Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I just finished reading the wonderful book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. In it, the author and her family decide to become locavores for a year and eat only locally grown foods. They grow quite a bit of the food themselves--including chickens and turkeys for slaughter--and rely on local farmer's markets for the rest.

It sounds like a lovely idea, romantic in its pioneer "can-do" attitude, until you really delve into what's involved. Like no bananas. And almost no fresh fruit in the winter save the odd rhubarb which, I think we can all agree, really doesn't count. And doing an ungodly amount of canning and freezing to get the family through the winter months.

I probably gained five pounds reading this book. Every page is filled with descriptions of the delight of spinach fresh from the garden and carrots and tomatoes warmed by the sun, and fresh bread baked daily, and homemade mozzarella balls, and garlic bulbs hanging in the kitchen, and pumpkin soup simmering on the stove, and... you get the idea. Lacking any of these things in my own home, I unwrapped Cliff Chocolate-Mint Protein bars and tried to pretend they came from the earth. 

I quickly realized there was no way I could follow in Ms. Kingsolver's footsteps. (To her credit, she doesn't insist people do. She's more about education and small choices versus a be-like-me-or-you-suck attitude.) She was raised on a farm and has been growing asparagus (three years before the first crop will appear!) and canning vegetables and raising farm animals all her life. I'm still trying to get a little life out of the basil plant I bought at Earth Fare last week. 

But I am inspired to make some changes. Namely, to start taking advantage of Farmer's Markets and to start ordering the meat Blair eats from a local free-range farm. The hardest part will be learning to plan meals based around what's available, versus my standard method of finding a recipe and going on a seek-and-find search for the ingredients. (Broccoli in October? Strawberries in February? No problem.)

Like going vegetarian and (slowly, slowly) learning to cook, I know I'll feel defeated and overwhelmed at first. But gradually, as the new becomes habit, meal planning and shopping for local goods will hopefully become as second nature as ordering a salmon salad without the salmon or chopping an onion to throw in a pan.

But I would really love it Ms. Kingsolver, or someone of her elk, would just move in with me for the summer months and walk me through this. I see a LOT of angst over the canning process in my future.