Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

While on vacation earlier this month, I purchased a book for the plane ride home.

I'd been eyeing this book on the shelves of the bookstore for several months. I finally decided it was time to buy it.

Although I had looked at it many times, I had never bought it because I thought it was probably too far left or too far right. I think it's great to grow your own but I figured she (Barbara Kingsolver) was probably a fanatic about living off the land and I wasn't sure that I wanted to go down that road. Now I can say that I'm glad I read it. I found it very interesting and very informative.

I think it's great that Barbara and her family made this journey and the fact that she did it with everyone on board is amazing considering she had two girls (a teen and a 10 year old) who were ready to make this move as well. Obviously there had been much preparation as a family for this journey (which she briefly discusses in the book). I'm not sure that my girls (15 and 12) would be so willing to give up their favorite snack foods (yes, some happen to be processed - don't shoot me). Nor do I think that Lawman and I are willing to work the land (a full-time job, especially in the summer months) to stock the pantry. If we didn't have to work a full-time job in addition to working the land in order to keep a roof over our heads then it might be more appealing.

It did provide food for thought and reflection though.

Food for thought -- Yes, I'm well aware that I'm not always playing my "A" game when I do my grocery shopping. I'll even admit that our family has traveled that drive-thru lane more than one or two times. I would also venture to tell you that as a whole we eat rather well. I don't always buy organic (sometimes it's price prohibitive and honestly, I can't always tell the difference). I do try to purchase seasonal produce from our local farmer's market(s). I love the freshness of the vegetables and fruits when they're in season. We've had fresh peaches this summer and biting into the juicy, sweet flesh is better than any piece of candy I could get out of a candy jar. We'll still be eating bananas (unlike the Kingsolver family); I'm not willing to give that up in order to become a 'locavore'. Could I do better? Sure and somedays I do. I'm a firm believer though of everything in moderation. Since reading this book, I've tried to pay more attention about where our food comes from, distance, traveled, etc.
Reflection -- Reading about life on the Kingsolver farm provided opportunities for much reflection on my childhood. I grew up on a farm. Until I was six we lived out in the midst of the Flint Hills. Way out...I rode the bus an hour to school and an hour home. That's a really long ride when you're in kindergarden. We had a lot of livestock -- pigs, cows, horses. I had pets too; a dog, a bottle-fed lamb and a horse named Kitty. [Kitty was always saddled up and waiting for me when I got home from school. She was my means of transportation to my friend's house. I'd tie her up to their flagpole where she'd munch on grass while I played until it was time to head home for dinner. Sorry about the digression there.] Eventually a couple pieces of that livestock would find it's way into our freezer and no, it wasn't my pet lamb, but the pork and beef sure tasted good. I've had some people ask me if I found it traumatic to think that the pigs and cows I saw daily eventually ended up on my dinner plate. In a word, No. Honestly, it never crossed my mind. I'm sure that's because it was our way of life; I didn't know any different.
We had fruits and vegetables too. We had a big pear tree near the pig barn. Those pears were so good and juicy. We would eat them straight off the tree. Mom would make batch after batch of pear honey to get us through the winter. I remember eating it on toast just like it was yesterday. The sad news is that she never had a recipe for it and she can't remember how she made it. Even the older grandkids remember eating it and they've asked time and time again how to make it so they could recreate it for their own family. I also remember harvesting asparagus with Mom. It grew on another property my folks owned and we'd go over there nearly every day in the spring to bring it home for dinner. To this day, asparagus is one of my absolute favorite vegetables.
Then we moved to town. Not literally but compared to where we had lived, it was town. We were now only 1.5 miles away from town. That's a 10 minute bus ride to school. Big difference.
We were still on a farm. We still had cows and horses. Our freezer was always stocked with a side of beef. Now we had an orchard with apple and cherry trees which meant homemade applesauce, applebutter, cherry jam and plenty of apple and cherry pies. The orchard also had a large sunny spot just perfect for a garden. A big garden. Mom planted everything -- peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, onions, lettuce, carrots. You get the idea. We were never hungry. I was Mom's helper. I learned how to prepare the soil for planting, how to plant the seeds/plants, how to harvest the fruits of our labor, and I also learned how to prepare it for eating. I'm sure at the time I groaned and complained about having to dig potatoes or climb the trees to pick the fruit (sorry Mom). I don't think I probably ever complained about eating a tomoato fresh from the vine or still warm from the sun. Nor did I complain about our favorite family meals, many of which included the staples that we had grown and prepared ourselves.
For more information on Barbara Kingsolver and her food journey, visit


Mary said...

Sounds like a terrific childhood, Nancy! One of my favorite parts of summer is being able to buy produce locally. I have considered buying a share in a local farm, but I always cringe at the thought of wasting vegetables, which I'm sure will happen because my family are not big vegetable eaters...

Unknown said...

Hey Aunt Nancy! It's probably not the same as grandma's but my mom makes really good pear honey. I can get the recipe for you if you'd like to try it.

Nancy said...

Mary - it was a fabulous childhood. A lot of hard work but that established a good work ethic in me at an early age. Something many young people don't have today. And, we managed to mix fun in there with the work too (sometimes).

Ann - yes, I'd love to have your mom's recipe.

Anonymous said...

I read the book last summer and longed for my childhood days of growing up a farm as well. I now have a garden but not the cow, horse, pigs, and chickens!

you are so right - growing up on a farm so teaches you a strong work ethic.

Jenny said...

Nancy, that childhood experience sounds wonderful! We also had a very large vegetable garden and I, begrudgedly, pulled a lot of weeds. I would have given my right arm to have a horse and almost fulfilled that dream once, but turned up pregnant and have not looked back. I've put this book next on my reading list...intrigued by what you've written and said about it.

Unknown said...

Nancy, this was a great post. I have Barbara's book on hold at the library, I think you were the one that suggested I read it. I agree with you, I couldn't go completely on our own, but I'm willing to do what I can. Your childhood sounds wonderful. I sure wish you knew that pear honey recipe because I have three pear trees that I'm going to have to be creative with this year.

Sarah said...

I've just started reading Omnivore's Dilemma, and this one is next on my list.....and coincidentally, my dad grew up in southern Kansas (not that it's even remotely close to you, but since I'm a short distance in Omaha, it seems coincidental....)