I think this book is a major reason for all my wishing to be free of the office and spend my life doing tasks that women 50 years ago considered drudgery. Barbara Kingsolver spent a year eating local. Her family moved to a farm in Virginia and grew most of their own vegetables, raised and slaughtered their own meat, made their own bread and cheese and preserved all their own food for the winter. Anything they couldn't grow or make themselves, they bought from as local a source as possible. To keep this pledge, Kingsolver turned herself into a full-time farmer and homemaker. She was chopping the heads off turkeys, hoeing and pulling endless weeds, canning tomatoes, making jam, everything but churning her own butter. And, it would seem from her book, every second of it was just fucking wonderful. Her kids loved it. She loved it. Life was so much more meaningful for all of them; they all became better people. Eating became a religious act, a covenant with the earth.
The book is partly an attempt to convince readers that they, too, should be trying this. She keeps talking about how pleasing it all is, and how cheap — because processed and prepared foods cost a lot more than making it yourself. But she seems to forget that she has a couple advantages that we, the masses, don't. One, they had inherited a family farm. Two, she is a famous novelist who can afford not to work for a year. She presents it as: I chose to grow my own food rather than work for money so I could buy food. But she seems to forget that even growing food costs some money, and that most of us have other costs, like our housing and medical care and clothing and recreation and gasoline, that we also need paychecks to cover. We no longer live in a pre-industrialized, agrarian society, and for most of us, it's not so simple as deciding, "I'm going to stay home for a year to bake bread and grow zucchini — except for when I take a two-week vacation to Italy."
Now, I am all in favor of eating local, of making ethical decisions about our food. I am a member of a CSA, and I get a delivery of local vegetables every week. And I try my darndest to make as many meals as I can from scratch, rather than relying on processed food. That said, I'm angry with Kingsolver. Her book left me with a vague sense that my life could be so much more meaningful, more responsible and kind to the earth, but with no earthly idea how I would achieve such a thing. It feels like snobbery for her to say, "Look how much better I'm doing it," while failing to acknowledge the advantages that allow her to do it that way.
She also failed to acknowledge any of the drawbacks of eating this way. She was, essentially, a prisoner of her farm and her kitchen, but she made it seem as if it were all romance and roses. C'mon Barbara, weren't there some good reasons why women embraced all the conveniences of the 21st century? Does being home on the farm, canning pound after pound of tomatoes, really fulfill all your deepest needs? Wasn't there at least one day, Barbara, when you wanted to say, "Here's a damned frozen pizza. I'm out of here."