Eat Like a Peasant and Enjoy!
When novelist Barbara Kingsolver, 52, moved from Tucson, Ariz., to southwest Virginia with her husband, Steven, and two daughters, they decided that they would spend a year trying to eat local: only food they either raised themselves or bought from nearby growers. They raised turkeys and chickens for meat and eggs, bought milk from a regional dairy, and froze corn and peas for the winter. The results of that experiment are the subject of her new book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life.
Why did you decide to try a year of eating locally?
We talked as a family about undertaking this. It's very important to Steve and me, and very clear to our kids, that food is a subject that matters enormously. Not just what you eat but where it comes from. It's interesting with this new melamine scare, everyone's talking about stepping up inspection. Well, that's going to take money. If the point is to get really cheap ingredients from all over the world to manufacture really cheap food, how cheap is it if you consider inspection and shipping and all the health costs?
You're a working mother. How did you manage gardening and going to farmers' markets?
In the beginning, I was worried that it would be a lot of extra work. But I love walking out to the garden at the end of a frustrating day. I look at it as recreation, rather than a chore. We could have gotten a lot more of our vegetables from local farmers if we had wanted to.
I know your husband was worried about going without coffee, and you made an exception for that. What else did you miss?
We all had our separate worries about what we were giving up-Alaskan salmon or Gummi Bears. The really surprising part of this journey is that it was not an exercise in deprivation or slaving over the stove. It really was an adventure. The day the farmers' market opened and it was snowing, nobody wanted to go. I put on the mom pep talk and said, "Our farming friends need us." We had one of the best meals of our year that week: an asparagus morel bread pudding that was amazing.
Isn't it more expensive to buy food at the farmers' market?
The most surprising thing was to find that we ate locally and splendidly, organic whole foods for a year, at a cost of about 50 cents per person per meal. It's cheaper than eating out or eating food prepared by other people. If you think about it, it's peasant food, eaten the world over.