while i know i am probably way behind on this one, i had to share that i am reading the most incredible book. animal, vegetable, miracle is novelist barbara kingsolver’s account of the year she and her family moved to their appalachian farm from the tuscon desert and learned to live off of the land. the beauty of this book is that while we learn the details of what it takes to live in harmony with nature and the seasons, we discover that more than sacrifice and discipline, what it really takes is an understanding and appreciation- a LOVE, if you will- for the true value of real food and how that spills over into a love of family and friends and life itself.
i learned so many fascinating tidbits about everything from a five-color silverbeet (swiss chard with amazing rainbow colored stems and leaves), what it really takes to grow asparagus (three years to harvest, but a well-managed asparagus bed can keep producing for thirty years!), and even…turkey sex (let’s put it this way, because of what it takes lethargize them so they dont get rowdy in the coop and to fatten them up for our thanksgiving feasts, they are rendered incapable of reproducing and professionals have to step in- i’ll leave the rest to your imagination).
one of the best things about kingsolver’s book is that she enlisted her family – her brilliant husband, a professor of environmental studies, and her daugther, a college student who knows the value of eating greens on a deep level- to write essays among the meat of the story. these essays are essentially lectures on the true value of the story she is telling us. steven’s writing tackles larger sociologcial, political, ecological, and economic issues such as the price we pay for purchasing food grown in other countries. local food can be seen as snobby and elitist to so many people- i see this all the time. but in reality, beyond sacrificing quality by purchasing soy products from brazil while we are living in kentucky, we are not supporting the farmer in south america that we imagine out there in the fields. in fact, we supporting an international company that has cut down acres of rainforest to grow the soy, destroying indigenous populations.
camille, kingsolver’s daughter, eloquently shares with us anecdotes about growing up in a rather unconventional (although perhaps we have our definition skewed!) 21st century family. she shares recipes with us which exemplify how we can use so few ingredients and create incredible flavor, as long as those ingredients are organic, and humanely and properly raised.
the simplicity of the message of the book- you are what you eat- and how profound it feels to comprehend it (for so many people who i’ve spoken to that have read this), is proof to me that our society is in desperate need of getting back to our roots. of feeling that immense sense of connection to the deepest place inside our own nature. it is an inspiring, self-reflective place, yes. but more than that, it is a motivating place. in realizing our fundamental goodness- the potential we possess and that our natural environment possesses- a chord is struck within us, motivating us to actually use what we have and who we are as healthy, good people and do some actual GOOD in the world. letting go of ego, of our desire for the fastest, biggest, quickest “solution” to our problems, and just learning to think about our place on this earth within the model of a new paradigm (or perhaps ancient…they say everything comes back around again).
it’s time for real change. we are dying, literally. our bodies, our land, our culture…it is dying. every house on the block looks the same. we eat packaged foods that contain ingredients we can’t pronounce, made up by a person in a labcoat and which need extra chemicals just to produce a taste we could easily grow in our own backyards. we are dropping like flies because our bodies are so inflamed and covered in layers of fat, and yet we are still nutritionally starving. we believe in dogma but not in spirituality. we think we are decent people, but we don’t connect with and support one another. we take pills whose side effects result in having to take more pills, and yet we don’t even realize that perhaps the treatment actually lies in eating something green with our dinner, or maybe even in getting a hug from someone we love.
it’s time to start thinking about these things. we are compassionate and good and alive. our bodies deserve better, our earth deserves better, our culture deserves better, and our hearts deserve better. let’s stop starving and start living.
isn’t it always exciting to learn about an idea which you never spent much time thinking about but which flicks that lightbulb switch in your head and shifts your paradigm a little bit?
that’s how i felt when i read this article in the washington post today, in honor of earth day. kate heyhoe, in her new book “cooking green,” has asked that as we all reassess our carbon footprint today, we also take a look at how our “cookprint” is measuring up. it is easy to get so caught up in eating local, green food, that we forget about the energy we are using to actually prepare our meals.
heyhoe introduces the term ecovore (which i love!), explaining that while locovores buy and eat only local food (within a 100 mile radius), this is not practical for most people, and surprisingly, is not always the most sustainable food. ecovores, on the other hand, eat foods that are in harmony with the environment, both locally and globally, taking into account their current degree of harmony, and how that might change in the future. she says, “our food choices are, at any given time or in any given place, in constant flux, because of changes in ecosystems, economics, and technology.” i love this point. we must recognize the stratifications that are a result of constantly changing sociological, ecological, and economic conditions all over the world and factor them into our decisions about what we eat and how we eat it. one food that is sustainable this season, may not be next season, and we’ll need to choose something else.
heyhoe also notes that being “vegetarian” or “vegan” is self-limiting in that it doesn’t account for the fluidity of global conditions and is not enough to sustain a small “cookprint.”
most of her tips regard cooking methods and appliances in the home, illustrating how we can make smarter choices (which is what being green is all about). a few practical and simple ones are:
-use your toaster oven! heyhoe explains that a standard oven wastes 9% of its fuel through excess heat that doesn’t go into cooking your food. toaster ovens these days have the capacity to cook anything from simple toast to pizzas to roast chicken! i use mine constantly.
-use an electric kettle, but instead of using it to make tea, you can pour it into a glass baking pan and make lasagna with your boiling water, first tenderizing the noodles and then using it to blanch the vegetables as well. you can save washing extra pots and pans, and pour the water out to water your plants.
-nix the garbage disposal. it wastes energy and is antithetical to the ecovore principles because it encourages us to waste!
-fill up empty gaps in the fridge and freezer and it actually will use less fuel! of course, instead of wasting food, try to fill them with containers of water. how easy is that?
-bake multiple dishes at one time when you are using the oven in order to reduce fuel output.
-when boiling water, multitask and pour some of the water out of the pot to use on other items you are adding to your meal. it takes a lot of energy to boil just one pot of water. and you know how none of us ever add our pasta to boiling water until it is bubbling so much it is practically spitting at us? well, it just isn’t necessary. a gentle boil is the same temperature as a raucous one, so turn down the heat until it’s just boiling enough.
-freeze your leftovers and reuse them for other meals, and eat more raw foods! heyhoe makes a great point when she talks about eating lower on the food chain. it is shocking to realize how many gallons of water go into creating a single serving of beef (2600!) and chicken (408!)…in comparison, a serving of almonds takes 12 gallons, which is still a lot.
this valuable information is definitely encouraging me to think before i buy food, prepare food, or even order in a restaurant. i hope it does the same for you!