Monday, June 11, 2007

A Gift

So I don't mean to keep on and on about it, but I finished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I wanted to share something from it that I loved. Have you heard about the book? It describes the year that Barbara Kingsolver and her family tried to eat only local food, most of which they had grown and farmed themselves. But of course I read it as a book about gratitude and parenting, because that's just how I am.
Our holiday food splurge was a small crate of tangerines, which we found ridiculously thrilling after an eight-month abstinence from citrus. No matter where I was in the house, that vividly resinous orangey scent woke up my nose whenever anyone peeled one in the kitchen. Lily hugged each one to her chest before undressing it as gently as a doll. Watching her do that as she sat cross-legged on the floor one morning in pink pajamas, with bliss lighting her cheeks, I thought: Lucky is the world, to receive this grateful child. Value is not made of money, but a tender balance of expectation and longing. (page 287)
The latest wondertime column is here, and a new one should be up later today.


  1. Anonymous12:13 PM

    I loved loved, loved this book! I actually went to hear Barbara Kingsolver read on her tour for this book, and she was fantastic. I highly recommend this book to everyone!

  2. For one reason or another, I've never read anything by Barbara Kingsolver. If I decided to try her experiment, we would end up living entirely upon meat and then we would get rickets or beri beri.

  3. Like Beck I have never read anything by Barbara Kingsolver, another book to add to my library list.

    This reminds me of the scene in Little House when they oranges in their Christmas stockings...the reverence of the oranges.

    Off to Wondertime. Hope you have been well, kids and Michael too.

  4. thanks for the gift.

    Gratitude is such an amazing thing, and I've been thinking about it as I look around at our house full of STUFF, that it's hard to feel gratitude for what you have when you have so much ... you don't realize it's value. To not have citrus for so long, it would be such a treat. How great to find the joy in such small things.

    Barbara Kingsolver writes excellent novels as well. For those of you not up to the food experiment, I highly recommend The Poisonwood Bible. Have your tissues nearby.

  5. That is a beautiful passage. This book is on my "list." You know, that list of books you want to read a mile long? I swear I'll get there. . .

  6. I just finished this book too. I was captivated. Totally. Completely.

    When I went to the farmer's market last week with my girls, I tried to emulate the premise: only buy local and in season. I came home with strawberries and asparagus. Oh, and a bunch of free-range chicken which I didn't have to kill myself. I'm not willing to recreate that part of the book. And I still bought bananas later that week. Sigh.

  7. I'd like to read that too, in summer here we end up doing about 85-90% local foods but can only manage that for a few months. (we don't grow any ourselves but do belong to a CISA farm share)

    I loved this weeks column mostly because it explains why four year olds have always been my favorite age...I like those kind of movies too.

    We like Mochi here too, never thought to buy it in bulk though, we go for one piece at a time from Fresh Side. Now I'm all stressed though about the choking hazard. I wonder where they keep their vacuum cleaner there?

  8. Anonymous3:44 PM

    I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle last week and have already lent it to a friend. I found it enthralling if a bit preachy. It certainly opened my eyes to a few things I smugly thought I'd been doing right but turns out were all wrong. The book did, however, inspire me to spend $15 on 8 tomatoes at the farmer's market this weekend, sign up for local milk delivery (in Chicago no less!), buy grass-fed steak, make strawberry-rhubarb crisp and deny my son cherries.

  9. This is the only book by Barbara Kingsolver that I haven't read, and that's because I'm waiting for a cheap used copy on

    Now you've got me thinking about it again, and maybe I'll just have to spring for the full price hardcover.

    I first fell in love with her after reading Bean Trees, and quickly read the rest of her books. Bean Trees is probably my all time favorite, and I also LOVED Prodigal Summer.

    Great new column over at Wondertime. Living out here in the Stix, we don't get anything cool like mochi, or even Whole Foods. Sometimes we pilgrimage to Trader Joes, but end up spending all our money in the liquor store... *Sigh*

  10. Here's what goes through my head, and I can't help it: Phil Hartman doing Charlton Heston: "Mochiiii! Mochiiiii is peeeooooople! It's PEEEEOOOOPLE!" And that old movie about the tarantulas that take over the entire town. The one with William Shatner? Do you remember that one? My cousin and I obsessed for days over how we would get out of the spider-infested town. Always know your escape routes.
    I will have to get the Kinsolver. I love her.

  11. Catherine I have a question for you. Does anyone call Birdy 'Abigail'? I love that you still use her in-utero nickname,it is so sweet, and it suits her down to the ground.

    (ps- I hear you about the wondering of 7 year olds. Simon is the same, and we had long, high- fever induced delirious conversations over the weekend about all the mysteries of the universe.)

