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Local is possible
am 22. Juni 2007
What a delightful book this is! It is about food, of course, but also about much more. Kingsolver very skilfully combines an entertaining memoir of her family's year of living on local provisions, mostly home grown on their farm in southern Appalachia, with humorous and serious reflections on rural life, the food industry, the environment, health and local farmers' economics. Given her science background and success as a fiction writer, she is best placed to captivate her audiences.
Roughly following a monthly rhythm, we learn what crops to plant and when, how to mix and match what grows best together in the fields and how to deal with the vegetable abundance at one time or another. She shares the ups and downs of yearlong fieldwork in a personal and charming way that even non-gardeners will enjoy the walk. There are birds to observe, chickens to raise and Bourbon Red heritage turkeys to nurture without being adopted as the mother hen. Kingsolver and her family literally dig in to realize the growing plans they had made to ensure feeding themselves throughout the year. The periods of abundance when canning and drying and other methods of preservation become essential, are followed by less rich harvest when they have to rely on the pantry and eat what they have saved. For one month the kitchen may be covered in red: it's tomato season, another one in green when the surplus of zucchini results in experimenting with daily new recipes. Daughter Camille brings to book and the table a delightful range of easy to follow recipes that celebrate the fresh produce from their garden and fields. She also adds her own personal touch with reflections of a young person experience on family life on a farm. Friends, neighbours and the local farmers' market play an important role in any hobby farmer's life. There are produce to exchange or buy and there are experiences and lessons learned to be shared. The values of family togetherness and neighbourly community take center stage in the description of their experience. Without these ingredients, the experiment would probably not have succeeded.
While describing the ups and down of living through the year on their farm with wit and warmth, both Kingsolver and husband Hopp address some serious questions regarding the food we choose to eat. Issues range from protection local seeds and biodiversity to industrialization of our food system and the environment impacts that we are facing today and in the future. We also are encouraged to ask ourselves some fundamental questions about our own approach to food, where it comes from, how far it traveled to reach us, and how we make important economic and environmental as well as health choices every day. References to reading sources and useful organizations as well as a website with all the recipes and more complement the book. It should be widely read and enjoyed. [Friederike Knabe]