“Our highest shopping goal was to get our food so close to home, we’d know the person who grew it. Often that turned out to be ourselves as we learned to produce what we needed, starting with dirt, seeds, and enough knowledge to muddle through. Or starting with baby animals, and enough sense to refrain from naming them.”
I think it’s safe to say that most of us have a song, or a book, or a movie that has changed the trajectory of our life in some way. For me, and many others at the market, it is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.
The year was 2007. My husband and I were already supporting a local CSA in Morgantown and walked each week to the Saturday market downtown. And for Christmas that year, I received a hardback copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (AVM from here on out). Little did I know at the time, but this book would be a life changer for me.
The subtitle of the book is “A Year of Food Life” and the book is a memoir of Barbara and her family’s goal of eating locally for one year. The book begins in Tucson, AZ, where the family spent their spring, fall, and winter months. They would travel back to VA for the summer but decided to make the permanent move in order to start growing more of their own food, something that is nearly impossible to manage in the desert of Tucson.
The family decides to start their year of local eating in April, when the asparagus, ramps, and rhubarb are coming on in full force. The family commits to growing as much as they can, including their Thanksgiving turkey, but find local sources of what they can’t grow. Barbara celebrated a milestone birthday early in their journey and they were able to plan a locally sourced feast to mark the occasion.
If you’ve never read a book by Barbara, her humor and wit are overflowing in AVM. From jokes about turkey sex (you really will learn more about turkeys than you wanted to know, and it will more than likely have you running to place your pre-order for a local turkey!) to reminding neighbors to keep their doors locked for fear of the dreaded overflowing bag of zucchini.
Also sprinkled throughout are essays from Barbara’s husband, Steven Hopp. Most are centered on the industrial food system and are just as relevant today as they were ten years ago. Their daughter Camille also has her own contribution of personal accounts, seasonal meal plans, and recipes. The recipes in the book are all available on their website. One of my personal favorites is the Zucchini Chocolate Chip cookies and my kids now request them any time we have zucchini.
This book has truly catapulted us into the lifestyle we now lead. Between our 2400 square foot garden to our flock of laying hens, we are trying to produce as much of our own food as we can. Each year is a new adventure and we are continually improving and adding to our farm, but it is very satisfying to go out to the garden and harvest the vegetables for our dinner (or cookies!).
We are very fortunate to have such a vibrant, growing market in Bridgeport. It is really quite easy to source several local meals a week – from eggs or meat, to veggies and fruit. According to Steven Hopp in his essay entitled “Oily Food”, if everyone in the US were to eat just ONE meal from locally produced fruits and vegetables, we could reduce the national oil consumption by 1.1 million barrels of oil every week. That’s pretty powerful if you ask me. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of the interesting facts and stories that Steven has written.
So, what can you do as a consumer? First off, shop local! Make sure you stop by the market before heading off to Kroger or your other local grocery store of choice. I bet you can do a lot of your shopping at the market! Second, be sure to stop by the Book and Bean tent to peruse Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Browse their website and print off any recipe you might like to try. And third, consider starting your own garden if you can. Even a pot of herbs on your porch can make a big difference!
Until next week, stay fresh!