Thursday, October 16, 2008

Animal, Vegetable, Meanie

I recently picked up Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. The book follows Kingsolver's family's year of eating as strict locavores--they farmed a lot of their own food and sought to obtain all other food items from sources less than 100 miles away from their home. I enjoyed the book but was highly perturbed by Kingsolver's attitude towards veganism. She describes vegans by relating a story of she and her daughter reading about a vegan starlet in a gossip magazine. She basically equates all vegans with moronic, superficial, stereotypical Hollywood types. Her argument is that it's crazy for the celebrity (or any vegan) to expound the advantages of a vegan diet and the benefit to animals while buying products such as tofu that are shipped from god knows where and wrapped in loads of packaging, thereby having a big ecological footprint.

She also provides all the scientific evidence that humans are not designed to consume milk after infancy and completely acknowledges the adverse health affects of eating dairy (According to a Cornell study, between 30 and 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant), and then proceeds to describe the great lengths she goes to to make her own dairy products that her lactose-intolerant-self can stomach. Of course it is her prerogative to knowingly consume something that she knows her own body rejects. It's also my perogative to find it irritating when someone is educated about an issue and doesn't have a proportional, sensible response. It's kind of like if you knew John McCain was terrible but voted for him anyway.

I cannot fathom how Kingsolver, who is so conscious of the major environmental and social impacts of what we eat, someone who went to such extremes as to be a complete locavore--which is not an easy task in the slightest--could fail to acknowledge the environmental and social benefits of veganism. This uninformed view of the vegan diet really bothered me and made it very difficult to relate to the book's main message.

A few days after I finished the book, I got to thinking. I realized that, although I'm still annoyed by Kingsolver's vegan stereotyping, she actually has a point. I thought about all the vegan products I buy like tofu, tempeh, canned soups, soy ice cream, et cetera and started thinking about the fuel and packaging they require to be shipped from wherever the product originated (which I'm sure in most cases is nowhere near my L.A) So I have made a conscious decision to, from now on, be as local of an eater as possible. I have stopped buying all the pre-made meals that I have relied on from Trader Joe's and I am ready to start eating seasonally, even if that means I can't have my beloved watermelon year round. Our world is in dire straights and it is simply irresponsible to blindly contribute to our own demise.

Ok this is sounding a little intense for my happy vegan blog. I know I won't be able to stay totally locavore--there are gonna be times when I'm working long hours and just need to nuke some veggie patties for dinner. But I am making a conscious effort to get all my produce from the farmer's market and to never ever buy those fruits and veggies at TJ's that come in tons of totally unnecessary plastic packaging.

On my first trip to the farmer's market after returning from Michigan, I was thrilled to find these yellow bell tomatoes. I really don't like eating regular raw tomatoes, but for whatever reason I can eat these little yellow suckers like candy. I was first turned on to them when our on-set caterer had them one day at the salad bar. They advised me how best to prepare them: slice them in half, splash them with red wine vinegar, some olive oil, salt, and pepper. I could eat a whole carton of these babies for a meal.

Unfortunately, I haven't seen these at the market since, so I guess I'll have to wait until next summer to have another heavenly bowl! I'm ok with that--it's getting to be root vegetable season and potatoes will hold me over until next year. Hopefully the return of the yellow bell tomatoes will coincide with the Dodger's pre-season so I can bring them to the stadium for a snack. Oh my close, so close. But I sense that 2009 is our year!


Lisa (Show Me Vegan) said...

Liz, I typically like Kingsolver's books but was really disturbed by this one too. I thought she offered so many rationalizations for slaughtering the animals they raised. I try to emphasize local eating too, but without becoming a full time farmer like Kingsolver was, there will be some limitations to how local I can be. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the book!

Anonymous said...

I have this book on my shelf, but have not gotten around to reading it. I'm intrigued now, though!

Congrats on the choice you made to go as local as possible. That's a great thing to do and I wish you the best!

Destiny's Vegan Kitchen said...

I'm proud of you! I need to rely more on bulk food & the farmer's market. Trader Joe's is amazing, but their produce packages are freakin' ridiculous! I rarely buy produce there anyway because the quality is pretty low.

Lenora said...

Hey.. just got that book from the library, but had to return it w/o reading since I was headed away on a trip. I'll have to get it back and compare notes. The whole Locavore thing is coming more and more into focus, and I think it has some merits... however, like anything every step we take is positive, without having to go completely drastic in one direction or other.
I appreciated your comments and am looking forward to reading the book.
BTW: Kingsolver has written some other very good books (with nothing to do about food)... have you read her other books?

Thanks for your blog. :D

Liz (¡Yo Soy!) said...

Lenora--no I haven't read any of Kingsolver's fiction, but obviously she is a big hit so it must be pretty good. Have a recommendation for one of her books to read