  12. Hi Catherine

    Just want to tell you how much I love your writing--I am so glad that I can read your stuff at wondertime (and here too). Any chance of another book coming our way? Waiting for Birdy really is one of my favorite books. Thanks so much for sharing your life and thoughts!

  13. I love that quote and can't wait to get my hands on the book. I read the review in the NY Times Book Review, and it looks amazing.
    I love reading about food, and even though I don't think I could get my family to go in for this experiment, I am completely intrigued.
    Along the lines of food writing, have you ever read "Home Cooking" and "More Home Cooking" by Laurie Colwin? Very homey, very comforting stuff.

  14. Anonymous4:01 AM

    Sounds like a great book! We live overseas and are hungry for English language books. My mom always put an orange in the bottom of our stocking at Christmas and I always remember tossing it aside thoughtlessly. Now, having lived outside the U.S. for a number of years I have a much better appreciation for "things you can't get". Learn to eat local, enjoy it when it's there and miss it when it's gone. Then when you have it again, it tastes SOOOOOO good.

  15. Anonymous6:53 PM

    I know this is totally off subject, but I felt like connecting. I know that the 1 year anniversary of your dear friend's death is coming up next month and my dear friend died in August. This weekend we are doing a Relay For Life walk in memory of her and her couragious fight. I have also been reading Waitinng for Birdy for the MILLIONTH time and keep reading little snippets of you visitig her and I'm sitting here crying at everything. It's just an emotional time remembering my friend. She was only 29 years old and had an almost 3 year old. Very sad. But, I hope when July comes, you are touched by a feeling of calm and celebrate the joy that she brought into your lives! Sorry to make you sad, justs sharing because it's close to my heart this weekend especially.

  16. Anonymous10:38 PM

    I just finished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and am stopping to think about how much fuel it takes to put certain foods on our table. Now that summer is here, I will certainly be utilizing the farmer's market. We were there last week and were able to get asparagus and a pretty bouquet of flowers. Needless to say, we supplemented our meal with some non-local foods!

  17. I loved this book too. It gives you a lot to think about. Where does your food come from? I've been applying what I can to daily life. Everyone should read it!

  18. Anonymous1:16 PM

    I LOVE Laurie Colwin and am always thrilled to find someone else who's read her. I like her fiction a lot, too, but HOME COOKING is my favorite. MORE HOME COOKING is a little sloppy--you can tell it was put together after her death. But the easy chocolate cake in MHC (the one with buttermilk in it) is one of my favorite recipes. Delicious and speedy. I was lucky enough to hear her speak in Boston and have her sign my books not long before her unexpected death.

    Now that I think of it, I bet Catherine would like her writing too!

  19. Anonymous3:14 AM

    Catherine! Catherine! Catherine! You HAVE TO record Ben and Birdy and put them on Wondertime! I DEMAND it! Have them say, "Hi, Brian, you're the greatest," or something to that effect.

    Reading Psycho Kitty's post, I laughed, thinking of what seemed like a rash of terrible spider movies from the late 70s/early 80s. One was called Kingdom of the Spiders- I think that's the one you're thinking of, PK. I'm convinced that my current phobia about spiders was blown completely out of proportion by seeing snippets of Kingdom of the Spiders as a kid at just the right/wrong time. I still have nightmares a couple of times a year about spiders-- just had one a couple days ago, in fact. Curse you, William Shatner! Cuuurrrsse youuuuuu!


  20. beautiful piece that you chose...I have been hearing such great things about this book...she is a brilliant author.

  21. Anonymous2:49 PM

    I just finished it too! It is definitely worth the read, even if you are only mildly interested in where your food comes from.

  22. I cannot WAIT to read this. My husband just told me about it last Sunday as this has been my big kick lately: eat what your great-grandmother ate. What I hope to gain from this book is some instruction on how to do this when you live right in the middle of a big city. I hate to say this, but it has to be simple, or at least something that I can get used to relatively quickly.

    Anyway, I should have known that I'd be hearing about it from people I love and aspire to be more like!

    Since we're passing on book finds, I have two. One is a cookbook my mom recently gave me called Almost Vegetarian. I haven't cooked from it yet but have loved all the text at the beginning about food, techniques, etc. and it really represents what I'm trying to do for my family's diet: reduce the animal protein.

    The other book, a novel, I just finished today. It's called Plum Wine, by Angela Davis-Gardner. Wonderful. I'm in a reading groove right now (does anyone else go through that? When finishing a good book inspires you to read another and forego TV or other diversions - like the computer - for your book and all of a sudden you're hooked? Now that Greta's 4 1/2 months old and I'm in a summer groove with the boys, I can actually focus on a story. It's kind of like when you get into the exercise habit and you finally think, "This isn't so hard. Why did I put it off for so long?" Yeah, well, I haven't gotten back up on that wagon yet...). Anyway, I highly recommend Plum Wine. I'm looking forward to reading her other two novels.