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Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - A Year of Food Life

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Author Barbara Kingsolver and her family abandoned the industrial-food pipeline to live a rural life—vowing that, for one year, they’d only buy food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is an enthralling narrative that will open your eyes in a hundred new ways to an old truth: You are what you eat.

DESCRIPTION: "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - A Year of Foor Life", by Barbara Kingsolver (400 pages, paperback) Kingsolver takes readers through the seasons, chronicling the joys and challenges of eating only foods that she, her husband, and two daughters grew in their backyard or purchased from neighboring farms. Part memoir, part cookbook, and part exposé of the American food industry, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is one family's inspiring story of discovering the truth behind the adage "you are what you eat" and a valuable resource for anyone looking to do the same.

Barbara Kingsolver was born in 1955, and grew up in rural Kentucky. She earned degrees in biology from DePauw University and the University of Arizona, and has worked as a freelance writer and author since 1985. At various times in her adult life she has lived in England, France, and the Canary Islands, and has worked in Europe, Africa, Asia, Mexico, and South America. She spent two decades in Tucson, Arizona, before moving to southwestern Virginia where she currently resides.

Her books, in order of publication, are: The Bean Trees (1988), Homeland (1989), Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike (1989), Animal Dreams (1990), Another America (1992), Pigs in Heaven (1993), High Tide in Tucson (1995), The Poisonwood Bible (1998), Prodigal Summer (2000), Small Wonder (2002), Last Stand: America’s Virgin Lands, with photographer Annie Griffiths Belt (2002), Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (2007), and The Lacuna (2009). She served as editor for Best American Short Stories 2001. Her books have been translated into more than two dozen languages, and have been adopted into the core literature curriculum in high schools and colleges throughout the nation. She has contributed to more than fifty literary anthologies, and her reviews and articles have appeared in most major U.S. newspapers and magazines.

Kingsolver was named one the most important writers of the 20th Century by Writers Digest. In 2000, she received the National Humanities Medal, our country’s highest honor for service through the arts. Critical acclaim for her books includes multiple awards from the American Booksellers Association and the American Library Association, among many others. The Poisonwood Bible was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Orange Prize, and won the national book award of South Africa, before being named an Oprah Book Club selection. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle won numerous prizes, including the James Beard award. The Lacuna won The Orange Prize for Fiction in 2010.

In 1998, Kingsolver established the Bellwether Prize for fiction.

She has two daughters, Camille (born in 1987) and Lily (1996). Her husband, Steven Hopp, teaches environmental studies. Since June 2004, Barbara and her family have lived on a farm in southern Appalachia. Barbara believes her best work is accomplished through writing, raising her children, and being an active citizen of her own community. She is grateful for the good will and support of her readers.

An excerpt by Barbara Kingsolver

Smashing Pumpkins

Driving through our little town in late fall, still a bit love-struck for Tuscany’s charm, I began to see my hometown through new eyes. We don’t have medieval hilltop towns, but we do have bucolic seasonal decor and we are not afraid to use it. “Look,” I cried to my family, “we live in Pleasantville.” They were forced to agree. Every store window had its own cheerful autumnal arrangement to celebrate the season. The lamp posts on Main Street had corn shocks tied around them with bright orange ribbons. The police station had a scarecrow out front.

Yard art is an earnest form of self-expression here. Autumn, with its blended undertones of “joyful harvest” and “Trick-or-Treat kitsch,” brings out the best and worst on the front lawns: colorful displays of chrysanthemums and gourds. A large round hay bale with someone’s legs hanging out of its middle. (A pair of jeans and boots stuffed with newspaper, I can only hope; we’ll call it a farm safety reminder.) One common theme runs through all these dioramas, and that is the venerable pumpkin. They were lined up in rows, burnished and proud and conspicuous, the big brass buttons on the uniform of our village. On the drive home from our morning’s errands we even passed a pumpkin field where an old man and a younger one worked together to harvest their crop, passing up the orange globes and stacking them on the truck bed to haul to market. We’d driven right into a Norman Rockwell painting.

Every dog has its day, and even the lowly squash finally gets its month. We may revile zucchini in July, but in October we crown its portly orange cousin the King Cucurbit and Doorstop Supreme. In Italy I had nursed a growing dread that my own country’s food lore had gone over entirely to the cellophane side. Now my heart was buoyed. Here was an actual, healthy, native North American vegetable, non shrink-wrapped, locally grown and in season, sitting in state on everybody’s porch.

The little devil on my shoulder whispered, “Oh yeah? You think people actually know it’s edible?”

The angel on the other shoulder declared “Yeah” (too smugly for an angel, probably), the very next morning. For I opened our local paper to the food section and found a colorful two-page spread under the headline “Pumpkin Possibilities.” Pumpkin Curry Soup, Pumpkin Satay! The food writer urged us to think past pie and really dig into this vitamin-rich vegetable. I was excited. We’d grown three kinds of pumpkins that were now lodged in our root cellar and piled on the back steps. I was planning a special meal for a family gathering on the weekend. I turned a page to find the recipes.

As I looked them over, Devil turned to Angel and kicked butt. Every single recipe started with the same ingredient: “1 can (15 oz) pumpkin.”

-Barbara Kingsolver

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The Cheese Queen is in Food and Wine and Barbara Kingsolver's
book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle!

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