Book Review

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

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Like so many other suburban kids, I grew up with food ignorance. Apart from the occasional pleasure or allergy, my personal eating rules were as follows: Enough calories to play sports, able to microwave in under seven minutes, no mushrooms and then as much ice cream as my parents would let me eat. I thought that by dutifully taking my daily vitamins to put the necessary good stuff in my body I was thereby freed to fill myself with unlimited amounts of junk food (as long as I brushed my teeth to avoid cavities).

After uprooting from home and heading off to college, my eating habits went from bad to worse. I refilled my “fuel tank” on mini-mart snacks, frozen burritos, and late night teriyaki. Apart from the “bachelor’s trademark” spaghetti dinner with garlic bread to impress that “special someone,” the idea cooking from actual ingredients registered in my brain as a waste of time. After all, I was busy trying to be a spiritual and social activist on campus, encouraging my friends to pray, serve, and have wholesome fun. Along the way, eating was the virtually meaningless and burdensome process of filling my body with energy so that I could go out and do meaningful things in the world for God.

According to Barbara Kingsolver, in her latest book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life: “the case of modern food… has become the boring act of poking the thing in our mouths, with no feeling for any other stage in the process... When I ponder the question of why Americans eat so much bad food on purpose, this is my best guess: alimentary alienation.” Kingsolver argues that as many U.S. residents have become detached from the process by which food reaches our plates, we are causing unintentional yet substantial harm to our bodies, to the local farm economy and to the earth. Just as importantly, and as every French or Italian family knows, we miss a transformative and tasty opportunity to reconnect with the miracles of daily life. When I was back in college, if people had tried to convince me that being a “minister of reconciliation” could ever extend to the earth that grew my veggies, or the chicken on my dinner plate, I would have said they had flipped their compost lid. If I had been told I would one day ask my co-op meat manager to describe the farm conditions in which my chicken was raised, or get giddy looking at local seed catalogs for my garden, I would have been more likely to diagnose my transformation as psychotic and tragic—anything but miraculous. But as life is full of daily miracles I am becoming a convert to eating food with a story I can believe in.

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Destiny Williams (2000 Krista Colleague) is now Communications Associate for the Krista Foundation and spent a year and a half in El Salvador and Guatemala with Agros International. Drawing from his degree in Psychology, Destiny interviewed war refugees to record and document their family histories. Destiny is enthusiastically selecting vegetable seeds and looking forward to filling every inch of his 4'x10' backyard garden plot as the growing season approaches Seattle.

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