As much as I enjoyed both Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore's Dilemma, I found that both of them left me feeling somewhat hopeless and powerless, if not a little bit angry. Fast Food Nation left me with images of half-dead cows strung up in slaughterhouses, being disemboweled by miserably-paid workers with no recourse for their sickening work conditions and unfair treatment. The Omnivore's Dilemma offered only slightly more hope as the author did successfully prepare a meal made from food that he grew, hunted, and foraged for himself. But one of the points that I took away from this tome was that, while organic food may be better for our bodies, it's still not doing much good for our environment if that organic tomato was shipped all the way from California to sit on my plate.
They are eye-opening books, but offer little hope that there is a way to eat that is good for our bodies and good for our natural resources. Too much deconstruction...
And along came Barbara Kingsolver, God love her. Not only did she graduate from a fine university, but she also wrote a book that gave me hope. She and her family committed to eating locally for one year. Most of the vegetables and some of the meat that they ate were grown on their property (the chapter on turkey sex is unforgettable). What they couldn't grow themselves they obtained from folks closeby. Ultimately, almost every morsel they put in their mouths came from no further than 100 miles away from their home. Some things they compromised on...olive oil, wheat for bread, and coffee were among the few things they decided they couldn't do without. But they gave up bananas and other fruits not indigenous to their part of the country.
The book was informative but never overbearing: "We're converts in progress, no preachers. No stone tablets."
It was hopeful but realistic: “If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.”
She reminded me of the quote by Edward Everett Hale: "I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do."
So for Thanksgiving we had a free-range turkey grown by a family in Middle Tennessee. And we bought a subscription to a Community Supported Agriculture in our area. And we'll keep going to the farmer's market. And eventually we'll eat the creatures hanging out in the backyard. And maybe this year we'll be a little more successful with the things we try to grow on our own land.
It's not everything, but it's something.