I have been reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, her story of her family's year of eating locally on their Appalachian farm. I picked it up because I thought highly of her Poisonwood Bible. Before I read the latter, I had tried a couple of her earlier novels, and found them okay, but not so interesting. I thought P.B.was far superior what she had done previously, and wanted to see what she had to say about a topic which is simultaneously close to my heart, and, well, annoying.
So far, I' m a little surprised that I'm enjoying it so much. In my younger days, I read "back to the land" books dreamily, and devoured everything I could find on sustainable agriculture, seed saving ,genetic diversity, and eating locally. The romance of the imaginary organic farm has lost a lot of its appeal for me- I am an urban sort of person, and prefer to let my CSA farmer do the actual bulk growing.
I do miss my garden-I long for it every spring- and I need to come up with a way to have one again, but I know that the realities of farm life are truly not my cup of tea. Likewise, I feel that I understand the political food issues. Though I'm not an expert, and don't do enough about those issues on a political level, I don't need convincing of their righteousness. And I'm easily bored, especially when there's preaching.
This book does not pretend to be The Way for everyone. It is unassuming, personal, sensible, and encouraging. It is also loaded with lots of good practical , factual backup for any arguments you might have with, say, people who claim corporate chemical farming some how serves the poor of the planet, and who decry as "elitist" advocates for local, organically raised and free-range food.
Ms. Kingsolver's science background and writer's chops serve her well. She speaks confidently, and simply. The Monsanto stories, though not new, are just chilling. Her family and their home are interesting and appealing, without being too exemplary, or cute. I'm about half way through the book, and I'm a little bit re-motivated. Not that I was demotivated, but I'm sort of jazzed on the issues again. And the woman has me wanting to try my hand at making cheese. Meanwhile, the supermarket fruits and veggies from afar are looking like an even worse choice than usual, and I'm delighted and relieved that it is the beginning of the new year for my CSA farmbox.
The first farmbox of the year always looks beautiful to me, though it is necessarily a bit sparse, since we are in western PA, and it is barely June. There are herbs, spinach, lettuce, pea greens, strangely unformed, yet slightly woody onions, lovely crisp radishes (as mentioned earlier), and a bunch of rhubarb. (And, as every year, with the first box, there is a complementary round loaf of some soft-crusted mushball whole grain bread, which must be toasted to be tolerable. I don't get this- in all other ways, the Kretchmanns exhibit excellent taste. Oh well.)
I'm having a Tilapia filet, baked in parchment with pea greens and herb butter for dinner. I'll let you know how it goes-it's an LA Times recipe, since deleted, but reconstructed via the good memory of an egullet member. There's going to be a supper of farmbox baby spinach with pinenuts and raisins over polenta in the picture too.
The rhubarb, washed and diced, is about 2 cups worth, just about enough for a quart of ice cream. This is how I made it:
Stew the rhubarb, cut into very small dice, for about 15 minutes in 2/3 cup of water with a pinch of salt, 3/4 cup sugar (or a mixture of sugar and golden syrup), a squirt of lemon juice, and a half of a split vanilla bean. Cool thoroughly, chilling if possible.
Combine the chilled rhubarb mixture with 1 cup of cream and one cup of milk. Freeze according to your ice cream maker's directions. This is a delicious, not too sweet, subtly flavored concoction, IIDSSMS.
Consume, feeling elegant. I'm going to save some for next weekend, in the hope that there will be strawberies in the farmbox. Clearly this ice cream woud be insanely good with some pulverized real strawberries on top.