Friday, May 14, 2010

Thoughts on the book: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (part 1)

I finished the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I can't say that I would recommend it to everyone. I would absolutely not recommend it to some. I would highly recommend it to some. It really depends on you desire and ability to read critically. In some places the book is inspiring, in some places it is flat out wrong. Sometimes it made me laugh, and sometimes I just felt so sad for the author and her family.

I'll start with the good stuff. I think living off of local/seasonal food is an excellent experiment. I also liked the information about how to eat more locally and more seasonally. The practical stuff inspired some ideas of how I could make positive changes in our diet and lifestyle. I am inspired to make better use of our garden produce. I am inspired to search for fresher, more flavorful basic foods so my "healthy" cooking actually tastes good. There are some good recipes in the book too. And I am determined to learn how to braid my onions and garlic like the author does.

The book is written as a memoir. I really liked this format. Instead of feeling preached at, I felt that she was sharing her life. And though she was at times passionate about her views, I didn't feel like she was saying: agree with me or else. Also because it was a memoir and story of their year, there were some funny parts, especially in the realm of chickens and turkeys. But, more importantly, for someone like myself, who disagrees with the author in many areas, I felt as though I gained some understanding of where she was coming from and why she feels that way.

Philosophy-wise I do have many disagreements with the author. But there were ideas I truly appreciated. The idea of taking time to prepare food, hit home to me. So often our culture values efficiency even when efficiency isn't truly needed. There is joy and renewal in work, whether it is in the exercise of hoeing the garden, the rhythmic contemplation with kneading bread, or the exhilarating creativity of cooking a meal. Rushing through each task just for the sake of moving on to another one is not fulfilling or necessarily profitable.

Also I agree with the basic premise that there are problems with the way our society eats in general. Obesity is definitely an issue. And foods that are not profitable for our body are out there. Ignorance of where our food comes from and how it is made does seem to be common. However I view the "whys" behind these problems differently. I find that the author places a lot of blame on the food industry, as if they are the ones in control of the situation. In the authors view, they are manipulative, they are greedy, but the consumer and even the farmer are often just the pawns of a powerful corporation.

I really think it is more of a matter of personal responsibility. While there are individuals in the food industry who are motivated by greed and power, they are responding to individual consumers often motivated by a mix of gluttony, laziness, pleasure-seeking, and lack of self-control. Which are sin issues for all of us. So I see many of the problems as a result of sin in our fallen world. The author who appears to be an atheist, or at least agnostic, obviously does not grapple with individual sin as a root of our cultural food issues. Also, viewing it as a sin issue I don't necessarily see it as a one-size fits all solution. Selling a beverage made from corn syrup and carbonated water is not necessarily a sin. Nor is it inherently sinful to consume such a beverage. But it can be, it is really a matter of the heart...

1 comment:

Getting My Words Out said...

Thanks for your comments yesterday...I think if I'd have been in your situation, "alone on a country road", I might have taken the soybean field before he even got the first words out.

"I see many of the problems as a result of sin in our fallen world."--AMEN SISTER!! I think that's the main difference between political parties. Most democrats believe the key is external regulation and assistance. Most republicans believe more in personal choice and accountability. (Obviously there are exceptions to that stereotypical dividing line.) Controlling the food and/or health industry will NEVER stop gluttony. External rules will NEVER change the heart. Great review-looking forward to catching up on parts 2 and 3.