne's Harvest in Bozeman, MT) and I am taken with the idea of eating locally, as quioxitic as that idea is in a small isolated community where the summer growing season is about 3 1/2 months long. We received our first week's harvest on the 27th of June. Since I split it with three other people, I brought home a handful of lettuce (delicious) and one-yes, one-beautiful and not at all sharp tasting radish. The radish ended up on tuna salad.

A friend of mine told me that she'd only gotten about 1/3 of the way into AVM, because she found it preachy. I concur: Kingslover has her moments of self-righteousness. But those moments are balanced by humor, and the enormity of the task she and her family undertook perhaps entitles her to a bit of preaching.

I particularly appreciated her defense of meat-eating, provided you know your meat and how it lived and died. It was a deft balance of gory detail, righteous defense of eating turkeys your kids had actually named, and good humor.

I have considered vegetarianism in the last year or so, not so much out of empathy for animals as concern for how inefficiently we produce meat. I had arrived at the plausible option (for me) of 'vegetarianism plus bacon' (because by the time it is bacon, it is hardly meat anymore!).

But I am relieved to see that if I can eat locally produced meat, then I can elide many of the inefficiencies of meat production. It doesn't make me eager to go find a Hutterite (or as a student once wrote: 'Hooterright') chicken this weekend, of course. I'm still not much of a meat-eater. But I think I'll put vegetarianism on the back burner.

I was also struck by Kingslover's well defended ethical decision to pack her family up and move them to southwestern Virginia so that they could undertake this adventure. (Local eating is apparently less of an option in the desert Southwest.) I decided this spring that I could not move to exactly that part of the country, and for what to me are ethical reasons. That is, I could not see moving from a place where I can essentially walk everywhere I need to go in order to move to a place where I would have to drive my car for miles every day. Just goes to show, I guess, that there are lots of different kinds of ethics.

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